Half-Measures, Capitalism and Socialism

From the recent Mises article Why Do Half-Measures Work for Markets, But Not for Socialism?

Socialists have attempted many times to put their ideology into action. Socialism has been applied in the Soviet Union, Cuba, China (before Deng), North Korea, and by many other less-famous regimes.

In each case, the result has been economic impoverishment and political authoritarianism.

But the die-hard socialists refuse to give up. “Don’t judge communism based on these results, ” we’re told. “Socialism has simply never really been tried.”

Socialism Doesn’t Work Unless It’s Pure Socialism

Indeed, in a recent back-and-forth between John Stossel and Noam Chomsky, Chomsky denied that the Venezuelan regime is socialist at all:

I never described Chavez’s state capitalist government as ‘socialist’ or even hinted at such an absurdity. It was quite remote from socialism. Private capitalism remained … Capitalists were free to undermine the economy in all sorts of ways, like massive export of capital.

The thinking goes that socialism cannot work unless it progresses all the way to “full socialism.” No partial effort will suffice, we are told, and socialism keeps failing because the some elements of “private capitalism” remained.

So long as any aspect of a state is not full-on socialism, the thinking goes, then the regime is not really socialist. Moreover, the failure of the regime’s socialist policies — such as expropriation of private companies and expansion of government-owned industries — are to be blamed on capitalism, not socialism.

Naturally, were socialism able to achieve it’s final state — and all elements of capitalism expunged — we’d know it by its ushering in of a society marked by unparalleled prosperity and total equality.

Nevermind that for all intents and purposes, Lenin did achieve nearly complete and total nationalization of the economy during the Russian Civil War in 1922. The people began to starve soon after, and Lenin retreated to the partial socialism under his so-called “New Economic Policy.”

The Lenin example is steadfastly ignored, of course, and we’re repeatedly told by the likes of Chomsky that mere half measures don’t work for socialism, and only total socialism works. Anything short of total socialism, it seems, will fail miserably, as it has in Venezuela. Yes, the government can seize many factories, shops, and even whole industries, as has happened in Venezuela. But, unless the state seizes every single shop, then it’s not real socialism. Thus, don’t blame socialism when the whole thing crashes down.

I like that last paragraph: “unless the state seizes every single shop, then it’s not real socialism. Thus, don’t blame socialism when the whole thing crashes down.

But capitalists don’t need to be utopians or demand total victory, to bring real benefits to real people – in their billions.

Note, however, that this isn’t a problem in the opposite direction. If we take a middle-of-the road interventionist economy and start introducing partial, half-way free-market liberal reforms, does this cause the economy to collapse?

Certainly not. Indeed, everywhere we look and find a relatively less socialistic economy, the less poverty and more prosperity we find. 


South Korea and Japan are by no means free-market economies. Both countries’ economies are characterized by a wide variety of trade restrictions, crony capitalist deals, and a massive regulatory state.

But North Korea and Vietnam, which are much poorer, are characterized by far more government ownership of industry, and much smaller private sectors than is the case in Japan and South Korea.

And yet, by the logic of the socialists, the problem with North Korea and Vietnam is that they don’t have enough socialism. If those countries could only rid themselves of the capitalists who are “free to undermine the economy” then North Korea will finally be prosperous and Vietnam will rival Japan in its productivity and wealth.

This is nonsense, of course. If North Korea wants fewer famines it need only move in the direction of less socialism as South Korea has.

I would like Christians to take a page from these smart, successful, and effective libertarians/free marketers.

You don’t need to have a perfectly Christian society, to bring down the blessings of heaven. Even steady, continuous, earnest nation & culture-wide attempts — however faulty — to reach God’s standards for our lives and our nations would lead to a far more joyful, wealthy, and righteous nation than that which we have today.

Just don’t give up.

Learn and build from your successes, learn and avoid the causes of your failures. Tenacity, determination, patience and perseverance: these are the strong staves, supporting your walk upward.

And not just your walk, but the walk of your society, your nation.

Jesus wants us to disciple the nations.

Perfection is the goal…

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. — Matthew 5:48

…but badly flawed sinners who honestly, continuously turns away from evil, and towards good — in the name of Christ, and as defined by Him — will be blessed in this life, and the next.

If you drop the name of Jesus Christ, and refuse to give Him glory… but still strive to obey some of His commandments

(usually “the second table”: do not steal, do not murder, do not covet, do not commit adultery…)

… you will indeed be rewarded in this life, but be cast into hell in the next.

Without Christ, good moral standards may well indeed provide wealth and honour… but the righteousness of men are merely filthy rags in the sight of God, and He will not allow any filth in heaven.

Only the righteous and sinless life of Christ meets the standard of God. So kneel to Christ, worship Christ, and live!

Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.
But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
— Matthew 10:33



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