One has talked (and is not writing, talking?) long and hard contra the Socialistic Philosophy of government, and taken it to task many times in our essays, but we cannot overlook the affinities, and, yeah, even the agreements of Libertarians and Socialists.
Firstly, Libertarians and virtually all Socialists agree, though they may not even be conscious of the fact, that they both accept the Industrial System as necessary to a viable modern society. There still may be a few Socialists who would like to smash the weaving looms of modern society, and return to a primitive society, where everything was handmade, where we gave up the automobile and returned to the horse, with its concomitant huge increase in futures trading in oat contracts, and crushed all the farm equipment, sending Bucyrus-Erie stock eerily lower, and where we reverted from the computer and the iphone to the letter and the smoke-signal. A return to the pre-Industrial Age would certainly solve the unemployment problem.
However, these primitive Socialists are few in number compared to all the Socialists in the world who just love all the comforts and distractions provided them by the Industrial System. And certainly the Democrats and Republicans—those milquetoast individuals who lack the clear or clouded passionate vision of the Libertarians and Socialists and fall somewhere ‘tween the two, — certainly those Lost Soles wandering away from Truth also accept the modern Industrial System as a given of modern society and their own individual enjoyment.
So virtually everybody agrees on the necessity of the modern Industrial System, and you can see this truth now throughout the world. The psyche of the Indian and the Chinese will soon be identical to the Wyoming Wyomian or the Battersea Londoner. We want our commodities, and we’re not going back to the “good ol’ days” of great-great-grandpa.
The key insight that Libertarians have over Socialists in this area is the necessity for the Libertarian, or Classical Liberal, for the Free-Market to exist in order for this industrial system to exist and thrive. Whenever government intervention or diktat interferes with the Free-Market, the Industrial System suffers because it needs that free-market to thrive. There has been so much wealth built up in America due to the relative freedom of its industrial sector heretofore, especially before the introduction of the income tax, that it has built up a huge capital reserve of this wealth, and government has been able to parasitically suck off that wealth for almost eighty years now, and even before. But as you can see, and as Mises predicted, middle-of-the-road Socialism eventually breaks down the entire economic order, and we can see that in America today very clearly, where things are far worse than thirty years ago, although we could see the emerging problem clearly even then. But the general public of Democrats and Republicans never or rarely see the connection between this middle-Socialism and the final economic breakdown of society, as we’re seeing in Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy, because of the huge lag-time between Cause and Effect in the economic sphere.
A second affinity between Libertarianism and Socialism is their common view that there is a Ruling Class in society; they just differ on who that ruling class is.
To Libertarians, the Ruling Class are those people who have seized control of the State Apparatus, the Government, and are ruling the rest of Society. In the old days it was the King and the Nobles. Under the Czar, for example, it was the Czar, his family and relations, the other Russian nobles, the military men, the contractors who got the government purchase orders, and the vast bureaucracy, including all the retired bureaucrats drawing lucrative pensions. In North Korea, it is obviously the Illwind Kim family and the top military brass who are the Ruling Class.
In modern America, the Ruling Class are the people in government, both the politicians and the bureaucratic heads, the administrators, and generally the workers, who receive much higher pay and retirement benefits than those in the Free-Market sector. In addition to these, the ruling class includes the government contractors and consultants who do business with the State, as well as the corporations who get farm subsidies, the scientists and specialists working for government scientific departments, the university administrators and professors who draw huge salaries thanks to government subsidies to many favored universities, and of course the thousands of major corporations who benefit from government loans, subsidies, or craftily crafted tax breaks specific to their situations.
Finally, in America, the Ruling Class also includes the millions receiving welfare benefits or checks from the government every month who will go out and religiously vote for those parties or politicians who will guarantee that those benefits and checks will continue to flow. Thus, even many poor people are in the Ruling Class in America, although they might not see themselves that way, or may still complain about how they have been victimized by society, which in one sense is true since that has been a Socialist society essentially since FDR, and such a society crushes the Individual by dissipating his energy in a thousand useless activities that would not exist under a Libertarian government.
To the Socialists, however, the Ruling Class are the Capitalists, the people who pay the wages to the factory workers, even though these workers may have, for the first time in their lives, more money than they ever had before, and can experience the freedom to choose from many consumer products that they obviously feel make their lives more commodious. Few Americans would now use an old Sears Catalog or old newspapers for toilet paper, but in the 1930s and before, it was probably fairly common.
Moreover, these workers make possible the consumer products that the Socialist uses and likes just as much as the Libertarian. It seems contradictory for them to say, “Yes, we like all these products that the exploitative, wicked, industrial factory system makes possible, but we also want to “liberate” these workers from there drudgery.” And if they “liberated” them to the extent that nobody had any incentive to work at dull jobs, then their “bourgeois comforts” would quickly disappear. Did you notice how the Communist in “Reds” had to have her Chase&Sanborn coffee, and how Stalin and Castro were addicted to tobacco? Food could have been grown in place of all the coffee and tobacco Communists and Socialists have consumed since the start of their movement, and saved many from starvation. Masses of grain and potatoes could have gone into food feeding masses of Human Beings, instead of going into all the beer and vodka that German and Russian Socialists have drunk since the start of the Communist-Socialist project.
So Libertarians and Communists or Socialists agree that there is a Ruling Class in Society, they just differ radically as to who that Ruling Class is.
Another aspect of Socialism that is also embraced by Libertarianism is the essentially Libertarian quality of Democracy as a revolt against Monarchy or one-man rule or Totalitarianism. That everybody should get to decide equally on major decisions that affect large chucks of society is obviously much fairer than that one lunatic should get to make the decisions and all are forced at gunpoint to obey him.
However, despite its Libertarian quality, Democracy was soon seen to quickly decay into Mob Rule through Government, with Tyranny in the name of “the People” replacing Tyranny in the name of the King. This could only be corrected by a Bill of Rights for all Individuals, which would protect the minority and the Individual against the depredations of Society at large.
That struggle for the Bill of Rights is still being fought in America, 237 years after Jefferson wrote it down, and encapsulated in that document the essence of his studies of the Classical Liberals, or Libertarians, who came before him.
And so, both Libertarians and Socialists look favorably on Democracy as a reaction to Authoritarian Dictatorship or Monarchy, and as a process for electing people to public office. The Libertarians just also insists on a Bill of Rights, and say that Democracy without a Bill of Rights can and most probably will be just as tyrannical, if not more so, than Monarchy.
Finally, besides Libertarians, Socialists seem to be the only political group that has a passionate desire to radically change the world and society. Most Democrats and Republicans want things to roll on pretty much as they are now, with a little tinkering or reform to smooth out the thousand-and-one-insults to the psyche that psychic flesh is heir to in America. And Socialists have changed the societies they have taken over radically, though almost invariably to the worsement of their peoples, save for perhaps Yugoslavia under Tito when he backtracked and started his program of de-stateification, or a move back towards Free-Markets.
So while Libertarians and Socialists differ fundamentally over principles of political and economic theory, and individual rights, they do agree on a whole list of issues, and that should not be forgotten while they are ripping each other apart, politically speaking.