Heilbroner on Forced Labor
By David Henderson
Bryan’s various posts [here’s one–the rest are easy to find with the Search function] on Eugene Richter’s dystopian novel, Pictures of the Socialistic Future, persuaded me to read the book. I think Bryan nailed it in his Foreword in saying that the socialist movement was “born bad.” BTW, I read it in two sittings, rather than one [it’s a short book], because I found it too depressing to read in one sitting.
When I got to the part about forced labor–the government allocating people to various jobs in various locations independent of their wishes–I thought of a haunting passage from one of the most well-known socialist economists in the United States in the last half of the 20th century: Robert Heilbroner.
Here’s what Heilbroner wrote:
Indeed, the creation of socialism as a new mode of production can properly be compared to the moral equivalent of war–war against the old order, in this case–and will need to amass and apply the power commensurate with the requirements of a massive war. This need not entail the exercise of command in an arbitrary or dictatorial fashion, but certainly it requires the curtailment of the central economic freedom of bourgeois society, namely the right of individuals to own, and therefore to withhold if they wish, the means of production, including their own labor. [Italics added]
I quoted this in “You Belong to You,” Chapter 4 of my book, The Joy of Freedom: An Economist’s Odyssey.
Here’s how you can get the Richter book pdf at a zero price.