Ludwig von Mises on Entrepreneurs Under Socialism
By David Henderson
A popular slogan affirms that if we think less bureaucratically and more commercially in communal enterprises, they will work just as well as private enterprises. The leading positions must be occupied by merchants, and then income will grow apace. Unfortunately “commercial-mindedness” is not something external, which can be arbitrarily transferred. A merchant’s qualities are not the property of a person depending on inborn aptitude, nor are they acquired by studies in a commercial school or by working in a commercial house, or even by having been a business man oneself for some period of time. The entrepreneur’s commercial attitude and activity arises from his position in the economic process and is lost with its disappearance. When a successful business man is appointed the manager of a public enterprise, he may still bring with him certain experiences from his previous occupation, and be able to turn them to good account in a routine fashion for some time. Still, with his entry into communal activity he ceases to be a merchant and becomes as much a bureaucrat as any other placeman in the public employ. It is not a knowledge of bookkeeping, of business organization, or of the style of commercial correspondence, or even a dispensation from a commercial high school, which makes the merchant, but his characteristic position in the production process, which allows of the identification of the firm’s and his own interests.
This is from Ludwig von Mises, Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth. It was one of our readings at the earlier mentioned Liberty Fund conference I attended this last weekend. The whole reading can be found here.