Pictures of the Socialistic Future
By Eugene Richter
Eugene Richter (1838-1906) was a member of a generation of classical liberals who died between the turn of the 19th century and the First World War. This generation included the French economist
Gustave de Molinari (1819-1912), the English sociologist
Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), the English historian Lord Acton (1834-1902), the English radical individualist Auberon Herbert (1838-1906), the American sociologist William Graham Sumner (1840-1910), and the English radical liberal
Thomas Mackay (1849-1912). What died with the passing of this generation was a form of classical liberalism which was based on a strong defence of individual liberty, property rights and self-ownership, free trade and laissez-faire, and opposition to war and imperialism. The “liberalism” which emerged after the catastrophe of the First World War, if one can indeed call it “liberalism”, turned its back on this generation of classical liberals and all that it believed in–with dire consequences for liberty in the 20th century.Richter was born in Duesseldorf and attended universities in Bonn, Heidelberg and Berlin. In the late 1860s, when the German unified nation state was being created by Prussia through a series of wars against other German states and France, Richter first became a member of the German national parliament (the Reichstag). Over several decades he used Parliament as a platform to voice his unwavering opposition to increasing state expenditure, increases in the size and power of the army and the navy, government abuses of individual freedom, and colonial policy. Richter was faced with two major sources of opposition to his form of classical liberalism. On the one hand there were the conservatives led by Otto von Bismarck who cleverly forged an alliance between traditional conservatives, the military, and the working class with his combination of warfare and welfare expenditure and tariff protection. On the other hand, there were the socialists who wanted to maintain the high level of government expenditure, but shift the balance more towards welfare expenditure. As modern electoral politics emerged in Germany in the late 19th century Richter’s never-ending opposition to all government expenditure increasingly came to be seen as mere dogmatism and pig-headed “Manchesterism” (as free trade and free market ideas were called).Pictures of the Socialistic Future (freely adapted from Bebel) (1891), is Richter’s satire of what would happen to Germany if the socialism espoused by the trade unionists, social democrats, and Marxists was actually put into practice. It is thus a late 19th century version of Orwell’s
1984, minus the extreme totalitarianism which Orwell had witnessed in Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia but which was still inconceivable to 19th century liberals. The main point of the book is to show that government ownership of the means of production and centralised planning of the economy would not lead to abundance as the socialists predicted would happen when capitalist “inefficiency and waste” were “abolished”. The problem of incentives in the absence of profits, the free rider problem, the public choice insight about the vested interests of bureaucrats and politicians, the connection between economic liberty and political liberty, were all wittily addressed by Richter, much to the annoyance of his socialist opponents.Richter’s book is part of a series we are putting together online on late 19th century free market criticism of socialism. It now joins those by
Spencer.Little has been written on Richter. There is a brief excerpt from one of his books and a short bio in
Western Liberalism: A History in Documents from Locke to Croce, ed. E.K. Bramsted and K.J. Melhuish (London: Longman, 1978). There is a long chapter on Richter in Ralph Raico,
Die Partei der Freiheit: Studien zur Geschichte des deutschen Liberalismus (Stuttgart: Lucius, 1999). See also Ralph Raico, “Eugen Richter and Late German Manchester Liberalism: A Reevaluation,”
The Review of Austrian Economics, vol. 4, 1990, pp. 3-25. Online at
David M. Hart
March 1, 2004
Henry Wright, trans.
First Pub. Date
London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co., Ltd.
First published in German. Introduction by Thomas Mackay.
The text of this edition is in the public domain.
- Some Press Notices
- Introduction, by Thomas Mackay
- Chapter 1
- Chapter 2
- Chapter 3
- Chapter 4
- Chapter 5
- Chapter 6
- Chapter 7
- Chapter 8
- Chapter 9
- Chapter 10
- Chapter 11
- Chapter 12
- Chapter 13
- Chapter 14
- Chapter 15
- Chapter 16
- Chapter 17
- Chapter 18
- Chapter 19
- Chapter 20
- Chapter 21
- Chapter 22
- Chapter 23
- Chapter 24
- Chapter 25
- Chapter 26
- Chapter 27
- Chapter 28
- Chapter 29
- Chapter 30
- Chapter 31
- Chapter 32
- Chapter 33
- Chapter 34
- Chapter 35
- Postscript, by Henry Wright
ANNIE, our dear, precious, little Annie, is dead! It seems impossible to actually realise that the pretty, little creature that used to frolic about, so full of life and joy, is now all at once cold and lifeless; that those young lips which prattled away so sweetly are now for ever dumb; that those laughing eyes that used to shine so brightly are now closed in the stillness of death.
And to-day, too, is her birthday. My wife had gone in the morning to the Children’s Home in the hope of, at least, being able to see the child for a few minutes. With a smile on her face, and her heart brimful of joy, she inquired for Annie. A pause ensued, and then she was asked again for her name and address. Presently the news was broken to her that the child had died during the night, of quinsy, and that a message to this effect was now on its way to the parents.
My wife sank down on a chair perfectly stupefied. But the mother’s love for her child soon brought her strength back again. She refused to credit such a thing, to believe that her Annie, her child, could be dead; there must be a strange mistake somewhere. She hastily followed the attendant to the death-room. Ah! there had been no mistake. There lay Annie, our dear little Annie, in that still long sleep from which no calling, and no kissing, and no bitter agony of the poor mother will ever awaken her.
What avails it to enter into a long account of the
suddenness with which this malignant disease had attacked her? It began with a cold which she had probably caught at night. At home the child always had a way of kicking off the bed-clothes in her sleep. But yonder there is no mother’s eye to watch tenderly at the bedside of each little one amongst so many hundreds. Then again, the prescribed ventilation always causes more or less draught in the bedrooms. Or possibly the child had not been properly dried after a bath. In all these great establishments a good part of the work must unavoidably be done in a summary manner. It is likely enough, too, that the different style of living had made the child a little weaker, and therefore more susceptible than she had been at home. But what avails now inquiry or speculation? All that will never bring our Annie back to life again.
How will my poor wife be able to stand all this sorrow upon sorrow? The shock had such a serious effect upon her that she had to be taken in a cab straight from the Children’s Home to the hospital. Later on they fetched me. Annie had been the pet of the family, the only girl, born some time after the lads. How many had been our hopes, our dreams, for her welfare, when she should be once grown up?
I must break the news to-morrow to Ernst as best I can. It will not do for grandfather to get to hear it at all. He can never more tell her stories as she sits on his lap, as she so often used to, and ask again and again to be told about “Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf.”
Franz and Agnes in America have as yet no suspicion of our sorrow, and they won’t get my letter before nine or ten days. Franz loved his little sister
tenderly, and it was rarely that he omitted to bring her some trifle when coming home from work. The little rogue knew this well enough, and used to run to meet him on the stairs as soon as there was any sign of his coming.
And now there is an end to all these things; an end to these and to so many other things in a few short months.