Description Is socialism desirable? Is it even possible? In this concise book, one of the world's leading political philosophers presents with clarity and wit a compelling moral case for socialism and argues that the obstacles in its way are exaggerated.
Why Not Socialism?, by G.A. Cohen | Mises Institute
There are times, G. Cohen notes, when we all behave like socialists. On a camping trip, for example, campers wouldn't dream of charging each other to use a soccer ball or for fish that they happened to catch. Campers do not give merely to get, but relate to each other in a spirit of equality and community.
Would such socialist norms be desirable across society as a whole? Why not? Whole societies may differ from camping trips, but it is still attractive when people treat each other with the equal regard that such trips exhibit. But, however desirable it may be, many claim that socialism is impossible.
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Cohen writes that the biggest obstacle to socialism isn't, as often argued, intractable human selfishness--it's rather the lack of obvious means to harness the human generosity that is there. Lacking those means, we rely on the market. But there are many ways of confining the sway of the market: there are desirable changes that can move us toward a socialist society in which, to quote Albert Einstein, humanity has "overcome and advanced beyond the predatory stage of human development.
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Back cover copy "Why Not Socialism? The book brilliantly captures the essence of the socialist ethical complaint against market society. The positive argument of his book is impressive, and there is a rather disarming combination of simplicity of presentation and example with a deep intellectual engagement with the issues. It is very clear that there is an analytically powerful mind at work here. Review quote "Characteristically lucid, engaging and gently humorous Cohen says things that need to be said, often better than anyone else; and his last book is especially effective as an argument against the obstacles to socialism typically ascribed to human selfishness.
His style of argument is very accessible, and it is certainly a more attractive mode of persuasion than dreary analyses of how capitalism actually works. In this stimulating essay titled Why Not Socialism? Cohen invites us to think seriously about what socialism has to offer in comparison with capitalism. Thatcher, Centre Daily Times "Beautifully written In sublimely lucid fashion, Cohen draws up taxonomies of equality, offers ethical objection to capitalism Tiny books are all the rage in publishing nowadays; this is one of the few that punches well above its weight.
Later he discusses the feasibility of socialism but never responds to the criticisms made by Mises and Hayek. Cohen thus builds his case on a foundation that was blasted to rubble decades ago. He argues rightly, in my view that few would like a camping trip in which every act of cooperation took place within formal markets and explains persuasively why personal relationships are not mediated through markets. I do not charge my children for attending to meals and bath time, nor do I expect to be paid for accepting dinner invitations.
As Mises and Hayek have shown, such calculation is impossible. Further, he seems not to understand the problems of competing claims to productive resources and competing ideas about what should be produced. Most telling of all, he never mentions the mountains of corpses produced by those who tried to implement his vision in the twentieth century.
The organization of production, as he sees it, is a question of overcoming greed and harnessing generosity. Only someone who knows nothing about the twentieth century could think that putting government officials in charge of the economy overcomes greed and harnesses generosity.
Market signals are of utmost importance; without them, we cannot know whether to devote our next dollar or hour to AIDS eradication or cancer research. The book will make excellent grist for the mills of freshman seminars, but it collapses under the slightest scrutiny.