The Politically Incorrect Guide series includes many excellent books, but unfortunately Kevin Williamson’s Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism is not among them. One turns to the book with interest, as the author is a firm opponent of socialism and has read Mises, Hayek, and Rothbard. Unfortunately, the book cannot be recommended. Williamson lacks the ability to report facts accurately and his work contains preposterous errors.
Here are some examples. Williamson writes:
“The modern experience suggests that the economist Ludwig von Mises was only partly correct when he wrote, ‘The socialistic State owns all material factors of production and thus directs it.’ That was true for the authoritarian, single-party powers of his day. In our own time, the converse is a more accurate description of the real economic arrangement: under socialism, the state directs the material factors of production as if it owned them. The state does not have to actually own factories, mines, or data centers if it has the power to dictate, in minute detail, how business is conducted within them,” (Politically Incorrect Guide,p.15)
Can Williamson be so ignorant of Mises as not to know that the point he raises against Mises was a key insight of Mises himself? Mises writes in Human Action, e.g., “The second pattern (we may call it the Hindenburg or German pattern) nominally and seemingly preserves private ownership of the means of production and keeps the appearance of ordinary markets, prices, wages, and interest rates. There are, however, no longer entrepreneurs, but only shop managers (Betriebsfuhrer in the terminology of the Nazi legislation). These shop managers are seemingly instrumental in the conduct of the enterprises entrusted to them; they buy and sell, hire and discharge workers and remunerate their services, contract debts and pay interest and amortization. But in all their activities they are bound to obey unconditionally the orders issued by the government’s supreme office of production management. . . This is socialism under the outward guise of the terminology of capitalism. Some labels of the capitalistic market economy are retained, but they signify something entirely different from what they mean in the market economy.” http://mises.org/humanaction/chap27sec2.asp
In another howler, Williamson writes: “The United States in the twenty-first century is not very much like nineteenth-century Prussia (Prussia today isn’t much like Prussia then, either.” (p.95) Evidently, Williamson does not know that Prussia ceased to exist in 1947.
Williamson’s ignorance is not confined to the European continent. He writes: “In India, British colonial rule came to a largely peaceful end thanks to the efforts of Mohandas K. Gandhi. . .” (p.51). In point of fact, after the 1947 partition between India and Pakistan, violent conflict between Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs resulted in deaths estimated between 500,000 and 1,000,000.
Rather than presume to instruct others in history and economics, Williamson should acquire some elementary knowledge of these subjects.