Migration 1870-1925 and International Economic InequalityOuttake from "Slouching Towards Utopia: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century 1870-2016
John Cochrane Prostitutes Himself to Republican Politicians Department: Monday Smackdown/Hoisted from 2015

Who Are the Tankies, and Why Do They Fight for Dystopia?

Il Quarto Stato

Note to Self: And, of course, the curious thing is that when the chips are down it is the authoritarianism rather than the aolition of private property that is the key: Urban Dictionary: Tankie: "The term derives from the fact that the divisions within the communist movement first arose when the Soviet Union sent tanks into communist Hungary in 1956, to crush an attempt to establish an alternative version of communism which was not embraced by the Russians. Most communists outside the eastern bloc opposed this action and criticised the Soviet Union. The 'tankies' were those who said 'send the tanks in'. The epithet has stuck because tankies also supported 'sending the tanks in' in cases such as Czechoslovakia 1968, Afghanistan 1979, Bosnia and Kosovo/a (in the case of the Serbian state)...


German classical liberal Max Weber... saw that [really existing] socialism could become nothing but a synonym for bureaucratic despotism. For:  

History shows that wherever bureaucracy gained the upper hand, as in China, Egypt, it did not disappear. A progressive elimination of private capitalism is theoretically conceivable. What would be the practical result? The destruction of the [dehumanizing] steel frame of modern industrial work? No! Simply that also the top management of the socialized enterprises would become bureaucratic. There is even less freedom, since every power struggle with a state bureaucracy is hopeless.

State bureaucracy would rule alone if private capitalism were eliminated. The private and public bureaucracies, which now check one another to a degree, would be merged into a single hierarchy. This would be similar to the situation in ancient Egypt, but it would occur in a much more rational[ized]—and hence unbreakable-form.

[Bureaucracy together with the machine is busy fabricating the shell of bondage which men will perhaps be forced to inhabit as powerless as the fellahs of ancient Egypt. Who would want to deny that such a potentiality lies in the womb of the future?...   This was written in 1917. Weber was right. From today's perspective of 1990 there is little to add. One slogan of the late 1800s American labor movements was "one big union." The slogan of twentieth-century really existing socialism might as well have been "one big bureaucracy."

Weber did not note the corruption (and the related economic disruption and waste) that would come to dominate "socialist" economies, and Weber had no inkling of the periodic waves of mass terror required to preserve Communist Party power in the face of the enormous gap between the party's official ideology and its actual practice. In fact, socialism turned out in the direction that but much worse than Weber had anticipated beforehand.

The principal reason that Marx feared market economies turned out to be false: they did not have a powerful inner dynamic necessarily leading to a polarization of the distribution of wealth. This had become clear by 1883, or at least by 1900, even though it had not been clear in 1848. The appropriate reaction to the fact that growing material wealth was trickling down should have been enthusiasm. Markets are powerful instrumentalities for controlling and guiding persons and organizations. They generate a rapid pace of innovation, provide for efficient recombinations of factors of production into new enterprises, and pressure large organizations toward effective fulfillment of their productive missions. To the extent that markets can be harnessed for the purpose of building Utopia, scarce public administrative capacities and competencies can be redirected to other uses. A society that can harness markets uses a form of sociological judo, applying small amounts of pressure at key points to make inertia push results in desired directions.

But the response of those who had positioned themselves left of social democracy was not enthusiasm that it would be easier to approach utopia than Marx had expected. Instead, the response was the continued denigration of systems that assigned a prominent role to either private production or market exchange, and a worship of hierarchical administration and bureaucracy-under the name of "conscious social control and administration of production for use"-as the answer to all problems. Whatever utopia is, it does not consist of one big corrupt bureaucracy. And so the left has had little constructive to offer social democrats and others trying to manage and reform the "mixed economies" of the twentieth century...


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