Economics

Riegel: The right-wing socialists

With a hat tip to Associative Economist, Arthur Edwards, we reproduce below an excerpt from Riegel’s book The new approach to freedom.

The Right-Wing Socialists

THERE ARE three classes of socialists: the left-wing, or Marxist, group, who believe that the government should own and control everything; the middle-of-the-road socialists, who believe the government should own and operate public utilities; and the right-wing socialists, who believe that the government should control only the monetary system.

The right-wing socialists are by far the most dangerous, because they are not known as socialists and call themselves capitalists, individualists, private enterprisers, etc. They even believe themselves to be anti-socialist and profess full faith in private enterprise. They are not only numerically the largest group of socialists but are also individually the most influential. Among them are the leading industrialists and mercantilists and bankers and statesmen.

The right wing socialists believe that with production and distribution facilities in the ownership and operation of private interests, and with monetary facilities in the hands of government, we can have free enterprise. They might as well believe that if a man owns an automobile, he need not worry about who or what controls the gas.

Private enterprise means the right among men to come to voluntary agreement on the exchange of their goods and services. These agreements, some written, some oral, some implicit, some explicit, run into the millions, and upon their fidelity rests the entire social structure. In a money economy, all these contracts are expressed in terms of the monetary unit, which is itself based upon a contract—the basic contract which is the foundation of the entire pyramid of contracts.

What is the money contract that makes possible or impossible the faithful performance of every other contract? Ask any businessman, banker, lawyer, economist or statesman, and you will find that his idea is not only vague, but that it involves legislation.

In other words, he believes that money is a political product.

In contrast with this universal belief, the truth is that the state is incompetent to legislate money and powerless to issue it. The substance of money is supplied entirely by private enterprise. The state’s intervention in money is at best an impediment to private enterprise, and with the assertion of the issue power, it becomes the active agent of socialization. Thus those who believe in or accept political money power—and their number is legion—are the most dangerous, though innocent, socialists.

While the great mass of people have no ideology, those who think on the issue between private enterprise and socialism are virtually all socialists of the three classes named. This is a startling fact that we must recognize before the final battle lines are formed. The would-be friends of private enterprise must be made real friends, instead of innocent fellow travelers with those who would destroy our liberties.

Private enterprise, to survive, must control its three facilities, namely, the means of exchange, the means of production, and the means of distribution. To control the means of exchange, we must have separation of money and state.

Addendum

Richard Cobden on money:

I hold all idea of regulating the currency to be an absurdity; the very terms of regulating the currency and managing the currency I look upon to be an absurdity; the currency should regulate itself; it must be regulated by the trade and commerce of the world; I would neither allow the Bank of England nor any private banks to have what is called the management of the currency…

I should never contemplate any remedial measure, which left to the discretion of individuals to regulate the amount of currency by any principle or standard whatever… I should be sorry to trust the Bank of England again, having violated their principle [the Palmer rule]; for I never trust the same parties twice on an affair of such magnitude (Q. 519, 520, 527).

Further reading

6 comments to Riegel: The right-wing socialists

  • According to Mr. Riegel who lived in New York City through the great depression and saw it all and was able to identify it’s cause. We must control not only our own means of production and distribution but our actual exchange and this means our own credit/money. Thus we must create and exercise our own money power. Yes “To control the means of exchange, we must have separation of money and state” But don’t beg parliament to reform banking and money, do it yourself buy creating and circulating your own credit/money.

    • To Mike,

      I have much sympathy for this view however we are stuck with legal tender. This site is constitutional in its set up i.e. we do not advocate working outside the law on these matters, but try to change from within. I think I can speak for most if not all of our authors to date and say on the whole we would all be against legal tender though.
      Thank you for your comments.

  • Spencer MacCallum

    Excellent that you have promoted this little essay by E.C. Riegel! Be aware that several booksellers, including Alibris and Abebooks, confuse the two editions of The New Approach to Freedom. One edition is paperback, 48 pages, The Valun Institute, 1949, no subtitle, and lacking the essay, “The Right-Wing Socialists;” the other is hardback, 112 pages, The Heather Foundation, 1976, subtitled, “Together with Essays on the Separation of Money and State.” Only the latter includes the essay in question. Both Alibris and Abebooks list the first with the subtitle, which is incorrect. The paperback is not recommended in any case, because it is defective, having been hurriedly self-published when Riegel was dying of Parkinson’s and unable to properly finish or edit it. I am Riegel’s literary executor and custodian of all of his papers. I have a small supply of the hardback, edited and with the appended essays, for $19.95 plus shipping, from The Heather Foundation, 713 W. Spruce #48, Deming, NM 88030 (915-261-0502, sm@look.net). Since I have not been actively selling these books, this information is not available on the web. I’d be glad for you to pass it on to any interested parties.

    • To Spencer MacCallum
      Many thanks for your guidance on this matter. If you think there is anything else you think our readers would appreciate from the archives, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

  • [...] like to put to them a proposition that is uncontroversial: around the world, the system of money is a product of the state. Our monetary system is characterised by private banking, with a fractional reserve controlled by a [...]

  • I too hold a small (UK based) quantity of ‘The New Approach to Freedom’ for sale.
    Additionally I have available a few copies of Riegel’s ‘Flight from Inflation’, also published by Spencer MacCallum’s Heather Foundation(1978 – hardback).

    Anybody interested should contact me on peter.wraith@yahoo.co.uk