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The Impossibility of Democratic Socialism: Two Conceptions of Democracy

Makovi, Michael (2016): The Impossibility of Democratic Socialism: Two Conceptions of Democracy.

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Andrei Shleifer and Robert W. Vishny (1994) have used Public Choice analysis to criticize market socialism. Peter J. Boettke (1995) and Peter T. Leeson and Boettke (2002) have argued that F. A. Hayek's Road to Serfdom (2007 [1944]) constituted a form of Public Choice analysis as well, in particular presaging an application of Arrow's Impossibility Theorem to democratic socialism. This essay demonstrates that additionally, Hayek's book adumbrated the distinction between liberal or limited democracy and illiberal or totalitarian democracy. This distinction between two conceptions of democracy provides another means of criticizing democratic socialism. The democratic political system and socialist economic system are fundamentally incompatible, making democratic socialism impossible, in the sense that democracy cannot fulfill for socialism what democratic socialists expect from it. Democratic socialism will fail, not because those in power will betray their trust or abuse their power, but because the fundamental institutional constraints of democracy are incompatible with socialist economics.

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