I'm re-reading "Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth" for a short story I'm working on, and a couple of things strike me:
1. As I'm reading it, I keep thinking that this translation just doesn't seem to be as good as the translation of "Human Action", which I remember as being very clear and even lively, with the words practically jumping off the page. So I do a little Googling and find out that "Human Action" - at least the version I read - never was translated into English. Mises wrote it in English! Which surprised me.
2. Translation quality aside, this stuff isn't as obvious as I've come to think it is. I've become so frustrated with people lately for not grasping simple concepts like subjective value and what money is and is not, etc. But the reality is that some of these ideas are actually pretty sophisticated, not obvious at all. Even as I'm re-reading this, I'm finding that I still have to re-wrap my head around things like WHY private ownership is essential for economic calculation to take place. It's NOT obvious. So maybe I shouldn't be so annoyed with my friends who think the world would be so much better if we didn't have money.
Anyway, here's something that is pretty obvious. This is a quote Mises uses in "Economic Calculation..." It is Engels, explaining that what people actually want, need and value counts for nothing under socialism. You don't need to have read Mises to understand why the 20th Century's experiments with communism created so much misery. It's right there in the blueprints:
"As soon as society takes possession of the means of production and applies them to production in their directly socialised form, each individual's labour, however different its specific utility may be, becomes a priori and directly social labour. The amount of social labour invested in a product need not then be established indirectly; daily experience immediately tells us how much is necessary on an average. Society can simply calculate how many hours of labour are invested in a steam engine, a quarter of last harvest's wheat, and a 100 yards of linen of given quality... To be sure, society will also have to know how much labour is needed to produce any consumption-good. It will have to arrange its production plan according to its means of production, to which labour especialy belongs. The utility yielded by the various consumption-goods, weighted against each other and against the amount of labour required to produce them, will ultimately determine the plan. People will make everything simple without the mediation of the notorious 'value'."
(Friedrich Engels, Herrn Eugen Duhrings Umwalzung des Wissenschaft, 7th ed., pp. 335 f.)