The abject practical failure of the Marxist revolutionaries in the post-WWI period had done much harm to their image as the vanguard of social progress.
The explanation for this failure in the writings of Mises, Max Weber, and Boris Brutzkus had led many economists to revise their views about the suitable scope of government within society. But others remained unrepentant advocates of the total state. They merely rejected the specifically egalitarian agenda of the socialists.
The uncontested leader of this group was Werner Sombart, the greatest star among the interwar economists in Germany. Sombart had started his career popularizing Marxism in academic circles with his 1896 book Sozialismus und soziale Bewegung im 19. Jahrhundert (Socialism and Social Action in the Nineteenth Century). Later editions testified to Sombart’s increasing estrangement with his initial Marxist ideals. The tenth edition, which appeared under a new title in 1924, featured an outright demolition of Marxist socialism. Sombart had turned back to the mainstream Schmollerite socialism, which advocated the total state without an egalitarian agenda.
Sombart’s intellectual qualities had gained him a place of preeminence. Where most Marxist intellectuals held dogmatically to the tenets of Marx and Engels, Sombart sought to analyze and develop their doctrines with a critical mind in quest of objectivity. This made his work the perfect target for a thorough criticism of the intellectual current of anti-Marxist socialism, and Mises provided such a criticism in an article with the title “Antimarxismus” (Anti-Marxism).
Already in his article on price controls, Mises had pointed out that the shortcomings of interventionism did not result from the egalitarian agenda that some governments pursued, but from the very nature of government intervention itself, namely, the infringement of private property rights. Socialism and interventionism were destructive economic systems whether explicitly egalitarian or not. They would be unsuitable forms of social organization even if they pursued some other ideal of distribution—even meritocracy. There might be certain superficial similarities between a free society and a non-egalitarian one controlled by a total state, but these two would still be essentially different:
On the surface the social ideal of etatism does not differ from the social order of capitalism.