Socialists and liberals agree in seeing the ultimate goal of economic policy as attainment of a state of society assuring the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Welfare for all, the greatest possible welfare for the greatest possible number—that is the goal of both liberalism and of socialism, even though this may now and then be not only misunderstood but even disputed. Both reject all ascetic ideals that want to restrain people to frugality and preach renunciation and flight from life; both strive for social wealth. Only over the way of reaching this ultimate goal of economic policy do their views disagree. An economic order resting on private ownership of the means of production and according the greatest possible scope to the activity and free initiative of the individual assures to the liberal the attainment of the goal aspired to. The socialist, on the other hand, seeks to attain it by socialization of the means of production.
The older socialism and communism strove for equality of property and of income distribution. Inequality was said to be unjust; it contradicted divine laws and had to be abolished. To that liberals reply that fettering the free activity of the individual would harm the general interest. In the socialist society the distinction between rich and poor would fall away; no one would any longer possess more than another, but every individual would be poorer than even the poorest today, since the communistic system would work to impede production and progress. It may indeed be true that the liberal economic order permits great differences in income, but that in no way involves exploitation of the poor by richer people. What the rich have they have not taken away from the poor; their surplus could not be more or less redistributed to the poor in the socialist society, since in that society it would not be produced at all. The surplus produced in the liberal economic order beyond what could also be produced by a communistic economic order is not even entirely distributed to the possessors; a part of it even accrues to the propertyless, so that everyone, even the poorest, has an interest in the establishment and maintenance of a liberal economic order. Fighting erroneous socialist doctrines is therefore not a special interest of a single class but the cause of all; everyone would suffer under the limitation of production and of progress entailed by socialism. That one has more to lose, another less, is incidental in relation to the fact that all would be harmed and that the misery awaiting them is equally great.