This article by the famous physicist Albert Einstein was originally published in the first issue of Monthly Review (May 1949). 

Is it advisable for one who is not an expert on economic and social issues to express views on the subject of socialism?

I believe for a number of reasons that it is.

Let us first consider the question from the point of view of scientific knowledge. It might appear that there are no essential methodological differences between astronomy and economics: scientists in both fields attempt to discover laws of general acceptability for a circumscribed group of phenomena in order to make the interconnection of these phenomena as clearly understandable as possible. But in reality such methodological differences do exist. The discovery of general laws in the field of economics is made difficult by the circumstance that observed economic phenomena are often affected by many factors which are very hard to evaluate separately. In addition, the experience which has accumulated since the beginning of the so-called civilized period of human history has—as is well known—been largely influenced and limited by causes which are by no means exclusively economic in nature. For example, most of the major states of history owed their existence to conquest. The conquering peoples established themselves, legally and economically, as the privileged class of the conquered country. They seized for themselves a monopoly of the land ownership and appointed a priesthood from among their own ranks. The priests, in control of education, made the class division of society into a permanent institution and created a system of values by which the people were thenceforth, to a large extent unconsciously, guided in their social behavior.

Oscar Wilde died a hundred years ago this month, in exile in Paris. This will be the occasion for a lot of talk about his achievements and accomplishments but we doubt that much will be said about the fact that he once wrote a socialist pamphlet. So this is a good time to take another look at Wilde's The Soul of Man under Socialism, which was first published in February 1890. Without necessarily agreeing with every last word in the essay, we would accept that much of it is as true and as relevant today as it was 110 years ago. (Don't worry about Wilde's use of the word 'soul'—he clearly means 'mind' or 'spirit', and obviously wrote 'soul' because, as a virtuoso literary craftsman, he savoured the euphony of the word with 'Socialism'.) To start with, he realized that socialism and communism mean the same thing:

Socialism, Communism, or whatever one chooses to call it, by converting private property into public wealth, and substituting co-operation for competition, will restore society to its proper condition of a thoroughly healthy organism, and ensure the material well-being of each member of the community. It will, in fact, give Life its proper basis and its proper environment . . . Each member of the society will share in the general prosperity and happiness of the society.