Client of the state? Donkey? You decide.

I am working my way through Hilaire Belloc’s “The Servile State”. I just read John Medaille’s article “The Economics of Distributism Part 1: Does Capitalism Work?” (Front Porch Republic) which makes reference to the book. Here is a short quote from the article that is well worth thinking about.

“In Keynesian states, people cease to be citizens and become mere clients of the state, where even their most ordinary needs are the subject of one or more governmental bureaucracies, and where even ordinary local problems are pushed up to be the responsibility of the most distant levels of government. But as successful as Keynesianism has been at rescuing capitalism from itself, one wonders if this cycle can continue. Each new business cycle seems to require greater intervention than the last, and this latest crises requires gargantuan efforts. Can this exercise in gigantism continue forever?”

A quote from Belloc’s book (taken from Jan. 1947 edition of American Affairs, downloadable at mises.org).

“how much more easily do you not think the ‘Practical Man’ will be conducted towards that same Servile State, like any donkey to his grazing ground? To those dull and short-sighted eyes the immediate solution which even the beginnings of the Servile State propose are what a declivity is to a piece of brainless matter. The piece of brainless matter rolls down the declivity, and the Practical Man lollops from Capitalism to the Servile State with the same inevitable ease. . . .

He knows nothing of a society in which free men were once owners, nor of the cooperative and instinctive institutions for the protection of ownership which such a society spontaneously breeds. He ‘takes the world as he finds it’—and the consequence is that whereas men of greater capacity may admit with different degrees of reluctance the general principles of the Servile State, he, the Practical Man, positively gloats on every new detail in the building up of that form of society. And the destruction of freedom by inches (though he does not see it to be the destruction of freedom) is the one panacea so obvious that he marvels at the doctrinaires who resist or suspect the process.”

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One Response to Client of the state? Donkey? You decide.

  1. Robert says:

    “He knows nothing of a society in which free men were once owners, nor of the cooperative and instinctive institutions for the protection of ownership which such a society spontaneously breeds.”

    True especially of doctrinaire free market Libertarian types. They dream of the “free society” but see the “cooperative and instinctive institutions for the protection of ownership” as freedom-limiting instead of freedom-protecting.

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