Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Servile State

The first book on Distributist thought, Belloc offers an interesting and compelling criticism of both capitalism and socialism. Though certain aspects of it are targeted towards Belloc's time, it does posess some surprising insights which are not found in the economics textbooks of today. Belloc's actual words occur in quotation marks. My notes appear in italics.

"Capitalism must keep alive, by non-Capitalist methods, great masses of the population who wouldotherwise starve to death."

"There are three replacements for Capitalism: Slavery, Socialism, or Property."

The incompatibilities of Capitalism are:

1) The ownership of the means of production by a few.

2) Freedom of all.

If property, by which Belloc means the means of production, is restricted to a few, one may either put it into the hands of many or put it into the hands of "none," which in practice means the hands of the politicians.

The only alternative to private property is public property.

"The Capitalist state breeds a Collectivist theory which in action produces the Servile State."

"..a collectivist solution is the easiest for a Capitalist state to aim at, and yet, in the very act of attempting collectivism, the servitude of the many results and the confirmation of the present privilege of the few.

Distributism is working against the grain; Collectivism, with the grain."

Proposals for distributism include:

1) Actively subsidizing small savings.

2) Penalizing(by taxes) undertakings with few owners.

3) Taxing large blocks of shares.

Belloc believes the problem inherent in a Capitalist society is that it generates a "proletarian" class which only aspires for employment, and an "administrative" class of owners.

"Collectivist experiment is throughly suited(in appearance) to Capitalist society. It works within the existing machinery of Capitalism, appealing to just those appetites which Capitalism has aroused, and ridicules as fantastic and unheard-of just those things in society the memory of which Capitalism has killed among men wherever the blight of it has spread."

"Collectivism promises employment to the great mass who think of production only in terms of employment."

Capitalism precedes communism because Capitalism disenfranchises so many, the majority has no problem with disenfranchisement for the Capitalists. Capitalism destroyes their memory of personal private property so collectivism is no longer a personal threat.

"There is in the whole [socialist] scheme nothing with which Capitalist society is unfamiliar, the appeal to no instinct, whether of cowardice, greed, apathy, or mechanical regulation, with which a Capitalist community is not amply familiar."

"The Servile state is that in which the mass of men shall be constrained by law to labor for the profit of a minority."

"The First effect of capitialsim on the proletariat: property is no longer what they seek, nor what they think obtainable for themselves.

The Second effect: they regard the possessors of property as a class distinct from their own, whom they must ultimately obey, often envy, and sometimes hate.

They think of themselves as wage-earners. Their object is almost always an increase in that wage., To somehow cease to be a wage earner is somewhat foreign to them."

“The state says to the serf ‘I saw to it that you should have so much when you were unemployed. I find that in some rare cases my arrangement leads to your getting more when you are unemployed than when you are employed. I further find that in many cases, though you get more when you are employed, yet the difference is not sufficient to tempt a lazy man to work, or to make him take any particular trouble to get work. I must see to this.’”

“All so-called ‘Socialist’ experiments in municipalization and nationalization are merely increasing the dependence of the community upon the capitalist class.”

"Types of collectivist reformers:

a)The man who regards public ownership of the means of production(and the consequent compulsion of all citizens to work under the direction of the state) as the only feasible solution of our modern social ills.

b)The man who loves the Collectivist ideal in itself, who does not pursue it so much because it is a solution of modern Capitalism, as because it is an ordered and regular form of society which appeals to hm in itself. He loves to consider the ideal of a state in which land and capital shall be held by public officials who shall order other men's efforts and so preserve them from the consequences of their vice, ignorance, and folly."

Taken from

Interview with Thomas Storck

On Cooperative Ownership

John Médaille Interview in Romania

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