Servile State 2: The Problem of Capitalism

The previous post on this topic:

To read the Hilaire Belloc’s The Servile State free online:

Capitalism is irrevocably unstable. It is only a transient state on the road to a more permanent societal structure. The inherent instability of Capitalism comes from the history of Western Civilisation.

The slow won political freedoms in England coupled with the economic freedoms bought on by the egalitarian mindset of Christianity, which lead to the forming of guilds and the abolishment of slavery,* which led to the wealth being more evenly accumulated among the English people and created a unique social structure which England passed onto its colonies and whose basis forms modern Western civilisation.

This social structure began to change over a hundred years before the Industrial Revolution, where the means of production and capital once more started to return to increasingly fewer and fewer hands, leaving more and more of the population with nothing to rely on but their labor.

This trajectory was accelerated by the Industrial Revolution.

Since the early twentieth century the problem of a politically free people with decreasing economic freedom has been known.

Our laws are based on the idea of free citizens. An unwritten assumption is that property is something everyone has and they therefore can contract as economically free agents.

Further, to quote from Belloc** “As a fact, of course, Capitalism cannot proceed to its own logical extreme. So long as the political freedom of all citizens is granted [the freedom of the few possessors of food to grant or withhold it, of the many non-possessors to strike any bargain at all, lest they lack it]: to exercise such freedom fully is to starve the very young, the old, the impotent, and the despairing to death. Capitalism must be kept alive by non Capitalist methods, great masses of the population who would otherwise starve to death; and that is what Capitalism was careful to do to an increasing extent as it got a stronger and stronger grip upon the English people. Elizabeth’s Poor Law at the beginning of the business, the Poor Law of 1834, coming at a moment when nearly half of England had passed into the grip of Capitalism, are original and primitive instances: there are to-day a hundred others.”

And now, in the twenty first century, hundreds more welfare laws and how many more to come?

On the other side we have the undermining of political freedom where monopolies, price fixing and corporate conspiracies, all ignored or encouraged by the Courts, which robs a man of his ability to compete and thus pursue his economic freedom.

What good is the vote if you are starving to death?

Freedom, after all, is another word for insecurity. Many people, at the bottom of it all, want security.

Thus the problem of Capitalism, put succinctly is:

‘1. The means of ownership of production by a few

2. The freedom of all.

Thus the solution is to remove either of those two, or both.

People will not willingly and knowingly give up political freedom unless they are desperate, so the obvious problem is what to do about the means of ownership in the hands of a few?

Either the means of ownership can be in the hands of many, which is Distributivism or in the hands of none, which is Communism.

In the next post we will go through these two options, and the seemingly inevitable outcome, and explore them in depth.

* Slavery by any name is still slavery, whether it is convict labor, indentured servitude, serfdom and so on

** p.89

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s