Saturday, May 27, 2017

Robert A. Nisbet on "The Servile State"

The eminent American sociologist Robert Nisbet (1913 – 1996) wrote an insightful introduction to Belloc’s The Servile State (Liberty Fund, Inc. publication). Here are some brief excerpts from the introduction:

“SOME readers of this book may, by virtue of their own definition of “capitalism,” take umbrage at Belloc’s indictment of it, but they should understand that Belloc’s great was the widest possible distribution in a population of individual, private property, and the freedom to use this property as its owner saw fit. Some would define capitalism with its free with its free market in precisely these terms; but, as I have noted, for Belloc capitalism denoted first the kind of monopolistic expropriations that went with the Tudor kings and second the growth of large-scale, corporate, property-aggregating industry, which with its conversion of so many individuals into a propertyless condition left them wide open to the advances of collectivism and the servile state. But if Belloc disliked the capitalism of his time, he loathed and feared the kinds of opposition to and controls on capitalism which were the substance of Lloyd George’s “liberal” reforms in England, reforms which were forming the very warp of the servile state in their restrictions upon individual economic liberty.”

“THE hard truth is, the first half of the present century has to be seen as the period in which everything Belloc shows us to have begun in the Reformation—creation of the propertyless masses and of the despotic national state—ripened.”

“IF the greatness of a book had to be assessed by the criterion of success in effecting large-scale changes in society, the The Servile State would have to be pronounced a failure. But, then, so would Aristotle’s Politics, More’s Utopia, Adam Smith’s (so often misunderstood) The Wealth of Nations, The Federalist—from whose republican, decentralist ideals we have fallen so far—Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, William Graham Sumner’s The Forgotten Man and Albert Jay Nock’s Our Enemy the State, to name of few over a long period of time. Happily, we do not measure classics by their power to effect major changes in governmental or economic policy. We do so, rather, by their perceived qualities of insight, wisdom, and idealism, and their capacity to illuminate reality, to point out the difference between the vital and the ephemeral, and to save us from sophistical beliefs. Great books are beacons. Even though despotism in its many forms were to spread farther across the world than it has, even if what Belloc called the servile state were to become total reality in America, we should still have in our libraries, I pray, those books which allow us to know the truth, to know what the requirements of a free society actually are. The Servile State is one of these books, and no one wholly acquainted with its contents could very easily be made, it seems to me, the willing, the complaisant subject of such a state.”

“I am not without hope that The Servile State, if it is read as widely and deeply as it should be read, may yet prove to be more than a classic; may prove to be a force in the transformation of society.”

© Liberty Fund, Inc. 1977

Available at
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Monday, May 15, 2017

The Monopoly of Credit

“OF all the forms of monopoly, the most dangerous today is the monopoly of Credit. . . . Today you may say that all society is in debt to those who hold the levers of credit, and that when, or if, we lose our freedom altogether we shall have for masters the remaining controllers of land and machinery, who will have behind them, as ultimate masters, the controllers of credit.”

~Hilaire Belloc: The Way Out, Chap. XII—The Monopoly of Credit.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Do We Agree?

George Bernard Shaw, Hilaire Belloc & G.K. Chesterton

MR. BELLOC: I was told when I accepted this onerous office that I was to sum up. I shall do nothing of the sort. In a very few years from now this debate will be antiquated. I will now recite you a poem:

  "Our civilization
  Is built upon coal.
  Let us chant in rotation
  Our civilization
  That lump of damnation
  Without any soul,
  Our civilization
  Is built upon coal.

  "In a very few years,
  It will float upon oil.
  Then give three hearty cheers,
  In a very few years
  We shall mop up our tears
  And have done with our toil.
  In a very few years
  It will float upon oil."

In I do not know how many years ─ five, ten, twenty ─ this debate will be as antiquated as crinolines are. I am surprised that neither of the two speakers pointed out that one of three things is going to happen. One of three things: not one of two. It is always one of three things. This industrial civilization which, thank God, oppresses only the small part of the world in which we are most inextricably bound up, will break down and therefore end from its monstrous wickedness, folly, ineptitude, leading to a restoration of sane, ordinary human affairs, complicated but based as a whole upon the freedom of the citizens. Or it will break down and lead to nothing but a desert. Or it will lead the mass of men to become contented slaves,with a few rich men controlling them. Take your choice. You will all be dead before any of the three things comes off. One of the three things is going to happen, or a mixture of two, or possibly a mixture of the three combined.

─From transcript of a debate between George Bernard Shaw and G.K. Chesterton, "moderated" by Hilaire Belloc in 1928.

Read the complete debate here

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

"Properly distributed property"

“IT is imperative in the cause of civilization, that we save the small producer and the small distributor.  . . . .  He is all-important to human society and, under a scheme of properly distributed property, though his property would not be large it would be sufficient for this independence, his dignity and the security of his livelihood.”

~Hilaire Belloc: The Way Out.

Monday, May 1, 2017


THIS is the laughing-eyed amongst them all: 
My lady's month. A season of young things. 
She rules the light with harmony, and brings 
The year's first green upon the beeches tall. 
How often, where long creepers wind and fall 
Through the deep woods in noonday wanderings, 
I’ve heard the month, when she to echo sings, 
I've heard the month make merry madrigal. 

How often, bosomed in the breathing strong 

Of mosses and young flowerets, have I lain 
And watched the clouds, and caught the sheltered song - 
Which it were more than life to hear again- 
Of those small birds that pipe it all day long 
Not far from Marly by the memoried Seine. 

~Hilaire Belloc

English garden

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