The most incisive guide to issues facing the American family today. An invaluable resource for anyone wishing to stay on the cutting edge of research on family trends. Recent commentators have been unsure where to place this volume on the ideological spectrum. Considering that agenda, other biographers have labeled Belloc a kind of socialist.
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In section one of the book, he defines capitalism in the following terms:. A society in which private property in land and capital, that is, the ownership and therefore the control of the means of production, is confined to some number of free citizens not large enough to determine the social mass of the state, while the rest have not such property and are therefore proletarian, we call capitalist.
It is, however, necessary to meet Belloc on his own terms if we wish to understand what he is advocating. We might wish that he had used a different label for the thing that he is describing but we need to get beyond the label to the thing itself. He was writing in , five years before the Bolshevik Revolution would turn the theoretical idea into an all too real nightmare. In point of fact, Belloc had always been a staunch and uncompromising critic of socialism.
In , the year before The Servile State was published, he had argued against the socialist position in a debate with Ramsay Macdonald, the future Labour Prime Minister. In both cases the vast majority of ordinary people remained without either land or capital and was therefore proletarianized.
It was a choice between being ruled by Big Business or Big Brother, a choice between Tweedledee and Tweedledum, or between Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber! In many respects The Servile State is as pessimistic as it is prophetic. This understanding between Big Business and Big Government at the expense of the perennially powerless majority would herald what Belloc calls the servile state and which we might prefer to call the welfare state. The editors highly recommend Mr. All comments are moderated and must be civil, concise, and constructive to the conversation.
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Keep in mind that essays represent the opinions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Imaginative Conservative or its editor or publisher. But long after his death, most families have become middle-class, and they now own the so-called means of production — via shares, their individual retirement funds, company or union pension funds, etc. My four Victorian-born grandparents, largely educated, owned no shares while their children do; and the definition of middle-class is now almost by definition share-owners.
As such, share-owners or their proxies can attend most corporate board meetings, but usually prefer to do other things with their time. Both Marx and Belloc very different men failed to see the future: Marx missed the expansion of credit, permitting families to buy houses in their own lifetimes, and Belloc never anticipated the wealth of the ever-growing middle-classes and their need to invest it in business and industry.
Christians can explain that easily enough. It seems from the article above that there are misconceptions about both Capitalism and Socialism. Both make the identity of the group, rather than size, the basis for its definition. For Capitalism, those whose wealth was used to obtain property run the show. In socialism, if we are going use the idea of the proletariate dictatorship that it espouses, then letting the state be in control of the means of production does not socialism make.
Rather, what makes state control of production socialism depends on who is running the state. In addition, what makes socialism also depends on who is managing the property as well. But something else needs to be added. For in, what Martin Luther King Jr. Both depend on one class ruling the other. BTW, to King, a thing-oriented society was one where gadgets, profits, and property rights were more important than people. If what King says is true, then what is left is to determine whether a society that more emphasizes individualism could produce a more person-oriented society than one that more values collectivism in power and property.
As a somewhat more mature individual, I embraced capitalism in all its glory, only to discover capitalism suffered the same terminal illness as socialism, it was administered in bureaucracies by very fallible human beings. The problem, as I perceived it, was the nature of bureaucracies. Within bureaucracies, rules are paramount, closing ranks against outsiders is the norm, and obfuscation is a rite of passage into the inner circles. David, You have some good points.
I would add that any ideology that externalizes evil or scapegoats others for current problems is not looking to share or distribute power, but to consolidate it. Such an ideology assumes that they are above accountability and correction.
With respect, I have no idea of your life experiences, but mine have demonstrated beyond the shadow of doubt, ANY bureaucracy, however small, has itself as its point of service and control.
Different mileage may apply for other vehicles, as I try not to operate on ideology or theory, but on experience and observation. It has been by cynical confirmation that structures are less important than the character of the individuals involved.
A small example: A pastor of a small parish is not necessarily more virtuous than the large staff of a megachurch. I have seen virtue and corruption in both instances. If he approaches to shake hands, I should count my fingers afterwards.
However, do not allow my pluperfect pessimism dissuade you from your chosen faith in humanity. Only individual humans being toward each other as God says we should be has any chance. To get government to represent us, we need to be vigilant. But what gets in the way of our vigilance is our pursuit of the American dream. It is a matter of perspective. You appear to perceive government often as a powerful servant, which it can be.
I see it can be a fearful master, which it often is. Vigilance is indeed the dues of Liberty, but you must recall, mere economic affluence is not the entirety of the American Dream, its most prominent feature is the pursuit of Freedom.
That sounds rather libertarian, but libertarians dismiss community as being antithecal to freedom as a general rule. Socialism promotes community and equality over liberty. Conservatives prize liberty and community as formed by tradition and the totality of culture Western Civ in my case.
All these things are not hardcore opposites, but components of social interaction. A conservative knows, or should know, how to balance the components of The Good Life.
Part of that balance is recognizing the limits of government as well as its benefits; the limits of community as well as benefits; the limits of liberty as well as benefits; the limits of equality as well as benefits. Whenever humans have allowed ideological, theoretical, thinking to trump experience, he result has been sad and bad and society takes a long time to recover.
I wish to conserve the good, reform the bad, and not throw everything into chaos for the sake of a weak and ill-conceived notion of how things OUGHT to be. Day, above all else government represents those closest to it, for example, its employees, its donors to the political parties, the elected officials, all those most able to feed at the government teat.
Last comes those groups or voting blocs who can raise the most noise, who can paint themselves best as victims and in turn vote most reliably pro big government. Democracy is and has always been an insiders game, perforce it must be, cliques being what they are. Socialism promotes only one thing — power for socialists. They get to boss us around, and we get to beg for whatever scraps they throw at us.
No, Belloc was a villain. The graduated income tax is immoral — see I-II, Q. The graduated income tax is manifestly neither. Distributism comes from democracy, not tradition. The proof is that the defunct royal houses of France and Brazil both oppose it. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. Previous Next.
In section one of the book, he defines capitalism in the following terms: A society in which private property in land and capital, that is, the ownership and therefore the control of the means of production, is confined to some number of free citizens not large enough to determine the social mass of the state, while the rest have not such property and are therefore proletarian, we call capitalist.
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The Servile State
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Mises Daily Articles
Fantastic diagnosis, self-confessedly weak on solutions. Hilaire Belloc, - Hilaire Belloc was born in France in , educated at Oxford, and naturalized as a British subject in Although he began as a writer of humorous verse for children, his works include satire, poetry, history, biography, fiction, and many volumes of essays. With his close friend and fellow Catholic, G. Chesterton, Belloc founded the New Witness, a weekly newspaper opposing capitalism and free thought and supporting a philosophy known as distributism.