The Servile State

The Servile State is a book written by Hilaire Belloc in 1912 about economics. Although it mentions distributism, for which he and his friend G. K. Chesterton are famous, it avoids explicit advocacy of that economic system.

This book lays out, in very broad outline, Belloc's version of European economic history, starting with ancient states, in which slavery was critical to the economy, through the medieval economies based on serf and peasant labor, to capitalism. Belloc argues that the development of capitalism was not a natural consequence of the Industrial Revolution, but a consequence of the earlier dissolution of the monasteries in England, which then shaped the course of English industrialization. English capitalism then spread across the world.

Belloc then makes his case for the natural instability of pure capitalism and discusses how he believes that attempts to reform capitalism will lead almost inexorably to an economy in which state regulation has removed the freedom of capitalism and thereby replaced capitalism with the Servile State, which shares with ancient slavery the fact that positive law (as opposed to custom or economic necessity by themselves) dictates that certain people will work for others, who likewise must take care of them.

George Orwell described the work as written in a "tiresome style" and argued that the remedy it suggested was "impossible". However, he considered that it foretold the sorts of things that were happening in the 1930s with "remarkable insight".

Famous quotes containing the words servile and/or state:

    Whatever offices of life are performed by women of culture and refinement are thenceforth elevated; they cease to be mere servile toils, and become expressions of the ideas of superior beings.
    Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811–1896)

    Most of the folktales dealing with the Indians are lurid and romantic. The story of the Indian lovers who were refused permission to wed and committed suicide is common to many places. Local residents point out cliffs where Indian maidens leaped to their death until it would seem that the first duty of all Indian girls was to jump off cliffs.
    —For the State of Iowa, U.S. public relief program (1935-1943)