If Servile State were more widely read, there would be far far fewer "socialists" in the world. This book criticizes capitalism from the standpoint of tradition, not pie-in-the-sky theories as spurious as classical economics itself.
To say this book is an eye opener is an understatement. I'm sure all of us have an intimation as to the inadequacy of the current economic system. We instinctively recoil at the "conservative" who seems to be little less than capital's bulldog, yet his liberal alternative we find equally repulsive. In a little over one hundred pages, Belloc explains how these apparent foes are actually working together in creating the servile state; how the drive to provide unemployment insurance, minimum wages, and the like are really leading us to a state of servitude enforced by positive law. Though this book was written over one hundred years ago, it remains relevant today. I'm sure anyone who's lived long enough can see more ways in which the law restricts our economic freedom - for our own good of course - and how we, the proles, see it as a blessing.
The Servile State is an excellent, clear and impressively brief (~150 pages) take on the problems of both Socialism and Capitalism. Mr. Belloc's thesis, put briefly, is that Capitalism--the concentration of the means of production in the hands of a few, coupled with political freedom for all--tends naturally to a loss of that political freedom, which he calls the Servile State. In contrast to Capitalism and the Servile State he points to the more distributed system which flourished in Late Medieval Christendom, in which ordinary men owned land and tools to produce their own food. He gives a historical account of the ubiquity of slavery in pre-Christian Europe, its gradual disappearance in the rise of Christendom, to be replaced by a distributed system, and finally its gradual re-emergence in the wake of Europe's apostasy.
Most importantly, he astutely points out the effect which the actions of Socialists and "social reformers" have on the Capitalist State--namely, to push Capitalism more rapidly in a Servile direction by yielding to "necessary compromises" which calcify capitalists and workers in their respective places. Mr. Belloc seems to conclude that the only possibility for a return to a healthy economic order, in which men provide for themselves and their families in security, freedom and independence, is our return to Christianity.
Disillusioned with late capitalism? This book is for you. Horrified by socialism and communism? This book is for you. Thinking that the two systems are actually more closely related than they are enemies? This book is for you! This book is basically the beginning of the movement that has become known as the Just Third Way, championed by the Center for Economic and Social Justice. It's the TradCat redpill I first swallowed before diving headlong into Catholic Political Economy.
Note: I haven't purchased this book from the fine people at Tumblar House, because I actually listened to an audio copy while driving to and from work for a week. That being said, I'll be picking up a copy soon enough.
What I have read so far is great!