The Coming Slavery




It is said that when railways were first opened in Spain, peasants standing on the tracks were not [i]nfrequently run over; and that the blame fell on the engine-drivers for not stopping: rural experiences having yielded no conception of the momentum of a large mass moving at a high velocity.


The [above] incident is recalled to me on contemplating the ideas of the so-called “practical” politician, into whose mind there enters no thought of such a thing as political momentum, still less of a political momentum which, instead of diminishing or remaining constant, increases. The theory on which he daily proceeds is that the change caused by his measure will stop where he intends it to stop. He contemplates intently the things his act will achieve, but thinks little of the remoter issues of the movement his act sets up, and still less its collateral issues.


Herbert Spencer, “The Coming Slavery”




Quite a few years ago I gave a presidential address at a dinner meeting of the Society for the Development of Austrian Economics which was titled after Herbert Spencer’s 1884 article, “The Coming Slavery.” At that time I failed to understand the nature of an after-dinner talk and struck a too-somber tone for too long a time. Nevertheless, I have an enormous respect for Herbert Spencer and his analysis of the dynamics of government intervention in the economy and believe his observations are highly relevant to current events.


We are clearly on a slippery slope toward massive and ill-advised government interference in the market. Unlike many slippery slopes this one is not likely to take a long time. Continue reading