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135
IS LIBERTY A LOST BLESSING?

What men have done, therefore, in the course of civilization is this: they have broken down natural monopolies in the interest of free competitive effort. In the course of the development the natural elements have reappeared in new form, or new developments of the monopoly principle have presented themselves. These again have been modified or overcome, giving wider scope to liberty, but again producing fresh developments of monopoly, and so on until now. The reason why an artificial monopoly is so abominable is not only that it interferes to put some men down in order that others may rise at their expense, but that it is a working backward of the state machinery against that whole drift of civilization, which the state machine ought to fall in with and assist by constantly enlarging the fields of individual effort and modifying the play of natural monopoly by intelligent control.

It is a form of expression which lends itself to serious misapprehension, if we say of a certain natural fact that it is beneficent—a natural fact is, and that is the end of the matter, whether we men give it our sovereign approval or not. We have nothing to do with a natural fact except to note and accept its existence, and to govern ourselves accordingly. Still, when we note a natural fact we can often trace out its effects upon human interests, and perceive modes in which they are favorable or unfavorable to us. In that sense I hold that the above-mentioned play of monopoly for the reward of talent is beneficent. In other essays[1] I will examine a whole group of natural monopolies, to see if the same is true of them all, including that of land.

  1. ↑ Pp. 239 ff. below.