The Biblical Road to Serfdom


David Plotz has been blogging the Bible over at Slate. In a recent entry, he analyzes Joseph from the book of Genesis' economic policies during his years as Pharoah's viceroy. Plotz (possibly with a good dose of facetiousness) blames Joseph's Mao-like behavior as he "abolishes private property, turns freeholders into serfs, and transforms a decentralized farm economy into a command-economy dictatorship" for laying the groundwork for "the Israelites' enslavement in Egypt. Once you create a voracious state apparatus, it must be fed. Is it a surprise that slavery became part of its diet? In a less totalitarian state, perhaps slavery wouldn't have been as necessary or as feasible."

While that account of the origins of Egyptian slavery doesn't hold up as history–but then again, neither does the story of Joseph's viceroyhood in Egypt in general–it is true that the Road to Serfdom is one of the most ancient of roads.