In response to an urgent social demand, a revolutionary regime was set up in France in 1789. At the outset it was backed and promoted by men of far-seeing intelligence, including a good part of the aristocracy. . . .
Then at the moment when the revolution became a going concern, Epstean’s law brought in a waiting troop of political adventurers whose interest was not social but institutional.
Their views of the social demand which brought the revolutionary organisation into being were shaped by that interest. As Benjamin Franklin put it, they were of the sort whose sense of political duty is first, to themselves; second, to their party; and third (if anything be left over) to society. . . .
Then Gresham’s law struck in. As the numbers of this latter group increased, their interest became the prevailing interest, and their view the prevailing view. Social interest was rapidly driven out, and as almost always happens in the case of political revolutions, those who represented it were lucky if they escaped with their lives.
Then finally the law of diminishing returns took hold. As the institution grew in size and strength, as its confiscations of social power increased in frequency and magnitude, as its coercions upon society multiplied, the welfare of society (which the original intention of the revolution was to promote) became correspondingly depleted and attenuated.
These three laws dog the progress of every organisation of mankind’s efforts. Organised charity, organised labor, organised politics, education, religion — look where you will for proof of it, strike into their history at any time or place.
-AJN, Memoirs of a Superfluous Man, p. 165-6 as quoted in Cogitations