The Endgame for “Prussianism”?

When I was young (yes even I was young once) I had a deep dislike for Otto Von Bismark (I still do dislike him) – His laying of the foundations for the first modern Welfare State, which has grown ever since and has spread to almost all other Western nations.

However, Bismark was only building on (really returning to – for there was a classical liberal period in Prussia) an older Prussian tradition…… There have always been collectivist political philosophers (going all the way back to Plato) and the German-speaking lands were not free of them. For example Samuel Pufendorf with his doctrine, against the Dutch Hugo Grontius, that God gave the land of the world to humanity COLLECTIVELY – that land that has never been occupied is NOT unowned till someone claims it, a docrtine that caused such trouble for John Locke’s thought (Locke felt himself to have to twist about coming up with “as much and as good left for others” and other so-called “Lockian Proviso” stuff to try to justify private ownership). And there is Pufendorf’s doctrine of compulsory charity (dry water?) which also caused Locke much mental confusion.

Indeed the German “Cameralist” tradition (which goes all the way back to the 1600s) has a very “modern” view of the state – see Michael Oakeshott (“On Human Conduct”) for this. Although Oakeshott himself later admitted that (for example) the view of Thomas Cromwell in England (way back in the 1500s) was just as statist. With Thomas Cromwell’s desire (never really put into practice) for government departments to cover all the things the preReformation Church tried to do (educate the young, look after the old and sick – and so on).

However theory is one thing – practice, especially “successful” practice, is quite another. Traditionally statist practice had been associated in the Western mind with failure. Diocletian’s price controls (and other statism – vast taxes, state-owned factories, de facto serfdom of the rural peasantry, and…..) led to economic decline in Roman civilization. Philip II’s statism (and the statism of others) led to the decline of Spain. Louis XIV may have been “the SunKing” but his economic statism was a failure, and on and on…….

Not so with Frederick the Great (the person Otto Von Bismark looked back to more than anyone else) and Prussia. Cameralist ideas may have been a bit of a farce when tried by Hapsburg Emperors down in what is now Austria (and so on), to the extent such ideas were tried at all, – but the active state “worked” in Prussia.
And I am not just pointing to military success (although had Elizabeth of Russia lived just a bit longer Frederick “the Great” might not be remembered for military success), it was in domestic policy also that the Frederick the Great was held up as proof that the active state could work – and is still being held up as an example to be followed ( the supposedly pro free market historian N. Ferguson is a Frederick fan).

So what did Frederick actually do that is held up as an example to be followed? His religious tolerance was based on indifference (one might as well praise him for not chasing women – he did not care about religion so he was tolerant, and he did not care for women so he left them alone). His codification of Prussian law was a statist mess (go and look at it) and his production of lightweight Polish coins (like a common fraudster) is not praised by even his most fanatical admirers – so what is praised?

The active state of course. Town planning, building projects – and (above all) laying the foundations for MASS STATE EDUCATION . For he first time since the Greek city states (one of the great differences between the Roman Republic and many of the LATE PERIOD Greek city states was that education was not considered a collective function in Rome) a modern state was going to educate the young – to turn them into better people, better citizens, people who would put their trust in the wise state and would willingly serve it in peace as well as war…….

Otto Von Bismark (a century later) just added such things as old age support and treatment of the sick to the functions of the state. And the 20th century added the formal payment of income support (old “Poor Laws” had existed in various countries – going back to the late 16th century in England and Wales, but nothing like the modern levels and extend of income support).

And the active state would work – Frederick the Great had “proved” it would work – indeed “state” starts to be used (as a positive term) in English only from the time of Frederick the Great. Even producing wildly false history and logic from classical liberal thinkers – for example in his DEFINITION of a “university” Sir William Hamilton (one of the leading classical liberal philosophers of the early 19th century) says that a university is an institution “created by the state and….” historically many universities were created by the Church (not the State) and in his own time many universities were being created in the United States by all sorts of groups, but the concept of statism had become so ingrained (even in a classical liberal like Sir William Hamilton) that both historical knowledge and logic were overwhelmed by it – no wonder the Poor Rate was made universal in Scotland (most of Scotland had traditionally been free of it) only a few years later (1845) and no wonder that the Governor General of India, at about the time of Hamilton, was busy establishing state public works (roads, telegraph systems…….) in spite of the mass failure of public works schemes in Scotland itself (the projects in the Highlands bankrupted the “improving” landlords who had gone into partnership with the state to finance them – and helped lead to the “Highland Clearances” as desperate landlords tried to save themselves from bankruptcy – they failed to do so).


Public works MUST work, state services MUST work – Frederick the Great had “proved” it was not all the theories of academics (going all the way back to the founder of the academy – Plato) – it could work (it MUST work) if one worked hard enough. Culture (such as music – after al Frederick played the flute, yes I know that is not all Plato meant by “music”, I am old let me have my little joke) and physical exercise (for example war, lots of wars, over nothing in particular – after all does anyone really believe that Frederick really cared much about Silesia? More than a million people had to die in two wars – so that Frederick could prove he was a “real man” in spite of what nasty bigoted people said about him….). The spirit of certain Public Schools in the 19th and 20th century (not before) and of certain parts of Oxford and Cambridge became very Frederick the Great – all about high culture ( men engaged in the Platonic ideal) and the worship of the state.

In the United States also Prussia was upheld (at least by “advanced” or “Progressive” people) as an inspiration. H. Mann created the first (effective) compulsory State education system in the United States (Mass 1852) although he did indeed add his own kinks to it, the basic ideology of Frederick (that public service trumps private life) was the central core (again there was a period in Prussian history where that doctrine really was challenged – but it was not the pro private life people who inspired H. Mann). H. Mann wanted something greater and higher than private individuals and families – and certainly not the churches with their silly outdated theological obsessions and endless sectarian disputes (the Pragmatist William James later tried to liberate religion from narrow theology, and also from outdated concepts such an “objective truth” and “objective right and wrong” and lead both religion and secular philosophy to serve the modern state….). No we must all “serve humanity” via a modern state.

The late 19th century Progressive movement was dominated by Richard Ely (the mentor of both T. Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson) and other German trained academics. And this was a training very much after the heart of Frederick the Great and Otto Von Bismark (not the classical liberal period in Prussian history in the early 19th century) – to the Progressives Germany was Prussia (or ought to be), and Prussia was the collectivist tradition of academic thought (or ought to be). This did not mean that many of the Progressives did not support war with Germany – on the contrary many did (remember – war is good…. IF it is for the cause of Progressivism, only “reactionary” war is bad).

The United States (in the eyes of Richard Ely and co) could be a purer example of Progressiveism than the old Imperial Germany – still held back by “reactionary” elements (such as the old Kingdoms, Dukedoms, Free Cities, idea of the “rule of law”, the personal codes of honour of aristocrats who still thought as INDIVIDUALS, and ……). The United States could free itself of these moral chains of right and wrong – and be truly “free” in its statism (or so the Progressives thought). Sadly in spite of their partial success Germany managed to outdo them.

German “War Socialism” if the First World War outdid anything that even Woodrow “The State” Wilson and Colonel “Philip Dru: Administrator” could manage (all those nasty “Rednecks” – they are so vulgar “clinging to their God and their guns”, and so hard to control…..). For German War Socialism, its origins in German thought and how it was later returned to by the National Socialists in the 1930s see Ludwig Von Mises “Nation, State and Economy”, “Omnipotent Government”and “Human Action” and F.A. Hayek “The Road to Serfdom”, “Constitution of Liberty” and “Law, Legislation and Liberty”.

Even in RACE (the great contribution of modern Progressive thought to the old collectivist tradition – I suspect that Frederick the Great would have been baffled by racism – although he despised Poles of course, that made it less difficult to rob and murder them, but Bismark learned to use racism though, privately, he thought it was nonsense). The American Progressive movement was, eventually, outdone by Germany.

True first the Progressives seemed to be doing well (far “in advance” of Germany – see J. Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism”) with such things as the forceable (hold-the-women-down-and-inject-her- and-when-she-comes-to-you-will-have-cut-out-her….) ending of the breeding chances of some of those they judged “inferior” – “Buck V Bell” with only the “arch reactionary” Justice Pierce Butler dissenting, even gassing the inferior was first suggested by American Progressives (and by British Fabians such as H. G. Wells, with his desire to exterminate inferior races, and George Bernard Shaw – with his desire to exterminate anyone who could not prove they served the state) and they worked so hard to overcome “reactionary” opposition. But they failed – millions of “inferior” people did not get gassed in the United States – the National Socialists in Germany achieved what American Progressives were unable to.

I have touched on the Fabians – but it must not be thought that admiration for German collectivist thought (Marxist or non Marxist) was confined to them in Britain.

The front page of the Daily Telegraph for the first day of the new century (the 20th century) was entirely taken up with how Britain must copy Germany (read Prussia) in just about everything (from conscription to sickness and old age state “insurance”) must be copied.

The fact that British living standards were TWICE those of Germany in 1900 was not relevant, that 80% of British industrial workers were members of “Friendly Societies” by 1911 was not relevant (no more relevant than the voluntary schools that E.G. West draws attention to in his “Education and the State” – the state took over 19th century English education anyway) – evidence was as irrelevant as logical argument. Statism MUST be correct – everyone “knew” it had worked in Prussia and would work elsewhere – onward, onward, onward to statism. Let us crush the concerns about freedom of “old women” (as “great liberal” Walter Bagehot had put it in the “English Constitution” half a century before Winston Churchill, then a young Progressive, came out with the same bullshit) under the wheels of history…. The Prussians have a state railway system – so we must nationalize the railways. A Prussian jumps of a cliff – then we must jump of cliffs also. And on and on.

Indeed even Winston Churchill (although he became rather an reactionary after the First World War) never totally shook off his admiration for Otto Von Bismark and Frederick the Great – after all he had been educated to admire them. Frederick the Great was the great British ally and first great Progressive ruler (ask N. Ferguson – I am sure he will explain it all with great passion).

It is not for nothing that F.A. Hayek dedicated his book “The Road to Serfdom” to the “socialists of all parties” in Britain – the young Conservatives and Liberals were almost as bad as the Labour party people.

Even in the 1920s pro freedom people (who really wanted to roll back the state) were a tiny group around Sir E. Benn and so on. And by World War II few could make a clear case against either Marxism or German National Socialism.

So who stood up to “defend civilization” in 1939. As George Orwell (a lifelong socialist) was forced to admit – it was “Colonel Blimp” who stood up (the Progressive people made excuses – till the two great Progressive powers, Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia went to war in 1941).

“Colonel Blimp” (the “backwoodsman” from the standard “little place in the middle of nowhere”) stood up. “Crippled” (in the Progressive point of view) by his personal code of honour and by his “outdated” ideas of “right” and “wrong” he stood up to oppose the forces of totalitarianism – forces he, perhaps, did not understand, but knew were no good.

The German lands had their own Colonel Blimps – for example the surviving Hapsburgs (not for nothing did Hitler hate the House of Hapsburg, even as a child, their code of honour always trumped ideas of collective “social” or “racial” justice – and Hitler firmly believed in both these concepts and had nothing but contempt for traditional ideas of honour), and their kin the Wittelbachs of Bavaria – some of whom ended up in Death Camps.

An honourable man does not say “my honour is loyalty” (as the SS did) – an honourable man judges things as an individual and judges his loyalties according to honour (they are not the same thing). It is not honourable to allow women and children to be shoved into gas chambers – one must try to prevent it (at whatever the cost to oneself). To the Progressive minded such “outdated” notions of individual (as opposed to collective) honour are so absurd as to be laughable.

However, the Colonel Blimps of this world (no matter how brave) are, in the long run, no match for the “intellectuals”. The Colonel Blimps are often far from stupid (contrary to the stereotype), but they do not really understand what they face – they know it is evil, but that (in the long run) is not enough knowledge. So statism continues to grow.

So why title all this “The Endgame for Prussianism”? Surely we are all doomed? Well if you think that, dear hearts, you have not been paying attention.

Diocletian, or Philip II, or Louis XIV did not win converts to statism – not in the long-term. Why not? Because they were associated (in the end) with FAILURE.

Modern Prussianism (actually more “”advanced” these days in various countries than it is Germany itself) is about to FAIL – the Welfare States (and in Germanic thought, the “Welfare State” and the “Police State” were part of the same thing – see again F.A. Hayek’s “Constitution of Liberty” and “Law, Legislation and Liberty”).

People are only impressed by things like state education and state financed healthcare if it is seen (however wrongly) to WORK.

Once vast numbers of academics defended National Socialism – now they pretend that no academics did. Once many American “New Dealers” went into raptures Italian Fascism – now the establishment elite go potty if you even mention the fact. And Prussianism (the source of the modern worship of the state in its various forms) is about to go BANKRUPT (all over the Western world).

And you will find that although the suffering of economic and social breakdown will be terrible (I certainly do not expect to survive it) the believe system of Prussianism (the worship of the modern state – the faith that it MUST control education, health care, old age provision….) will also COLLAPSE.

Prussianism will finally go – just as much as if that reactionary Elizabeth Empress of Russia had ridden into a defeated Berlin on a white horse with her blond hair gleaming in the golden sunshine – and sent Frederick “the Great” to bed without his supper (for she had sworn an oath not to execute anyone – and it all the years of her time Elizabeth was reactionary enough to keep her word).



  20 comments for “The Endgame for “Prussianism”?

  1. Jun 21, 2012 at 7:37 am

    No doubt one zillion grammatical and spelling errors – but such is my way. Only content (historical, philosophical, political and economic) really interests me – corrections on content will be most welcome.

    • Jun 21, 2012 at 8:05 am

      I just corrected a few typos. I don’t mind doing that for contributors, part of the service.

  2. Tim Carpenter
    Jun 21, 2012 at 11:46 am

    I totally agree it will collapse. The Welfare State, one of “entitlement”, has always been systemically dysfunctional, unsustainable, bankrupt and a fraud.

    By disconnecting the giver from the receiver, it dehumanises us even more than the basic slavery of tax would do.

    By a steady ratchet of benefits, it locks in and renders automatic the damage that is the result of “voting largesse from the treasury” without anyone having to vote for it in the first place. Those Fabians have kicked that inconvenient ladder away, requiring people to vote AGAINST it.

  3. Paul Marks
    Jun 22, 2012 at 8:10 am

    One thing that interests me is how everything links up. For example, why did the Governor General in India indulge in wild govenrment spending projects that led to demands for revenue that were the REAL cause of the Indian Mutiny (although that G.G. had already left India by then – leaving the new G.G., Canning, to face the storm). Because big public works projects were already in fashion in the G.G.s native Scotland.

    But these Public Works projects (in the Highlands) had already proved an economic FAILURE – so why go on with them?

    The grip of ideology – the belief that it MUST work (if one tried hard enough).

    But there had to be some basis for that (it could not just be pure ideology) – and if you asked people for an example of a successful active state, they did NOT say Napoleon (he had been an enemy – and he was a loser anyway), They said “Frederick the Great”.

    To them Frederick “proved” statism could work.

    And if you went as far forward as Colonel “Philip Dru: Admistrator” House (Woodrow Wilson’s “Other Self”) or even N. Ferguson today – they said/say that Frederick “proved” that a state could be “efficient” – an example for Protestant (read Progressive – these people are not really interested in theology) Civilization.

  4. Jun 23, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    The Poor Law/Poor Rate was a result of enclosure in the period 1750-1850. When enclosure took place the right of the poor to raise animals on common land was ended. This land was taken by the rich. As a result the poor became destitute and the Poor Law was implemented to deal with it. If the poor had not lost their land rights the poor law would not have been required and the welfare state would not have been created in the way that it was. This happened because there was no universal vote. If the poor had had voting rights then the situation would have been different. In Alaska the siezure of the benefits of land rights by the state was prevented. As a result an oil dividend of up to $16,000 per head is distributed to all residents. This system can eliminate the need for welfare for many people.

    There are two types of libertarianism. One says that unimproved land rights are owned in

    common and that the benefit of this should be distributed equally to all before tax is

    levied (geolibertarianism). This has the potential to reduce the size of the welfare state. The second says that whoever gets to a piece of land first has it as their ‘homestead’. This means that they do not pay tax on oil revenues. As far as I am aware no politician proposing the second type of libertarianism has ever won a seat off a rival party. They have only ever been elected through PR based on list systems. When they face the electorate directly they perform poorly.

    Ed Joyce

  5. Paul Marks
    Jun 25, 2012 at 11:31 am

    The old poor law, in England and Wales, is actually from the 16th century.

    There were changes in the 18th century, noteably the Acts of 1723 and 1782, neither of these Acts were the result of the Enclosure movement.

    Only one county had most land enclosed by Act of Parliament anyway (I am sittiing in it – Northamptonshire). In some counties (Kent, Essex) enclosure by Act of Parliament was about ZERO per cent of land.

    As for the agricultural revolution (of which the need for an end to the “strip system” the “common frield” and other such, was a vital part).

    Without the agrcitultural revolution there would have been mass starvation (rising population needs rising agricultural output).

    Whether people would have voted for mass starvation I do not know – but if they did do that that is a good argument AGAINST democracy (at least among people who regard mass starvation as a bad thing).

    By the way the number of people working on the land (in England and Wales) continued to INCREASE till the census of 1851 – so the idea that the enclosure movement drove people off the land into the towns is false. It was the EXTRA population that went to the towns and cities.

    As for Alaska.

    I prefer the policy of North Dakota – where the oil belongs to the owners of the land (mostly, by the way, indiviudal owners rather than corporate owners).

  6. Tim Carpenter
    Jun 25, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    Does anyone know how much land was enclosed in total, as opposed to just by an Act of Parliament.

    I recall reading about strife over enclosures in Epping Forest. (Essex).

  7. Jun 25, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    The old poor law and new poor law are very different pieces of legislation. The new poor law was required because of the increase in the number who were left destitue by the enclosure. The poor law of 1834 is the key piece of legislation which is the foundation of the modern welfare state. The prior legislation was little more that local charity at a parish level.

    Re the comment

    “Whether people would have voted for mass starvation I do not know – but if they did do that that is a good argument AGAINST democracy.”

    Libertarians won’t get very far arguing against democracy in a democratic country. A democratic country is required and people would have voted for what is described inaccurately as starvation and what they would see as legitimate rights. Saying that the agricultural revolution required enclosure does not mean that it should have been pushed through without a vote.

    The population that moved to the cities were those that lost their land rights. I am quite prepared to believe that those who took over their land had large families.

    Right wing libertarians may prefer the Dakota system, however the people of Alaska voted for their system by 84% to 16%. The LP fails to win votes in a large part because it doesn’t resonate with what the population and geolibertarians see as fair. This is simply that some of the land rights that are claimed by landowners are not valid because they were taken in many cases through acts of parliament where only a small minority had the vote.

    As far as the modern welfare state (ie NI) is concerned the Beveridge report was commissioned by Churchill.

    I am sure that right wing libertarians will say that it is more important to be right than to get votes. Left libertarians would agree and have more chance of doing both.

    In answer to Tims question 21% of the area of England was enclosed. This represented the overwhelming majority of landowners since the rest was mostly already owned by a small number of landowners or the Church. The people who depended on the poor law of 1832 were largely drawnfrom the owners of the 21% that was enclosed and it was because of the problems that they faced that the change was made.

    The ‘right’ libertarian position is the one that caused the welfare state. By taking land rights without a vote it meant a choice of starvation or prison for some. Prison / transportation simply raised the wage levels and was unacceptable to landowners except on a limited basis. The only solution for right libertarians was the welfare state.

    Left libertarianism reduces the welfare state. The Alaskan system reduces welfare dependency by giving land rights to all and in some years providing enough for basic subsistence in rural areas. A further raising of the tax threshold would also reduce the size of the welfare state.

    • Jun 26, 2012 at 7:17 am

      I don’t think that right libertarians of any stripe should endorse “taking” land rights, with or without a vote. I’m in favour of granting land rights, as and when the technology develops to deliniate them.

      Also, on what basis do you claim that the people behind enclosure were libertarian? I thought they were feudal lords or somesuch.

  8. Jun 25, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    I’m glad to see the Prussians mentioned, I think their influence is greatly underestimated and incredibly negative; Communism and Fascism both have their roots in Prussia and today we still haven’t shaken off either of those systems.

    I’d like to echo Ed’s comment about anti-democratic sentiment. I believe this is an error. You only have to look to the EU to see that our premier totalitarians hate and fear democracy, this fact ought to give people pause before they blame it for everything that is wrong.

    Also for Ed: I do believe there’s a need for a dialog between left and right libertarians, but I see Georgism (and Objectivism) as being deviations from libertarianism rather than forms of libertarianism; there is a left-libertarianism out there which makes decent principled arguments, Georgism is not it.

  9. Ed Joyce
    Jun 26, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    Sorry to disabuse you Simon but that is exactly what ‘homestead’ liberatarians suggest.The homestead principle was developed by Rothbard.
    In order to understand the principle of homesteading from a libertarian perspective you need to look at the US example. In the US this was done as described below. Land taken from indigenous people was ‘homesteaded’.
    “In the 19th century, a number of governments formalized the homestead principle by passing laws that would grant property of land plots of certain standardized size to people who would settle on it and “improve” it in certain ways (typically, built their residence and started to farm at least a certain fraction of the land). Typically, such laws would apply to territories recently taken from its indigenous inhabitants, and which the state would want to have populated by farmers. Examples:
    United States: Florida Armed Occupation Act (1842), Homestead Act (1862)”
    UK libertarians don’t use the homestead principle as much because it is clear that there were already homesteads on the land that was taken in the enclosure and the ballot box was (mis)used to facilitate the change in ownership.
    The issue is not about whether those who engaged in homesteading/land theft were libertarians. The issue is whether this is seen as right or wrong by modern libertarians. Those who support homesteading see it as justified, in fact the basis of the inalienable land rights that form the heart of their anti Georgist perspective.

  10. Paul Marks
    Jun 26, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    Ed Joyce – you are mistaken.

    The poor law RATE (i.e. the local TAX) goes back to the 16th century in England and Wales. NOT CHARITY.

    The 1834 Poor Law Reform Act was about ROLLING BACK (REDUCING) the burden of the local Poor Law Rate which (since the spread of the Speenhamland system after 1795) had become very high in rural areas.

    The Speenhamland system was a response to the pressures of the French Wars – not the enclosure movement.

    It used to be common knowledge that the Poor Law Reform Act of 1834 (popularly called the Work House Act – although Workhouses existed before 1834 and twice as many people were on “out relief” as “in relief” even after the 1834 Act) was about REDUCING (not expanding welfare taxation).

    I have thought about what could be the source of your (false) view of history.

    A possibility is that you watched (and believed) the BBC propaganda series “A Story of England” (I remember writing a post on this over on the “Counting Cats” blog).

    This series was blatent disinformation – and not just on the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834.

    For example, in the very first episode the presenter blamed a the fall of the Roman Empire on “climate change” (he said this walking past a burned out car – as if the Romans had the internal combustion engine), “imperial expansion” (in reality the the Empire had been on the DEFENSIVE for centuries, and “greedy bankers” – in reality the Romans had no system of fractiona;l reserve banking (“greedy” or otherwise).

    Of course it could be there is some other source for your error – but I suspect that BBC propagada/disinformation shows such as “A Story of England” may be the source.

  11. Paul Marks
    Jun 26, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    By the way – when I went to school (not in a different geological period) the left were still DENOUNCING the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 for restricting Poor Law activity.

    They would have laughed at the idea that it was a step towards (rather than away from) the Welfare State.

    What percentage of land was enclosed?

    Hard to say – it depends on the county.

    Counties varried from the East Midlands (mostly open field system) to the South East (Kent, Essex) and South West (Devon, Cornwall) that were mostly enclosed.

    For example South Essex had a bronze age field system.

    It survived the comming of the Celts, the Romans, the Saxons, the Normans….;

    But it could not survive the growth of towns in our own time.

    Northamptonshire (where I am sitting) is the classic Open Field county (the only county where most land (51%) was enclosed by Act of Parliament – much to the horror of the poet John Clare (although he may not be a totally reliable witness – as he was insane).

    However, in next door Leicestershire a small area of land has still not been enclosed – it remains under the strip system to this day.

    There was even a bit of strip system in the American colonies.

    In Mass.

    It was (of course) a terrible failure and had to be abandoned.

    Indeed communalism went far further in what is now Mass than anywhere in England.

    In England the strips were private.

    In Mass the colony tried COMMUNAL FARMING.

    This led to STARVATION.

    “Thanksgiving” is directed to thanks to the Indians for saving the colonists – but that is not what really happened.

    What actually saved the colonists was the abandonment of communal farming.

    Of course ending the strip farming in England does NOT incude taking private property – ownership was not in dispute, the “free hold” of the land belonged to the land owners (under Feudal law land is not technically privately owned but “free hold” is the Fedual – Common Law version of Roman law ownership).

    What was in dispute was the USE (not the ownership) of land.

    By the way….

    Peasant plot farming was maintained in most of IRELAND.

    The consequences of maintaining this system were terrible.

    Utterly terrible.

    The history of early 19th century Ireland is a nightmare.

    People who seriously think that maintaining peasant plot farming in England would have been a good idea, are misguided. Radically misguided.

  12. Paul Marks
    Jun 26, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    Those who think that what happened in Ireland in the 1840s is an example of “laissez faire” should look up my old post at the “County Cats in Zanzibar” blog.

    As someone decended (on my mother’s side) from the Waterford Powers I have an interest in this matter.

  13. Jun 26, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    The Speenhamland system was advocated by PItt the Younger who was a Tory Prime Minister. This had nothing to do with the left. Nobody is suggesting any other reason for the growing demands for welfare between 1815 and 1834 other than enclosure and the associated loss of land rights.

    The left (and geolibertarians) are still denouncing the Tory welfare policies that were introduced in 1834. Welfare should not have been necessary on the scale it was. Illegitimate Tory policies created the requirement for it.

    Most of these issues are being discussed more effectively on the thread about the BBC.

    • Paul Marks
      Jun 26, 2012 at 9:01 pm

      Speehamland was a village – local J.P.s suggested the messure. It spread from there and was pushed by the pressures of the French wars – nothing to do with enclosures.

      I never said that Speehamland was the product of the left – although Edmund Burke (the conservative Whig) opposed it.

      The Act of 1834 was about REDUCING (not increasing) the Poor Rate. Although it may not have had that effect (at least at first) in urban areas (which has different problems from rural ones)

      And it was a Whig (not a Tory) measure.

      Deflation after the end of the French wars caused severe problems.

      As did interest on the national debt – which took half of all tax revenue.

      However, poverty actually FELL in the 1820s.

      You seem to think the opposite.

  14. Paul Marks
    Jun 26, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    By the way – I should have typed “counting” not “country” on Counting Cats.

    Although that does lead me to an important point.

    In the late 18th century – court v country, was a lot more important than Whig v Tory.

    A Rockingham Whig (such as Edmund Burke) has a lot more in common with with a Country Tory than he did with a Court Whig (such as Lord North).

    Of course Pitt called himself a Whig til the day he died – but he was very much a Court Whig.

    Not that this is altogther a bad thing – but it did mean he tended to see the world in a top down way (not a bottom up way – in the way a Country Whig or Country Tory did).

    His father Pitt the Elder always called himself a Country Whig (and got on with the Court badly) – but also really looked at the world from a state point of view.

    Edmund Burke disliked Pitt the Elder more than he did Pitt the Younger.

    For example on wars for trade – a pet idea of Pitt the Elder.

    Pitt the Younger was more of a pro peace (free trade) man.

    Who was pushed into war by the Revolution in France.

    So why do I say there was a statist side to Pitt the Younger?

    He did have some openness to statist ideas – for example the push for state education found an ear in Pitt the Younger (the push that came from the fashion to copy Frederick the Great). However, whether he would ever done anything I do not know – we never will know (as the French wars were forced on him and that drove out all other thoughts).

    By the way – yet again.

    The Poor Rate goes back to the 1500s (the 16th century) – and the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 was aimed at REDUCEING it.

    Not introducing it or increasing it.

    If want an Act that may have led to the increase in the Poor Rate – 1782 is a good candidate. Passed in the distress following the American war (and loss of American markets).

    Not at once – but those magistrates at Speenhemland in 1795 used (or abused) powers they thought the Act of 1782 granted them.

  15. Paul Marks
    Jun 27, 2012 at 9:36 am

    Oh – on Alaska.

    Interesting that Ed Joyce is a Sarah Palin fan – after all it was Governor Palin who pushed the oil companies more than anyone else in Alaskian history.

    I like Sarah Palin too – but not on the Alaska land question.

    Personally I think the Alaskian system of just handing out money to people (see the “Simpsons Movie”) is not a good one. Although it is better than the State spending the money itself.

    The money should go to private owners of the land.

    As it has (most recently) in North Dakota.

    Has Ed ever asked himself what happens when the money for the Alaskian welfare payments (for that is what they are – please spare us the communal land rights BS) run out?

    The INDIAN RESERVATIONS in the “lower 48” States give the reply to that question.

    Only those reservations where PRIVATE LAND OWNERSHIP is allowed has progress occured.

    Where a system of “communal land rights” is followed the Indians (genetically NO DIFFERENT from the successful private land owning Indians of other areas) are reduced to the level of welfare dependent drunks.

    Is that what Henry George had in mind?

    Or perhaps he liked the “Mir” system in Russia.

    Origninally this existed on the Royal Estates – but it was spread (by the Russian Imperial GOVERNMENT) to formally private estates in the 19th century.

    The village (in areas where the Mir operated) controlled farming.

    The result?

    FAMINE – again and again.


    Just as in what is now Mass when the “Pilgrim Fathers” had their own communal experiment.

    Only when Stolypin allowed peasants to opt land OUT of the Mir system was famine defeated.

    Till the Soviets brought back commualism (and added collectivistism) and spread it to the whole Empire – traditionally wide areas of the Russian Empire had been free of “communal land rights”.

    See “The Peasant Plague” in the third volume of “Gulag Archipelago”.

  16. Jun 27, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    Neither the Obschina or the Stolypin reforms were Georgist systems. I have never advocated the mandation of syndicalism of farms. Farms do not need to change hands in order for LVT to be applied.

    The Alaskan system is very popular in Alaska. The Dakota system seems to have a few problems on the ground. Oil is still taxed and the revenue is spent by the state.

    The adoption of an Alaskan style system would decrease welfare spending in the UK and give more freedom to the individual. In practice the Dakotan system would give more power to the state.

    Right libertarians may well say that the Dakotan system is the most ideologically sound option for libertarians. Geolibertarians would say the same of the Alaskan system. The problem for the right libertarians is that the lack of a credible application of the ‘homestead principle’ in Britain due to the different history of the US and UK.

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