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Monday, June 11, 2012

"Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it." Geo. Santayana.

Barry, My Liege :

Perhaps the reign of English King Henry VIII can offer some parallels to today.

The King was a very human man; he was the King who founded the Church of England by cutting ties with the Roman Catholic Church in 1534.

But, the interesting parallel to today does not rest in his treatment of his wives or the Catholic Church, instead it rests in his actions to finance his Kingdom.

English Kings were reluctant to tax the population because the House of Commons had to approve a tax ; Kings would rather finance their own than beggar themselves before Parliament for a tax.

In the early 16th Century the Roman Catholic Church still owned a network of monasteries and churches across England. Henry thought he could finance his government by sacking those properties. And, if a few clerics lost their lives, well nobody really cared about those Romans anyway.

But, Henry decided to let some of his palace friends undertake the sacking on a sort of 'outsourced, private contract' basis instead of doing it with government troops.

Naturally enough, some of his friends grew quite rich from the project and were his happy supporters as a result. Eventually, however, all the prosperous monasteries and churches had been sacked and that revenue stream dried up.

But government expenses continued, so Henry took the next logical step : he debased the coinage.

As a result, there was a general inflation throughout the land.

" 'The proportionate value of meat today is nearly three times the old rates, that of corn nearly two and a half times, that of dairy produce two and a half times. But the rise in wages is little more than one and a half times,'
[Thorold Rogers in THE HISTORY OF BRITISH CIVILIZATION] In other words, the poor man .......emerged from the Reformation and Counter-Reformation with less food and less clothes and less command over the good things in life than before.... The ring of nouveaux riche who had grown fat on the profits of the monasteries were impatient for another share out, and the straits of government were desperate. Accordingly the next objects to be singled out were 'colleges, free chapels, chantries, hospitals, fraternities, brotherhoods, gilds and stipendiary priests.'"
[THE HISTORY OF BRITISH CIVILIZATION, Wingfield-Stratford, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1928]

My Liege, perhaps that may sound familiar to you.

After all, are the rapacious not coming today for the colleges, the pensions, the police, the teachers and the firemen?

It did not end well for England and the King ; and, it will not end well for us.

Your faithful servant,

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