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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Socialism, Morality, Economic Theory

Barry, My Liege :

Your servant has discussed the relationship of economic theory to morality in another venue, which can be read here :

Economic theory was born into a world in which the few wealthy people profited from the efforts of the poor majority in obscene proportions.

This theory, after all, cannot distinguish between a machine and a human child slave when comparing the relative costs and profits of each.

To the extent that economics contributes toward inequality and misery, we pray that you My Liege, ignore, studiously, the blandishments of that discipline.

Economics will merit serious attention only when the effects of its theories on real people are considered. Until then, we pray you treat its observations with suspicion.

Below is a short introduction to the effects of economics on England in the first part of the 19th Century :


Whatever the economists might claim to have demonstrated about the need for giving capital a free hand, there was no escaping from the fact that whereas, under the existing social order, wealth was being multiplied beyond the wildest dreams of a century back, the whole benefits of this revolution were absorbed by a minority of the population, while the majority were sinking from depth to depth of misery. And this majority comprised the very labourers who - on the authority of Adam Smith himself - produced the whole of the wealth. Nor was the contrast a matter of mere guesswork or intuition. In 1814, the year of Napoleon's overthrow, a certain Patrick Colquhoun, a metropolitan police magistrate, published a statistical estimate of the resources of the British Empire, in which the inequality of wealth was revealed, with at least an honest attempt at accuracy, in the dry light of statistics. Here it was stated that whereas some 400,000 of the well-connected and well-to-do were drawing family incomes of from two to four hundred pounds per annum, the labourers in the fields and factories had to keep body and soul together on a beggarly eleven.

Here, then, was the plain meaning of the state of things analyzed and favoured by the economists ; the landlord growing fat on his rents, the capitalist pocketing everything else above the eleven pounds or so per annum to keep each human machine grinding him wealth for over twelve hours in the twenty-four, and the man who turned to the soil or loom kept down by an iron law to a natural or unnatural rate of wages which might, according to a very liberal interpretation of Ricardo, rise, in the course of time - perhaps even to an average twelve pounds per annum !

To kick against these pricks might be - and, the whole school of middle class economists would assure you on one voice of ponderous indignation, was - quiet fallacious and unscientific, but one might at first be inclined to wonder how the poor, once confronted with such arguments as Colquhoun's statistics and their own bitter experience could provide, did not rise, as Shelley - who was after all of squire stock and might be presumed to feel the pinch of the shoe less keenly - counselled them to rise :

'Like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number -
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you -
Ye are many - they are few' ”

From THE HISTORY OF BRITISH CIVILIZATION, Esme Wingfield-Stratford, D Sc., M.A., Ex-Fellow of King's College, Cambridge, Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., London First Edition 1928, Second Edition, 1930, Reprinted 1932, 1933, 1938, 1942, 1945 and 1948, pp 922-923


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