Monday, 3 October 2016

Guardian missing the point most gloriously as per usual.

From The Guardian:

To understand why, despite the recent funeral orations, liberalism is very much alive, you have to go back to the 1860s and the abolition of slavery in two key countries. To be precise, 1863, when – in one of the great coincidences of history – the proclamations of liberty for the American slaves and the Russian serfs came just five weeks apart*.

Both liberations were great victories for anti-slavery campaigners, more than half a century after the first successes of the campaign against the slave trade. But they were also great disappointments for radicals. Because, in both cases, the slaves and the serfs were catapulted from bondage into poverty.

In the US, slavery was replaced by peonage and debt bondage. In Russia, the land was valued at three and a half times its market value, and the impoverished serfs had to pay this to their former owners over a period of 49 years. It became clear that it wasn’t enough to release the slaves – you had to release them from debt, monopoly and the economic tyranny that replaced it...


All fine so far, if TPTB 'release' slaves/serfs but allow private 'land ownership' to continue and then collect most of their earnings from them in rent, the former slaves/serfs are no little or better off.

It is as simple as that. And that is pretty much where we are today. Anybody who has to hand over a large part of his earnings to private landlords/mortgage banks is in the same position as a newly freed slave/serf, who in turn is little or no better of than an actual slave/serf.

He then drifts off into a criticism of free trade, which is called 'neo liberalism' nowadays.

Why? What he refers to as free trade is in many cases no such thing, what he is talking about is corporatism, regulatory capture, government granted monopolies and protections, rigging the tax system to favour large businesses etc. Those things are the antithesis of free trade. And in terms of importance, these things are nowhere near as important as private landownership, end of.

* One of my favourite coincidences of history, along with FDR and Hitler coming to power and dying within a few weeks of each other.

9 comments:

Lola said...

Arguably FDR was a economically dictatorial as Mr H - but without the nasty militaristic bloodthirsty side or with a problem with the Jews etc.

JohnM said...

Actually the emancipation proclamation only applied to slaves in the rebel states. It was 2 years later that slavery was ended in the US

Mark Wadsworth said...

L and JM. True and true, but not important in the context.

Sean Vosper said...

Wow, I'm gonna file this under "Harsh, but fair".
Do you guys really think things are this stark - "future generations will look back, etc..."?
I need to roll this one around me noggin for a bit I think.

Mark Wadsworth said...

SV., I'm not sure how you mean that, but in the UK we had a period of Georgism-lite in the second half of the 20th century, where you could buy a house and pay off the mortgage in ten years or so, if not, you could easily get a very low rent council house. Banks were small and stable, landlords nearly died out etc.

I was at the tail end of this and count my blessings every day that I wasn't born five or ten years later. Most of those older than me have conveniently forgotten Georgism-lite and say that the next generations have it just as easy...

Lola said...

MW me too

ThomasBHall said...

I was born quite a few years after you two old farts- at least I have iPads eh? Oh, and cheap holidays! You lot don't have those do you? Ha!

Mark Wadsworth said...

TBH, but you youngsters didn't fight off the Nazis in WW 2. Let's gloss over the fact that nobody under about 88 years old did either...

Ben Jamin' said...

a letter reprinted in Chapter 15 of "Social Problems," by Henry George:

"We have abolished negro slavery in the United States. But how small is the real benefit to the slave. George M. Jackson writes me from St. Louis, under date of August 15, 1883:
During the war I served in a Kentucky regiment in the Federal army. When the war broke out, my father owned sixty slaves. I had not been back to my old Kentucky home for years until a short time ago, when I was met by one of my father's old negroes, who said to me: "Mas George, you say you sot us free; but 'fore God, I'm wus off than when I belonged to your father." The planters, on the other hand, are contented with the change. They say: "How foolish it was in us to go to war for slavery. We get labor cheaper now than when we owned the slaves." How do they get it cheaper? Why, in the shape of rents they take more of the labor of the negro than they could under slavery, for then they were compelled to return him sufficient food, clothing and medical attendance to keep him well, and were compelled by conscience and public opinion, as well as by law, to keep him when he could no longer work. Now their interest and responsibility cease when they have got all the work out of him they can."