Friday, October 09, 2015

How Capitalism Triumphed

Some facts:

"one-tenth of the English population in 1800 was slowly starving to death" (p. 120)

"A few eggs, a cow for milk, a potato ground, all mattered. But over the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries self-provisioning came under serious attack. A padlock was placed on nature's larder. First, the Waltham Black Act of 1723 was pivotal: traditional wage supplements such as gleaning and sweeping, and the collection of firewood from the forests, became criminal offenses; items of a 'base nature' -- rabbits, hares, fish -- were redefined as private property, and their capture became a felony; finally, the game laws were strengthened... Second, enclosure contributed to a class of 'landless labourers' without farming strips for growing household provisions, and they likewise suffered from a contraction of common lands upon which a cow might be kept or firewood harvested..." (p. 121)

Finally, relatives height rankings in the British Isles around 1815:
1) Rural Scots
2) Urban Scots
3) Irish (overwhelmingly rural)
4) English urban
5) English rural
6) Londoners

These rankings reflect the degree of nutritional provision in each area.

From these facts, we can see a likely conclusion: the new class of English capitalists, in need of cheap labor, passed laws to starve the English peasantry off of their land and force them into factories as the peasants' only means of survival.

Yes, libertarians, I know that these were not libertarian measures! But I am not analyzing some ideal but non-existent capitalism; I am looking at how the actually existing capitalism we live under came about.

And here is what's weird: although many libertarians, if pushed to analyze what actually went on in the past, will acknowledge that, what... 99%?... of all current property ownership came about unjustly, in that it depends somewhere in the past on some unjust seizure of wealth, when someone like Pope Francis condemns this fact, many libertarians freak out, and claim that he thinks markets are "evil" and that he is a Marxist! (Libertarians like Kevin Carson are excepted here.)


All facts from "Nutrition and health, 1700-1870," David Meredith and Deborah Oxley, in The Cambridge Economic History of Modern Britain, Volume I: 1700-1870.


  1. Thanks for this. An excellent data point for the neo-liberals we love. We need a Solzhenitsyn for the voiceless and forgotten victims of liberalism, industrialism, and globalism.

  2. That is sobering.

    What is particularly frustrating is arguing with current Protestant Christians who say that Francis is not, in fact, Christian. They seem to think that if you are a Christian, you have to be capitalist, and cannot discuss matters concerning the poor. This is historically false, though, and accusing the oldest Christian Church of not practicing the Christianity it has defined is bizarre.

    Francis is just a priest, really. And he is hitting nails on their heads.



"If your approach to mathematics is mechanical not mystical, you're not going to go anywhere." -- Nassim Nicholas Taleb