Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Edward Gibbon Wakefield

In searching for a pithy definition of Fete Accompli I came across this in Wikipedia.

Like Stephen Harper here is another Tory politician Quebecers liked; Edward Gibbon Wakefield.

But unlike Harper his motto was; if elected I will not serve. Which meant they liked him a lot.

While active with the New Zealand Company, Edward Gibbon had maintained his interest in Canadian affairs. He was involved with the North American Colonial Association of Ireland, NACAI. At his instigation, the NACAI were trying to purchase a large estate just outside Montreal where they wanted to establish another Colonial settlement. Edward Gibbon pushed the scheme with his usual energy; apparently, the government did not object in principle but they strenuously objected to Edward Gibbon having any part of it.

But trusted or not by the politicians, Edward Gibbon was involved in the scheme. The NACAI sent him back to Canada as their representative; he arrived in Montreal in January of 1842 and stayed in Canada for about a year. At this stage , Canada was still coming to terms with the union of Upper and Lower Canada. There were serious differences between the French and English Canadians with the English Canadians holding the political clout. Edward Gibbon skillfully manipulated these differences; it was fairly easy for him to get the support of the French Canadians. By the end of that year he had got himself elected to the Canadian Parliament. It is perhaps typical of Edward Gibbon that, having been elected, he immediately returned to Britain and never took up his seat.

He went back to Canada in 1843 and spent some months there. However when he heard of his brother Arthur's death at the Wairau Affray, he immediately quit Canada and never returned. This appears to be the end of his involvement with Canadian affairs except that he was paid about twenty thousand pounds by the NACAI for his work in Canada. As always with Edward Gibbon, principles and profit seemed to go neatly together.

Edward Gibbon Wakefield was a scoundrel and a cad, a free land advocate, a realitor , opposed to the British Mercantile State Monopoly, and thus he was not trusted by them.
Despite being in business with them in forming colonies as their real estate agent.

Competing schemes of colonial emigration with different implications for equality were promoted to create more consumers of British manufactured goods and producers of food. Edward Gibbon Wakefield’s plans were designed to recreate in British North America the inequalities associated with labour’s divorce from capital as necessary for social and economic development, but others sought the same end by means of the greater social equality that came from reuniting labour with capital. The poor and dispossessed in Britain who produced and consumed little could be transformed into agrarian property-holders in colonial societies dominated by such petty producers. A degree of inequality would persist, but the resulting colonial societies were far more egalitarian and therefore socially and politically democratic than Britain itself. In such a social context, nineteenth-century liberalism—its celebration of independence and equation of individual economic success with virtue—seemed especially plausible to contemporaries.

Herr Doctor Professor Karl Marx outlines the origin of American Libertarianism, that shocked Wakefield; its exceptionalism as a free soil political economy, not a capitalist one. America was a truly free market economy as long as land was held as a public trust for private use.

As a commercial colonizer Wakefield was shocked his experiment had failed. It had not created a capitalist colony bound to the Mother Country, rather it had given free men, free land. But then again he was an idle speculator, a salesman of colonies for his masters.

And so in desperation as Marx points out Wakefield offers his masters a solution to end the free labour republic, taxation, expropriation of the land by the State and then selling it back to free men at such a high cost they have to become wage slaves instead of independent landowning producers.

This then is the secret of the political economy of Capitalism. That it must destroy the real free market by imposition of Statist taxation for capital accumulation. America as a colonial experiment had evolved into a Republic of Free Labour and Free Soil, something that most American Libertarians acknowledge as their exceptionalism. But this was too much for Old World capitalism and it needed a State that would tax property and then sell it off to the highest bidder. That as Marx says and they would concur;

that the capitalist mode of production and accumulation, and therefore capitalist private property, have for their fundamental condition the annihilation of self-earned private property; in other words, the expropriation of the laborer.

While vulgar liberaltarians leave out the capitalist and simply decry the State and Taxation as the villains genuine American descendants of the libertarian independent producers would embrace instead the ideal of the cooperative commonwealth as a way of challenging the State and its taxation of their 'public property'.

It is ironic that Marx who is assaulted as a statist by the right would embrace the libertarian ideal that the truly independent producer is also the owner of his own property, that is land. But as Marx says the secret to this form of private property is its communal ownership as public property of the producers.

It is the great merit of E.G. Wakefield to have discovered, not anything new about the Colonies, but to have discovered in the Colonies the truth as to the conditions of capitalist production in the mother country. As the system of protection at its origin attempted to manufacture capitalists artificially in the mother-country, so Wakefield’s colonization theory, which England tried for a time to enforce by Acts of Parliament, attempted to effect the manufacture of wage-workers in the Colonies. This he calls “systematic colonization.” First of all, Wakefield discovered that in the Colonies, property in money, means of subsistence, machines, and other means of production, does not as yet stamp a man as a capitalist if there be wanting the correlative — the wage-worker, the other man who is compelled to sell himself of his own free-will. He discovered that capital is not a thing, but a social relation between persons, established by the instrumentality of things.

“If,” says Wakefield, “all members of the society are supposed to possess equal portions of capital... no man would have a motive for accumulating more capital than he could use with his own hands. This is to some extent the case in new American settlements, where a passion for owning land prevents the existence of a class of laborers for hire.” So long, therefore, as the laborer can accumulate for himself — and this he can do so long as he remains possessor of his means of production — capitalist accumulation and the capitalistic mode of production are impossible. The class of wage-laborers, essential to these, is wanting.

We have seen that the expropriation of the mass of the people from the soil forms the basis of the capitalist mode of production. The essence of a free colony, on the contrary, consists in this — that the bulk of the soil is still public property, and every settler on it therefore can turn part of it into his private property and individual means of production, without hindering the later settlers in the same operation. This is the secret both of the prosperity of the colonies and of their inveterate vice — opposition to the establishment of capital. “Where land is very cheap and all men are free, where every one who so pleases can easily obtain a piece of land for himself, not only is labor very dear, as respects the laborer’s share of the produce, but the difficulty is to obtain combined labor at any price.”

As in the colonies the separation of the laborer from the conditions of labor and their root, the soil, does not exist, or only sporadically, or on too limited a scale, so neither does the separation of agriculture from industry exist, not the destruction of the household industry of the peasantry. Whence then is to come the internal market for capital? “No part of the population of America is exclusively agricultural, excepting slaves and their employers who combine capital and labor in particular works. Free Americans, who cultivate the soil, follow many other occupations. Some portion of the furniture and tools which they use is commonly made by themselves. They frequently build their own houses, and carry to market, at whatever distance, the produce of their own industry. They are spinners and weavers; they make soap and candles, as well as, in many cases, shoes and clothes for their own use. In America the cultivation of land is often the secondary pursuit of a blacksmith, a miller or a shopkeeper.” With such queer people as these, where is the “field of abstinence” for the capitalists?

But in the colonies, this pretty fancy is torn asunder. The absolute population here increases much more quickly than in the mother-country, because many laborers enter this world as ready-made adults, and yet the labor-market is always understocked. The law of supply and demand of labor falls to pieces. On the one hand, the old world constantly throws in capital, thirsting after exploitation and “abstinence”; on the other, the regular reproduction of the wage-laborer as wage-laborer comes into collision with impediments the most impertinent and in part invincible. What becomes of the production of wage-laborers into independent producers, who work for themselves instead of for capital, and enrich themselves instead of the capitalist gentry, reacts in its turn very perversely on the conditions of the labor-market. Not only does the degree of exploitation of the wage-laborer remain indecently low. The wage-laborer loses into the bargain, along with the relation of dependence, also the sentiment of dependence on the abstemious capitalist. Hence all the inconveniences that our E. G. Wakefield pictures so doughtily, so eloquently, so pathetically. The supply of wage-labor, he complains, is neither constant, nor regular, nor sufficient. “The supply of labor is always not only small but uncertain.” “Though the produce divided between the capitalist and the laborer be large, the laborer takes so great a share that he soon becomes a capitalist.... Few, even those whose lives are unusually long, can accumulate great masses of wealth.” The laborers most distinctly decline to allow the capitalist to abstain from the payment of the greater part of their labor. It avails him nothing, is he is so cunning as to import from Europe, with his own capital, his own wage-workers. They soon “cease... to be laborers for hire; they... become independent landowners, if not competitors with their former masters in the labor-market.” Think of the horror! The excellent capitalist has imported bodily from Europe, with his own good money, his own competitors! The end of the world has come! No wonder Wakefield laments the absence of all dependence and of all sentiment of dependence on the part of the wage-workers in the colonies. On account of the high wages, says his disciple, Merivale, there is in the colonies “the urgent desire for cheaper and more subservient laborers — for a class to whom the capitalist might dictate terms, instead of being dictated to by them.... In ancient civilized countries the laborer, though free, is by a law of Nature dependent on capitalists; in colonies this dependence must be created by artificial means.”

What is now, according to Wakefield, the consequence of this unfortunate state of things in the colonies? A “barbarising tendency of dispersion” of producers and national wealth. The parcelling-out of the means of production among innumerable owners, working on their own account, annihilates, along with the centralization of capital, all the foundation of combined labor. Every long-winded undertaking, extending over several years and demanding outlay of fixed capital, is prevented from being carried out. In Europe, capital invests without hesitating a moment, for the working-class constitutes its living appurtennce, always in excess, always at disposal. But in the colonies! Wakefield tells and extremely doleful anecdote. He was talking with some capitalists of Canada and the state of New York, where the immigrant wave often becomes stagnant and deposits a sediment of “supernumerary” laborers. “Our capital,” says one of the characters in the melodrama, "was ready for many operations which require a considerable period of time for their completion; but we could not begin such operations with labor which, we knew, would soon leave us. If we had been sure of retraining the labor of such emigrants, we should have been glad to have engaged it at once, and for a high price: and we should have engaged it, even though we had been sure it would leave us, provided we had been sure of a fresh supply whenever we might need it.”

After Wakefield has constructed the English capitalist agriculture and its “combined” labor with the scattered cultivation of American peasants, he unwittingly gives us a glimpse at the reverse of the medal. He depicts the mass of the American people as well-to-do, independent, enterprising, and comparatively cultured, whilst “the English agricultural laborer is miserable wretch, a pauper.... In what country, except North America and some new colonies, do the wages of free labor employed in agriculture much exceed a bare subsistence for the laborer? ... Undoubtedly , farm-horses in England, being a valuable property, are better fed than English peasants.” But, never mind, national wealth is, once again, by its very nature, identical with misery of the people.

How, then, to heal the anti-capitalistic cancer of the colonies? If men were willing, at a blow, to turn all the soil from public into private property, they would destroy certainly the root of the evil, but also — the colonies. The trick is how to kill two birds with one stone. Let the Government put upon the virgin soil an artificial price, independent of the law of supply and demand, a price that compels the immigrant to work a long time for wages before he can earn enough money to buy land, and turn himself into an independent peasant. The fund resulting from the sale of land at a price relatively prohibitory for the wage-workers, this fund of money extorted from the wages of labor by violation of the sacred law of supply and demand, the Government is to employ, on the other hand, in proportion as it grows; to import have-nothings from Europe into the colonies, and thus keep the wage-labor market full for the capitalists. Under these circumstances, tout sera pour le mieux dans le meilleur des mondes possibles. This is the great secret of “systematic colonization.” By this plan, Wakefield cries in triumph, “the supply of labor must be constant and regular, because, first, as no laborer would be able to procure land until he had worked for money, all immigrant laborers, working for a time for wages and in combination, would produce capital for the employment of more laborers; secondly, because every laborer who left off working for wages and became a landowner would, by purchasing land, provide a fund for bringing fresh labor to the colony.” The price of the soil imposed by the State must, of course, be a “sufficient price” — i.e., so high “as to prevent the laborers from becoming independent landowners until others had followed to take their place.” This “sufficient price for the land” is nothing but a euphemistic circumlocution for the ransom which the laborer pays to the capitalist for leave to retire from the wage-labor market to the land. First, he must create for the capitalist “capital,” with which the latter may be able to exploit more laborers; then he must place, at his own expense, a locum tenens [placeholder] on the labor-market, whom the Government forwards across the sea for the benefit of his old master, the capitalist.

However, we are not concerned here with the conditions of the colonies. The only thing that interests us is the secret discovered in the new world by the Political Economy of the old world, and proclaimed on the housetops: that the capitalist mode of production and accumulation, and therefore capitalist private property, have for their fundamental condition the annihilation of self-earned private property; in other words, the expropriation of the laborer.


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The Era Of The Common Man

1666 The Creation Of The World

The Many Headed Hydra

Libertarian Anti-Imperialism

William Appleman Williams

Libertarian Dialectics

War and the Market State

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