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When freedom and trauma lived side by side in Britain....

 
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Leonie Humphreys



Joined: 23 Sep 2008
Posts: 216
Location: West Dorset, UK

PostPosted: Thu Aug 29, 2013 8:51 am    Post subject: When freedom and trauma lived side by side in Britain.... Reply with quote

When freedom and trauma lived side by side in Britain....


‘These mowed stripes are remarkably straight for a churchyard’ Rosemary observed. She was right they had the hallmarks of a cricket pitch. ‘I wonder if there is anything special about the care of the church and graveyard too?’ she wondered aloud.

We asked the local oracle, Stuart Rose, one of the last remaining tenant farmers still operating the strip farming system in the UK. Laxton1, in Nottinghamshire – which is famous itself of course for Sherwood forest where Robin Hood and his ‘merry men’ operated their vigilante style philanthropy – stealing from the rich to give to the poor, hosts the last remnant of British independent yeomanry. Stuart was showing a group of us around and gave what turned out to be a long introductory lecture about this unique place, for no sooner had he uttered a sentence than someone piped up with a question and it went on in the same vein from there. As he put it himself, the talk had gone a ‘little differently’ than usual! We were a group of economics and law students from the School of Economic Science out for the day on a ‘field trip’ from a week’s study at the school’s Nanpantan property. The keen interest in the subject matter had meant that the talk had taken at least twice as long as usual! Finally we had managed to allow him to finish and off we all went for a guided tour of the strip farmed fields as well as the village itself, much to the relief of the lawyers who were worried that they might miss their lunch they had booked at the local pub! The rest of us feasted on the fine fare that Stuart’s wife and her helpers prepared for us, which included several delicious puddings and beer too!

The church was rather unique in its own way too. It had been built very early around 1190, but had been extended substantially over the centuries which included the addition of some rather unusual gargoyles. At first glance they appeared ordinary enough, but on closer inspection under Stuart’s guided tour we discovered that they were somewhat unique. One of them had been fashioned to look like the Bishop ‘mooning’, with water pouring out of his behind, in the form the drain pipe! Another upon closer inspection could be seen to be displaying his ‘wedding tackle’ as Stuart put it! The rest really looked like cartoon characters pretending to be frightening! Rather unlike those that grace the exterior of most churches, that are meant to terrify the congregation into believing that a haven of peace and security is only to be found on the inside of the church, and that on the outside all we should expect is hardship and suffering. But this place didn’t believe in such separation. It seemed that a sense of security stemmed from the freedom to work their own land and therefore to earn a decent income, which continued at Laxton over the centuries when all the other land in the country had been taken during the enclosures, and had ended up in the hands of a very small, very rich minority. The gargoyles are a current humorous reminder of the robust community spirit founded on freedom, security and a lack of fear, where they were able to both care for their own within the family as well as look out for each other in the wider community.

It turned out in response to Rosemary’s observation that George looks after the church yard and he used to be a lorry driver. ‘We bought him a lawn mower’ Stuart explained ‘and we can’t get him off it!’ Yet another example of the community spirit and participation in the work that everyone seemed happy to be involved in. You got a sense that the contribution that people made to the community was as important and rewarding as what they got out of it for themselves.

The open fields system is based upon equity of land sharing so that each tenant farmer has several strips of different quality land, everyone receiving some good land and some marginal land. This understanding of sharing the land as equally as possible for the majority of the people is reflected in the classical economists understanding of the 'division of wealth', and the ‘Law of Rent’, which states that:

The ‘rent’ of a land site is equal to the economic advantage obtained by using the site in its most productive use, relative to the advantage obtained by using marginal land for the same purpose, given the same inputs of labour and capital.

The strip farming system thus captured the essence of the importance of the understanding that ‘rent’ arises as a product of fertility of the soil (in this case) and/or the presence of the community (as in the case of the value of a site in a town or city) rather than as a result of the effort of the occupier of the land. Of course this fair distribution of land was completely undermined through the enclosures as the Lords of the day became the original voracious ‘rent seekers’, taking all this ‘surplus’ for themselves and impoverishing the ordinary people of the nation.

The Ministry of Agriculture (and later the Crown Estate Commissioners) became the ‘Lords of the Manor’ at Laxton during the 1950’s when the sixth Earl Manvers left part of his estate to the nation in lieu of death duties. The Ministry tried to sell the 483 acre tenanted open field estate during the 1970’s. This incident is recorded in a TV film about Laxton. A spokes lady from the Heritage Trust, who sounded remarkably like the Queen, put it to them like so ‘it seems to me that to sell off Laxton would be like selling the stones at Stonehenge for building materials’. Thus the Ministry was shamed into submission it seems! Whatever happened they couldn’t find a buyer and Laxton has survived with its tenanted open field system to this day.

We were shown around the open fields, which were accessed by wide grass paths called ‘sykes’ (pronounced like ‘six’) which today provide great walks across the land, and much more access to the countryside than the public paths allow for in most places. In the village the tenant’s homes and farm buildings were all of high quality, many of them rebuilt around the 1750’s. A shiny sliver plaque now markes each of the 14 farms with the name, such as ‘Bottom Farm’, and the ‘Landlord’, ‘Crown Estates’. The ‘Pinfold’, now a small children’s playground, used to be used to round up any stray cows or sheep that roamed off the communal grazing land, which earned the Pinder a few bob as he was allowed to fine the owner of the animals who had to pay to get them back.

Laxton’s escape from the full effects of the enclosures was brought about partly because of a disagreement between the two major landowners, the Earl of Scarborough and Earl Manvers, and also by the cost of building Thoresby Hall, which left Earl Manvers short of funds for other projects. Laxton did of course lose a lot of its land to enclosed farms, and this occurred mainly around 1730. Yet much of it remained and the tradition of the manorial government that has survived since medieval times seemed to have a lot to do with its preservation over the years. The ‘Court Leet’ still meets at the local pub in late autumn and is allowed to impose fines on anyone abusing the manorial law. The fields are inspected to ensure that no encroachment of the paths or other farmers’ strips have occurred and fines can be imposed if so. It seemed to be conducted with a sense of respect for the seriousness of the tradition, whilst at the same time they had some fun with it. The sense of it was that it was needed to keep the open field system running properly with no one farmer able to get the better over anyone else, but they had a good time and a fine lunch whilst undertaking their various duties.

We learned that the farms are too small now for the tenant farmers to make a living only at farming and they all have other work as well to supplement their incomes. Furthermore, it would not be possible anyway to make a proper living any more from strip farming under the conditions of global capitalism where the price of their products are determined on the global stock exchange and futures markets. Yet we also got an inkling that perhaps if conditions were not so skewed and Britain grew more of her own food to feed her people and paid the farmers a fair price above the costs of production so that they could earn an income enough to provide for themselves and their families, things could be very different. Although more efficiency would obviously be needed within such a system, there were some principles in this kind of traditional land tenure and farming methods that could be developed even today to help provide local food security in an increasingly insecure world. It would be a pity if we cannot somehow protect this last remaining community that is holding onto the seed of such an old and successful tradition.



The dark side of the story of the land enclosures2 was told to us a little each day during the study week. Laxton’s story of the triumph of freedom, security and a robust community spirit contrasts starkly with the trauma experienced by those that were caught up in the ruthless pursuit of land grabbing by the Lords of the day, tearing the people from their land, which occurred over a couple of centuries and left many of the new landless in poverty and destitution, or worse deported or hanged for the crime of feeding their families. John Clare3 describes how things used to be before the enclosures and his opinion of how things were changing, in his poem ‘The Parish’:

That good old fame the farmers earned of yore,
They made as equals, not as slaves, the poor,
That good old fame did in two sparks expire:
A shooting coxcomb and a hunting Squire;
And their old mansions that was dignified
With things far better than the pomp of pride,
At whose oak table that was plainly spread
Each guest was welcomed and the poor was fed;
Where master, son and serving-man and clown
Without distinction daily sat them down
Where the bright rows of pewter by the wall
Served all the pomp of kitchen or of hall;
These all have vanished like a dream of good
And the slim things that rises where they stood
Are built by those whose clownish taste aspires
To hate their farms and ape the country squires.


Before the land was enclosed if a newcomer arrived at a village they were allowed to put up a dwelling on the free land, and if they had ‘smoke coming from the chimney’ before the next day they could stay.

Some of the Lords of the day were irresponsible layabouts and a letter from one of them to his friends graphically illustrates some of the reasons behind the enclosures. The Lord explains that his friend has built up some serious gambling debts and although he says he doesn’t like to do it, he supports the enclosures and the removal of the people from the land, as he would like to help his friend ‘get back on his feet’. Such were the foundations of the ruin of a tradition where the people of Britain were independent and able to feed themselves and their families.

The enclosures were undertaken upon flimsy grounds, but nevertheless some reason had to be provided for the Acts of Parliament to be passed in each area. For example it might be claimed that the land required ‘drainage’ or that it was required because it made the land use more ‘efficient’ and more food was required to feed an increasing population. It may have taken centuries to enclose all the land of Britain but a great many of the enclosures occurred between around 1720 and 1820 and because they occurred in a random fashion all over the place and communications were not very good, people in other areas were not aware of what was going on until it happened to them. Thus over a long period in Britain people in some villages remained free and independent whilst others were traumatised and left destitute. Even before the enclosures those that owned the largest areas of land of course governed the country also, so there was little or no real opposition to the enclosures, and where it did arise it was quickly and violently squashed. People were literally thrown off their land, sometimes by armed militia who torched the roofs of their properties and even invalid, aged grandparents had to be dragged from their cottages and were left dying by the sides of the roads.

Those left destitute by the enclosures sometimes took to stealing bread and poaching to feed themselves and their families, and they were hanged or deported if they were caught. One harrowing incident was related where two little boys under ten years old had stolen a piece of linen. Their mother is described begging the court for mercy as the boys are torn from her arms to be deported for their ‘crime’.

The destitute lived in ‘hollows’ by the sides of the roads in abject misery as the Lords made themselves rich through the new lands they had taken. John Clare describes the effect on the countryside:

The bawks and eddings are no more
The pastures too are gone
The Greens, the Meadows and the Moors
Are all cut up and done
There’s scarce a greensward spot remains
And scarce a single tree
All naked are they native plains ....


And he describes the new Lords of the enlarged estates thus in his poem ‘The Lamentations of Round Oak Waters’ (1818):

Ah, cruel foes with plenty blest
So ’ankering after more
To lay the greens and pastures waste
Which profited before
Poor greedy souls – what would they have
Beyond their plenty given?
Will riches keep ’em from the grave?
Or buy them rest in heaven?




These two stories side by side, where land is available to the many and where land is confiscated and held by the few, illustrates graphically the stark contrast between the two systems – before and after the land enclosures in Britain. Before the enclosures people had led on the whole a simple yet fulfilling existence where people of all social status lived by their own efforts and even the poorest were able to care for their own families. Yet after the enclosures extremes manifested where the wealthy landed elite lost all touch with the poor, and where even empathy, compassion and mercy were annihilated in favour of the ruthless pursuit of riches for themselves. This set in motion a poverty trap that is yet to be properly understood and eradicated.



References:

1: More details about Laxton village open field system can be found at their website: www.laxtonvisitorcentre.org.uk.
2: The story of the enclosures from: ‘The Village Labourer’ by J. L. Hammond & Barbara Hammond
3: ‘John Clare: Voice of Freedom’ by R. S. Attack


Leonie Humphreys, 28.8.13
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Richard Glover



Joined: 29 Sep 2008
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Location: Ealing, London, UK

PostPosted: Wed Sep 18, 2013 6:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

England's green and pleasant land certainly hides some chilling histories. The consequences of land enclosure and the agricultural/industrial revolutions can be seen as a modern form of slavery alongside enormous wealth. In this way, England led the world.

Can we in the UK re-discover our sense of justice, enact an inclusive land tenure (location management) system and export an equity revolution around the world?
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Leonie Humphreys



Joined: 23 Sep 2008
Posts: 216
Location: West Dorset, UK

PostPosted: Sat Oct 26, 2013 10:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Richard,

A bit hopeful I think that the UK might ‘export an equity revolution around the world’! But I sympathise with the wishful thinking of what the nation might be capable of. It is understandable that there is no such thing as ‘national pride’ anymore (not that I am an advocate of getting carried away over nationality), but our leaders, political and all the rest have dirty hands and are involved in so much ‘dirty business’ (as I have mentioned on the other thread) that it makes one ashamed to be British, or even Western. Seems to be mostly men involved in all the corruption I'm afraid to say.

There don’t seem to be any statesmen or stateswomen anywhere in government or our institutions that are capable of understanding what reforms would be required anyway to provide the conditions of ‘equity’ here, let alone anywhere else.

It is a pity, and personally I wouldn't even vote for the Liberal Democrats under Nick Clegg even if they took up Land Value Taxation, because of the way he treated the students after the last election, and that’s not because I have a son who has just gone to university, it is because he is a liar.

We need a new political party – maybe it should be just women?! Or perhaps we should replace the House of Lords with a House of Ladies?! Ha ha! That would sort out the fellas – make them behave themselves! That would be excellent!

Leonie
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Brian Chance



Joined: 09 Nov 2008
Posts: 115
Location: Croydon Surrey U.K.

PostPosted: Tue Oct 29, 2013 5:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Leonie
You could start a new political party. Several new political parties have appeared recently in various parts of the world. They stem from a deep feeling that the present economic system is unjust.

We know that the fundamental injustice is the private appropriation of the economic rent of land. The final proposed duty expressed in Mr Mason’s memorable presentation to the United Nations General Assembly was:-
“[T]o recompense surrounding communities for the benefit that private occupation of land confers on some and for that reason removes from others” We need to develop practical proposals to bring this about. It is the only way in which justice can ever be fully restored.

Injustice is inevitable as soon as land becomes a saleable commodity. The reason is that the sale price of land is the present discounted value of all future economic rent. All the future economic rent of the land is retained by the vendor. It does not pass to the new owner. The vendor can claim the wealth provided from future rent even though he no longer owns the land, without providing any wealth in exchange. Every time the land is resold another claim is created for the increase in its value since the previous sale.

Every claim creates an equivalent obligation for the purchaser to produce the wealth required to honour the claim. There is no mechanism in the current economic system to prevent this flow of wealth except redistribution through the taxation system, which only creates welfare dependency. This is the fundamental explanation for the continuous widening of the gap between rich and poor. The gap will keep on growing so long as land continues to increase in value

Any attempt to collect the rent of land (including all residential property) that has been purchased in the past must be inequitable because a varying proportion of the rent will already have been paid to the vendor. The situation is worse if a mortgage loan is not yet paid off and interest is also being paid, particularly in the case of an interest only mortgage, not being paid off at all.

However, I still suggest that the only possibility of an orderly resolution is a gradual introduction of a levy on current annual value, without exemptions. A possible first step would be to correct the grossly regressive council tax, as explained elsewhere. This shot across the bows could be put into effect in a few months and would give a breathing space for more accurate assessments to be made later.

There is an urgent need for all this to be generally understood and a new political party capable of catching the attention of the growing number of young people trapped in an unjust system that they do not understand, may be the answer.

I do agree with you that we need the ladies to get to work on the men if there is to be any progress. Who better than you to start the ball rolling? May I mention with some trepidation that a little more diplomacy might improve the outcome.
Brian
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Leonie Humphreys



Joined: 23 Sep 2008
Posts: 216
Location: West Dorset, UK

PostPosted: Wed Oct 30, 2013 11:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Brian,

I am most appreciative of your confidence in me to start a new political party, however as you also point out, tact and diplomacy are not really my strong points! And I think my powers of persuasion are more like Spike Milligan in the ‘Life of Brian’, Brian, as depicted here in this clip 'The shoe': http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uywIYQEHZLs

Actually the clip illustrates what a mess we are in because nobody knows what they are doing, just as in the book I am reading, ‘Treasure I$lands’ which is very damning of the whole situation we find ourselves in with the economy and everything else, all so corrupt.

I don’t really blame men for everything! But women need the menfolk to be our ‘protectors’ and ‘containers’, if as you indicate, they are to go to work to push for equity and environmental sustainability. Sufi mystic Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee writes about this in his book ‘The Return of the Feminine and the World Soul’. Here's a quote from Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee about it [which I have copied from another topic here 'Woman and Healing the Earth' which has more quotes from his book]:

Question from man in audience: What then is the role of men?

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee: The role of men is to protect women in this work and to protect this work – to value it and to consciously protect it. This is the role of the masculine as the protector – that you honour this work that is being done by women and you don’t allow it to be interfered with. How that will get played out I don’t know. There are so many negative forces in the world that don’t want this work to be done, that don’t want the world to be activated again, and that oppose having women regain their power because women’s power is decentralized, it is organic, it cannot be manipulated, it cannot be controlled – it is life.'

Also, the balance of the masculine and feminine ‘energy’ needs to be both within and without it seems to me, as illustrated in this quote about the ‘sacred masculine and feminine’ which I found on the internet, and which seems to ring true to me:

Sacred Masculine and Sacred Feminine:

‘When masculine and feminine energies are balanced there is cooperation, co-creation, respect, admiration, appreciation, and excitement. Both benefit and evolve in the union. ..... Both feminine and masculine count – they are different in quality, but both equally important, both big and significant. When there is no push – shove, no better or worse, and no belittlement, there is choice, harmony and balance.

Balanced masculine is the container for creative feminine energy.

Feminine: in the presence of the masculine gives herself permission to create, feels safe and protected, excited and joyful, expansive and creative, loving, kind, appreciative, grateful, allowing. Feminine suggests, has ideas, “cheers on” the masculine. It is unpredictable and creative. Feminine needs her own space where it nurtures others out of fullness, her creative essence begins to grow from inside out, regenerate, as masculine energy provides structure and stability. .... The feminine essence needs a dependable safe space to create and be happy. Feminine is that which thrives in the container.

Masculine: provides structure, support and stability to the sacred feminine, is dependable, reliable, focused, goal and success oriented. Has great ideas, big dreams, seeks accomplishment in physical reality. When masculine is balanced and in relationship to healthy feminine energy, the masculine energy has an opportunity to learn, grow, expand inside his own bubble of reality – when he is validated, he explores, loves the female energy and asks: “How can I uplift, nurture, provide for those that support me...?”

When there is give and take between feminine and masculine [this is] the fertile soil in which ideas grow.’


I am working on a little book about economics, trying to keep it really simple, but I don’t know if it will ever be worth publishing.

Thanks Brian – bear in mind that sometimes it’s when we are controversial that we get a conversation going!

Best wishes, Leonie
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Richard Glover



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PostPosted: Wed Oct 30, 2013 2:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Leonie,

Despite what you say, I would still vote for you. Every watched Borgen?
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Brian Chance



Joined: 09 Nov 2008
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Location: Croydon Surrey U.K.

PostPosted: Thu Oct 31, 2013 11:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Leonie
Apart from your conclusion in the first paragraph, I agree with everything you say, so let us get to work.

It is reported that the value of homes in London has increased by 10% over the past year. If my wife and I were to fall under the proverbial bus tomorrow, our children would receive an additional £25K from the sale of the house, for which they would have done nothing except wait for a single year. At £6.40 per hour the purchaser would need to work 11 hours per day, 7 days a week for a year, with 10 days holiday just to pay for this one year’s increase in cost. All living costs would have to come from more work.

You may regard this as a slight over-statement of the case, but whatever figures you use, the fact remains that the value of the vendor’s something for nothing on the sale of land is balanced by the value of the purchaser’s work for nothing. I think this is unjust and I believe you do too, together with Richard and all those who have laboured for so long – so far in vain.

It is also reported that in the years 2008 t0 2010, £75 billion was inherited in Great Britain most of which was received by the wealthier members of society. It is reasonable to suppose that much of that sum will be used to buy property. The process is creating a new land owning class with the landless as their slaves, just as surely as by the land enclosures.

Economics is simple. In the immortal words, “Is any study simpler than economics? A child could grasp it. Our difficulties arise, stream and flow from the superstitions and prejudices with which we surround it”

We need another Henry (or Henrietta) George to enter the Temple of Mammon and turn the tables. With your energy and gift of words, your simple book on economics could be the key. How can I help?
Brian
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Brian Chance



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PostPosted: Sat Nov 02, 2013 7:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

p.s. Have you seen Russell Brand and Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight?
You had better be quick with your book...........
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Leonie Humphreys



Joined: 23 Sep 2008
Posts: 216
Location: West Dorset, UK

PostPosted: Sun Nov 03, 2013 11:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you Richard and Brian for your kind comments.

No I haven't seen 'Borgen' but I have seen some of 'Commander in Chief' which is a series about a woman President in America which is good fun!

I didn't see Paxman and Brand either I'm afraid Brian.

Let me think about your offer of 'help' and get back to you!! One of the everlasting problems I have is how to contribute - my new thing is to 'keep it simple' since, as you point out, fundamentally a child could understand the principles of economics, if it is presented simply enough. I like your calculation worked through Brian it does bring it home even with (relatively) small amounts of 'unearned' income how really unfair it is, especially when compared to the low wages people get for hard graft.

Leonie
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Leonie Humphreys



Joined: 23 Sep 2008
Posts: 216
Location: West Dorset, UK

PostPosted: Sun Nov 03, 2013 2:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

PS: I found the Paxman/Brand interview - here it is on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YR4CseY9pk Well worth a visit!

Now I get your point - revolution - change - alternatives. As Brand puts it:
'There is going to be a revolution - its totally going to happen...... this is time to wake up...'

Yay!

Leonie
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Leonie Humphreys



Joined: 23 Sep 2008
Posts: 216
Location: West Dorset, UK

PostPosted: Mon Nov 04, 2013 2:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Brian,

I have been considering your offer of help. Are you proffering yourself as a masculine ‘protector’ and ‘container’? If you are I accept your kind offer!

Where I am at, at the moment, is attempting to present proposals for economic reforms that might lead to equity and sustainability (which include the ideas of Henry George about using ‘rent’ as a source for taxation) in a simple and concise format. I gave a talk at the SES in London in June which was only about 20 minutes, which I would like to work on and use as the basis for a presentation under workshop conditions. In other words longer in a small group, say about 12 or so over an evening of two parts – about 2 hours altogether. This way people could ask questions as we go along. I have a power point presentation which I can update, and the booklet I mentioned is really a companion to that. What I need is somewhere to present this and someone to help me. I feel quite confident with the intuitive side of the economics which I have studied over about 20 years, mainly classical economics, Henry George’s work and also environmental issues that I studied for a degree in International Studies at the Open University that I completed a couple of years ago.

So, I need a fellow who can assist by standing in the corner holding a very long sharp spear and protect me from any awkward questions! In other words actually what I need is someone who is versed in the more modern economic ideas and details about things like supply and demand, shares and finance etc etc that I have not studied to any great extent. I can probably handle some of the broad-brush things but not the details.

So, there’s a thought – I would like to see how such a workshop would go down, to see if I have covered enough ground for it to make sense so that those that are interested in a potted version of these ideas can get it very quickly, and others that want to go into the details could then study more books or take a course – the SES Economics Part 1 and then parts 2 and 3 for example, and/or the Henry George Foundation offer courses online I think.

So, that’s where I am at Brian.

With best wishes, Leonie
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Leonie Humphreys



Joined: 23 Sep 2008
Posts: 216
Location: West Dorset, UK

PostPosted: Wed Nov 13, 2013 5:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Above the social conscience expressed by Russel Brand concerned the need for 'change and alternatives' to move towards a more equitable distribution of power and wealth. Here is its antithesis expressed by Godfrey Bloom - you can hear the jackboots of the right wing marching through his words.....


Godfrey Bloom has called for unemployed people to be banned from voting, in a call derided as "social apartheid".

In a controversial blog for the Huffington Post UK, the Independent MEP, who was stripped of the Ukip whip for jokingly calling a room full of women "sluts", said the electoral system needed to give "more electoral power" to the wealthy who "create the revenue".

The former Ukip business spokesman attacked the fact that some will still get a vote even if they have "contributed nothing to the national exchequer at all and maybe never will".

He added: "I do not expect to vote in a Unite ballot because I am not a member and pay no dues. I do not expect a vote at Marks and Spencer's AGM because I am not a shareholder. We need to get to a system where the interest of the individual and the state are more compatible."


Here comes tyranny.

Leonie
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