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Land Ownership and Its Critics


The Spectator reports on a new book by Andro Linklater that examines the history of landownership, and the modern break away from feudalism to 'exclusive control of the ground.'

Where does the author come down on the issue? Well, according to The Spectator account at least, land ownership is a "selfish" system and things were kind of okay until Reagan and Thatcher ruined everything. That should tip you off. Also included is this:

The crisis of contemporary western capitalism, Linklater argues, is that it has slipped loose of these moral moorings. When one looks for the ‘invisible hand’ today, it is likely to be in the till. The villains in this piece are Friedrich Hayek and the postwar ‘Austrian economists’. The more they and their supporters ‘insisted [that] economic liberty was equivalent to personal freedom’ — and that taxation was ipso facto a constraint on personal freedom — ‘the quicker they eroded the moral standing of the common law system, with its guarantees of individual liberty based on a reciprocal responsibility of the propertied for the unpropertied’. Sharp reductions in the marginal rates of income tax for the very rich under Thatcher and Reagan, Linklater contends, not only increased social inequality; they also produced the gargantuan increases in national debt that currently bedevil the UK and US economies.

Contained in here is the assertion that the main problem with capitalism is that non-capitalism is bad. We've heard this argument before. Left liberals make it all the time: we can't have capitalism because non-capitalists are bad and we need the government to regulate them. (They don't phrase it this way, of course.)

Put another way: the problem with capitalism is that people get rich and then they use the power of the state (that is, they abandon capitalism) to crush other capitalists. The solution? Give even more power to the same state apparatus that the former capitalists used to abuse everyone else.

Or put even another way: Rich people use the power of the government to do bad things. The solution is to give the government more power, which presumably would never be used to do bad things.

Or something like that.

Ryan McMaken (@ryanmcmaken) is the editor of Mises Wire and The Austrian. Send him your article submissions, but read article guidelines first. Ryan has degrees in economics and political science from the University of Colorado, and was the economist for the Colorado Division of Housing from 2009 to 2014. He is the author of Commie Cowboys: The Bourgeoisie and the Nation-State in the Western Genre.

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