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Letters from Down under


Submitted by Lindsay
Melbourne Australia!

Untaught the noble end of glorious truth, Bred to deceive even from their earliest youth. - Anne Ingram, the Gentleman’s magazine, 1736

(2/2018) Untaught the noble end of glorious truth, Bred to deceive even from their earliest youth. - Anne Ingram, the Gentleman’s magazine, 1736

You may think that the word ‘lie’ has passed its use-by-date. True, the introduction of alternate facts, fake news, plainly untrue tweets, social media posts in favour of murder and torture would have turned us off any desire to sort fact from fiction, to feel confidant that two plus two would still equal four tomorrow, and for us to stop believing anything we couldn’t prove to our own satisfaction.

But lies like these are just a façade, the public face of a campaign to ensure that truth remains buried forever. It’s a new method in an old campaign, one that has been going on for hundreds of years. Its history can be traced back to the rise of the European merchant class who, drawing on the example of the guilds, saw that their power and wealth rested on bringing the state to their aid, to lead them to believe that their popularity and success depended on the rise of the merchant class, who would in turn manipulate things so the politicians could remain in power.

Governments were not slow to see that they were right, and in turn devised ways to sell this to the populace: Jobs, first of all, meant prosperity for the worker; assured supply meant satisfaction for the consumer; growth meant their children would have employment. Standards of living, a term that had not been invented until then, would be raised, and democracy proven to be the best and only system.

Enter the father of political economy, Adam Smith. Hailed as the hero of economic theory, his Wealth of Nations was a thousand page block buster that very few of his contemporaries read, and those that did took from it the things that seemed to support their views – exactly the same thing that happens today. Seeing the merchant class was better educated than most of the politicians, it was their take on it that led to today’s western world where profit and power rule.

In order to do that, the reality and the truth had to be disguised and inverted. This was never stated, of course, and it was not even assumed because the merchant class only knew one truth – theirs. That there might be more was inconceivable. Some in the government opposition believed there was, but when in power themselves they saw the value of unfettered trade, the revenue it created, the source of wealth for colonisation, industry, expansion and war. The consequences were never studied, discussed or known – how could they be? Alternate ways of governing had been tried – caliphates, ‘benign’ dictatorships, but it was not until 1917 that one powerful enough to reverse the status quo in the west came into being. Communism, rule by the people. The folly of that idea didn’t take long to expose. The People are no more astute or clever than they were two hundred years before, and when a megalomaniac forced his way into the top job it took the combined efforts of private enterprise to oust him.

The origins of this godlike authority began with the establishment of the East India Company in 1600, which, by 1760 had developed into, in Smith’s words, ‘The Mercantile System’, meaning trade was monopolised, with one company or group having sole rights for those products or goods. This expanded to many other merchants, allowing them to buy at prices no one else could achieve, to restrict supply and control prices. This led to a new definition of capitalism, (which had existed for at least three centuries, having supplanted serfdom), where capital was concentrated in the hands of a few, and conglomerates came into being.

This was the opposite of Smith’s treatise. He certainly believed in trade, but not at the expense of the general population. It was the astuteness of the traders that countered this when it was pointed out: Their aim was, the said ’The Common Good’. That when they profited so did the common man. He had job that paid good money, goods and comforts to buy, and a country to be proud of. That they would be drafted to fight wars that benefited the traders was blanked out, and governments developed smarter and smarter ways of hiding the reality. The worker developed their own systems of getting a bigger piece of the pie, trade unions going quite a way into reducing slave conditions, but they were no match for an increasingly technological society so that today mercantile power is so great that it dictates policy, especially in America and its vassal states – which includes us here in Australia.

And it is here that the current administration has arrived. The mantra of world trade, of free enterprise, of trading blocks is so much part of culture and policy that it is immovable. It is the agenda of your president as he plays games of brinksmanship, of congress as it passes more wealth making deals, including massive tax cuts to the biggest businesses, of robbing the poor to help the rich, and it is the reason for the stagnation of wages and decline of the middle class.

Adam Smith was convinced that such accumulation of power would continue, and that the only remedy would have to come from a government that was prepared to re-establish the community of people, to be brave and capable enough to allow all citizens to be free form economic slavery, to be transform ‘shareholder value’ to be public value. He would be appalled by today’s power elites, to rule by the arms industry, to the demeaning of people whose only aim is to live peaceably and in harmony with their neighbours.

He had not counted on the generations of power that turned lies to truth and slavery to salvation.


Pining for pre-merchant days in

Melbourne, Australia.

Read Past Down Under Columns by Lindsay Coker