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While these factors contributed to the defeat of the proposal for a national bank, it has been suggested that the perceived potential impact on the relative positions of landowners and owners of capital was also important Ryder, ; Fauske, This related to the proposed introduction of copper halfpence and farthing pieces, the patent for which had been granted to a Wolverhampton metal manufacturer, William Wood.

The introduction of these coins would have contributed to the alleviation of a shortage of small change which was widely acknowledged to be a serious problem in Ireland at the time. However, the coins would not have the status of legal tender Fauske, , Large quantities had been initially authorized and there were insufficient safeguards to insure the intrinsic worth of the coins. Finally, there was lingering resentment that Ireland was unable to mint its own money Fabricant, , Drapier each addressed to a different person or body.

The first letter, addressed to shopkeepers made much of the losses that would be borne by people who consented to use the debased copper coinage. People had experienced losses in living memory when following his victory over James II, William III had declared the Jacobite coins to be worth their weight in metal and not their face value.

Thus, in the third letter addressed to the nobility and gentry of the Kingdom of Ireland, Swift wrote:. Were not the People of Ireland born as Free as those of England? How have they forfeited their Freedom? Is not their Parliament as fair a Representative of the People as that of England? Are they not Subjects of the same King? Does not the same Sun shine over them? And have they not the same God for their Protector? Swift, [] , X, Even so, Swift had the temerity to address his fourth letter to the whole people of Ireland.

In it, he strongly challenged English misrule in Ireland of which Woods halfpence was merely the latest manifestation. On the downside, coin shortages continued for longer than necessary but politically the campaign was successful in showing that resistance to impositions from England could be effective.

Kelly, himself suggests that, such as it was, the economic content of the Drapier letters was parasitic on works of other authors such as Joseph Bindon Fauske is even more critical suggesting that Swift weighed in on economic matters he barely understood while Irish politicians got on with the more practical business of debating how to manage the affairs of the new provincial state of Ireland Fauske, , Swift advocated a realignment of the ratio between gold and silver and the creation of a public mint to coin gold, silver and copper.

In this design, Boulter was initially thwarted by what he describes as a combination of merchants and bankers Boulter, , However, when Boulter eventually succeeded in , Swift was among his opponents. The writing of the work coincided with the emergence of Walpole as de facto prime minister in England and it is widely regarded as a damning critique of the activities of the Walpole government Swift, , xviii.

As such, it has been suggested that it can be seen as an early instance of reverse anthropology, with the empire sitting in judgement on an England that liked to sit in judgement of others Kiberd, , The King of Brobdingnag is reported as expressing puzzlement that expenditure could sometimes exceed tax income by as much as a factor of two. He asked me, who were our creditors?

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And, where we should find money to pay them? GT II, He observed, that among the diversions of our nobility and gentry, I had mentioned gaming. He desired to know at what age this entertainment was usually taken up, and when it was laid down. How much of their time it employed, whether it ever went so high as to affect their fortunes. Whether mean vicious people by their dexterity in that art might not arrive at great riches, and sometimes keep our very nobles in dependence, as well as habituate them to vile companions, wholly take them from the improvement of their minds, and force them by the losses they have received, to learn and practice that infamous dexterity upon others.

Balnibarbi was in a state of considerable decay, the houses in ruins and the people without food or clothes. This is blamed on the numerous projects promoted by the Academy of Projectors. His house was a noble structure built according to the best rules of ancient architecture GT, With Ireland in mind, he has a swipe at those who would enslave their country.

He also disparages the projecting spirit of his age, in particular, the types of projects being put forward by the likes of William Petty whose insistence on a reliance on number, weight and measure was anathema to Swift. Referring to the propensity of mathematicians to give their judgments on matters of state, Gulliver noted that:. I have indeed observed the same disposition among most of the mathematicians I have known in Europe, although I could never discover the least analogy between the two sciences; unless people suppose, that because the smallest circle hath as many degrees as the largest, therefore the regulation and management of the world require no more abilities than the handling and turning of a globe.

GT III, Gulliver explained to his Houyhnhnm master that the Yahoos were the governing animals in his country, England. He also explained the nature of its economy including the role of money as a store of value and means of exchange. In addition to his difficulty in understanding the nature and role of trade, the Houyhnhnm master observed with some puzzlement that the Yahoo nation had been extremely successful in multiplying the original wants of its inhabitants and, having done so, seemed to spend their whole lives in vain endeavours to supply them by their own inventions GT IV, Gulliver sought to explain that trade was a source of luxury goods.

He also explained that in an economy with a division of labour, people earned their living by producing goods for others and that quite ordinary goods represented the work of many hundreds of tradespeople:. The bulk of our people supported themselves by furnishing the necessities or conveniences of life to the rich, and to each other.


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GT IV, The reasons given are that the countries concerned had no desire to be conquered or enslaved and did not abound in gold, silver, sugar or tobacco. For Instance, a crew of pirates are driven by a storm they know not whither; and at length a boy discovers land from the top-mast; they go on shore to rob and plunder; they see an harmless people, are entertained with kindness, they give the country a new name, the take formal possession of it for the king, they set up a rotten plank or stone for a memorial, they murder two or three dozen of the natives, bring away a couple more by force for a sample, return home, and get their pardon.

Here commences a new dominion acquired with a title by divine right. Ships are sent with the first opportunity; the natives driven out or destroyed, their princes tortured to discover their gold; a free licence given to all acts of inhumanity and lust; the earth reeking with the blood of its inhabitants: And this execrable crew of butchers employed in so pious an expedition, is a modern colony sent to convert and civilize an idolatrous and barbarous people.

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It is reasonable to conjecture that this was meant ironically especially since we know that the abuse of Irish administrative appointments was an issue to which Swift attached the greatest importance Swift, [] , II, Like his Anglo-Dutch contemporary Bernard Mandeville, Swift liked to explore the contradictions that emerged when things were looked at from different from different points of view.

Mandeville found his answers to these contradictions in a theory of social evolution, whereas Swift sought them in the orthodox Christianity that he inherited. The work, which is widely acknowledged to be amongst the finest satirical essays in the English language, is written in the form of an economic pamphlet and employs the methodology of political arithmetic to make its case that poverty could be alleviated in Ireland if the children of the poor were sold, aged one, as food for the rich. At one point in the satire the proposer claims that he could think of only one objection to his scheme namely that the number of the people in the kingdom would be thereby lessened.

This, the proposer was willing to allow and he justified his position by saying that the suggested remedy was intended to apply only to Ireland. Consequently, he did not want to hear about other possible remedies:. Lastly of putting a spirit of honesty, industry and skill into our shopkeepers. Swift, [] , Kelly , finds that Swift had nothing new to offer and that his complaints about trade restrictions and belief that Ireland could not hope to prosper within the British mercantile system ran counter to the thinking of other economic writers who were beginning to take the view that co-operation with the Imperial commercial system was possible Kelly, , For both authors, import substitution was linked to a condemnation of luxury consumption which was seen as depriving native industry of the demand needed to encourage local production.

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, sophisticated commentators such as Henry Martyn had defended the import of textiles into England on the ground that it would facilitate the release of labour from employments which were inefficient and allow its transfer to industries where it could be put to better use Martyn, However, such arguments were not relevant in the conditions of high unemployment pertaining in Ireland in the s and it is hardly surprising that, in the circumstances, the creation of employment was a major preoccupation of Irish writers on political economy Rashid, Consequently, the removal of the Irish to Britain would be advantageous provided that food for the transported population could be raised with the same amount of labour as before and that the increase in the price of land in England exceeded the value of immovables that had been left behind in Ireland.

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Although Petty excused his proposal by describing it as a dream or reverie rather than a rational proposition, there is evidence that he took the dream sufficiently seriously to present James II with a fully worked out proposal in , although nothing ever came of the project Brewer, , Swift suggested that this was beneficial since no alternative work was available.

If sufficient numbers went abroad, the whole country could be turned over to tillage. Nonetheless, he was also aware that the use of numbers could give an argument the appearance of objectivity and impartiality. Part of the effectiveness of the A Modest Proposal derives from this appearance. The proposer comes across as rational and reasonable.

He demonstrates that his project will be beneficial for all concerned even the children sold for food. The proposer shows himself to be willing to consider other alternatives although these are eventually dismissed as being economically flawed or open to censure on humanitarian grounds. There is no full-fronted assault just occasional hints that all is not well through apparently incidental discussion of lesser evils of which society does not approve. Like Swift, Mandeville understood that how one evaluated matters varied depending on the point of view adopted and he exploited this fact in several of his works.

For example, in Remark G of The Fable of the Bees, having first established the evil nature of the trade in alcoholic spirits, Mandeville proceeded to show that a good humoured man might look at things differently and view the trade as a universal comfort for the poor as well as a source of great wealth for some eminent distiller. Against the objection that one rich man was a poor equivalent of the misery of many thousands, Mandeville, in Swiftian mode, pointed out that such a man could be active in encouraging the reformation of manners and become the scourge of the very class of men to whom he owes his fortune Mandeville, , I, These were such that it was difficult to conceive of a tyrant so inhuman that he should exact such terrible services from his innocent slaves.

However, if we change the point of view and look at these labours as the voluntary actions of people in various trades, we shall see that far from being a burden, these employments are a blessing to be prayed for Mandeville, [] , I, In the Fable, Mandeville claimed always to favour virtuous action. This was partly for effect but perhaps also to pre-empt critics accusing him of promoting vice. However, in A Modest Defence of Public Stews, Mandeville explicitly made the case for consequentialist as opposed to moral evaluation arguing that it was permissible to do evil that good might come of it Cook, , In this, Swift can be seen as beating Mandeville at his own game by showing that there were really no bounds on what could be justified by consequentialist reasoning.

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Swift mentions Mandeville only once and then only incidentally. More recently, it has also been suggested that it was intended as an intervention in the budgetary debates of the Irish Parliamentary session and as an attack directed specifically at predatory loan schemes for taxpayer financing Moore, , There is no doubt that Swift was concerned about the condition or Ireland and the dysfunctional nature of its institutions in third decade of the eighteenth century.


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  • These can be identified as the emerging market-based reality and the consequentialist economic arguments being advanced to rationalize it. Specifically, Swift sought to undermine the view that private vices produced public benefits and that otherwise intolerable situations were justifiable as long as they were viewed as the outcome of voluntary actions. The view of The Modest Proposal had a moral rather than a political purpose is supported by Herbert Davis , He argues that while, at first sight, it looks like political satire, this is not in fact the case.

    Swift, realising he has no longer any power as a politician, appeals to the conscience of mankind. Having argued that regardless of how shocking or ridiculous his title might seem, it was irrefragably true, Mandeville continued:. Mandeville, [] , It is unlikely that he would have troubled to do that had Swift not landed blows of his own in proposing ways not sufficiently real or practicable in which private vices could become public benefits.

    Mandeville does not tell us what work he has in mind. As far as Swift was concerned, all of this showed in practice that private vices did not give rise to results that were beneficial to the public and drastic reforms were necessary before Irish economic development could begin to take place. In so far as he wrote about the condition of agriculture, he argued that the short leases prevalent in Ireland discouraged the improvement of land since tenants could be certain that on the expiration of their lease, the rent would be raised in proportion to the improvements that they had made Swift, [] , 21; [] , Swift also has to be credited with one of the earliest statements of the principle that a tax or tariff may be set so high as to reduce revenue below what a lower rate would raise Swift, [] , ; Bartlett, Although Swift reserved his strongest criticisms for landlords and local elites, he had robust views about the giving of alms and thought that they should be severely restricted so as not to encourage the increase of beggary.

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    Although Samuel Johnson thought that Swift was being unrealistic in insisting that repayments should be made on time, modern commentators acknowledge that Swift was addressing the problems of adverse selection and moral hazard which still remain ubiquitous in micro-finance Johnson, ; McPhail and Rashid, , He reminded them that no buyer of common sense would return to a shop where he had been defrauded. Swift also suggested that a number of substantial drapers should band together to guarantee the quality and price of their product.

    Any seller failing to fulfil the terms of the guarantee would be expelled from the group and this fact would be advertised Swift, [] , Finally, in a sermon on doing good preached in , Swift argued for the importance of public spirit and in doing so showed an understanding of the incentive issues relating to public goods and bads. According to Swift, the greatest damage to the kingdom Ireland had been the result of a few manufacturers imposing bad ware on foreign markets thereby ruining the trade Swift, , He was amongst the first to appreciate that the emerging financial institutions had important implications for the nature of political power and political stability.

    In the current financial crisis, political questions have begun to be posed about regulatory failure and political capture.

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    From the outset, Swift appreciated that financiers would only lend to governments if the governments could credibly commit to pay the interest on the loan and eventually the capital sum. Swift sometimes wrote as if he believed that politicians developed the financial interest with a view to creating a constituency which would maintain them in power which might possibly have been going too far. The important thing, however, is his appreciation of the nature of the link not just between a debtor parliament and its creditor citizens but also between debtor parliament and its wider tax paying citizenry.