"[The] great embarrassing fact that haunts all efforts to return to the market as the highest form of human freedom, [is] that, historically, impersonal commercial markets originate in theft."— David Graeber, Debt, The First 5000 Years
Next we hear an interview by Tony Gosling of Andy Wightman on land ownership, tenure and land rights in Scotland. In the 16th century, he explains, about 50% of Scotland was still in common ownership. Drawing its title from a succinct summary by a Victorian landowner, his book The Poor Had No Lawyers answers in more detail the question of what happened to it.
To clarify the fact that what happened in Scotland was not an isolated pattern, Lyn Gerry reads Torn From The Land (originally broadcast in episode 90). Drawing on 18 months of research, this article sheds some light on USA's murky history of land ownership in USA. It reveals a pattern of trickery, violence and murder to steal land from freed slaves, either with the acquiescence or the outright support of the authorities.
We then conclude our reading of Debt, The First 5000 Years, which continues into the second hour. David Graeber departs from his pattern of historical summary to offer a recommendation. He states in answer to last week's forbidden questions that the current system of debt is not commensurate with democracy and that "nothing could be more important" than a retreat from its increasingly tyrannical and wealth concentrating logic. We are long overdue some king of Biblical style debt jubilee, Graeber says, concluding that no one has the right to tell us what we truly owe.
We conclude the show with a radio adaptation of an Adam Curtis' documentary from his 1992 series entitled Pandora's Box. The League of Gentlemen tells the story successive political leaders were tempted to believe that 'the economy' was governed by the predictable laws of economics, and that their advisers had discovered them and could use them to create a path to prosperity no matter what. Curtis unpeels multiple layers of deceit to reveal a familiar pattern of self-interest masquerading as altruism beneath a veneer of academic and intellectual respectability.
Thanks to Tony Gosling for the Andy Wightman interview
This episode rebroadcasts content from Unwelcome Guests episode 90.