Is Britain Still a Feudal Country? Discussion with Kevin Cahill & Simon Fairlie

Tony Gosling tony at
Sat Oct 26 13:47:54 BST 2013

Is Britain Still a Feudal Country? Discussion 
with Kevin Cahill & Simon Fairlie

Land reform
The Diggers, The Chartists, The Crofters, The 
Irish Land League and today's criminalized 
squatters have been spoiling for a fight about 
the iniquity of eviction, landlessness and 
destitution for hundreds of years. Britain has a 
land-mass of around 65 million acres and around 
65 million people, that's roughly a football 
pitch per person, or around three acres for the average family.
Britain was a free gift to its people, just as 
the Earth was to mankind. Back in medieval 
England most land was farmed collectively, few 
actually owned it but did have the right to a 
cottage, to stay, and to pass those rights down 
the generations. But the landowners' parliament 
instituted 17th- and 18th-century land 
privatization, enclosure, evicting hundreds of 
thousands. A vast factory workforce of destitute 
landless citizens was created, ripe for the dark 
satanic mills of England's industrial revolution.
Across the Irish Sea one million died between 
1847 and 1851 in the Irish Famines and a further 
million were forced to emigrate. So in the late 
1800s, with fire in their bellies, the Irish led 
the way in taking back the land, setting a precedent for today' solution.
Exploiting the balance of power in London, four 
laws were forced through delivering interest-free 
government loans. Penniless Irish tenants could 
now buy land and build new homes, repayments 
being far less than those crippling rents. It was 
one of history's most successful land reform programs to date.
Figures are hard to come by today but 40,000 
'land millionaires', 0.05 percent of the 
population, now own around half of Britain, most 
of which they have never set foot on. A further 
30 percent is owned by 1 percent of the 
population, and the remaining 20 percent is owned 
by banks, corporations and other institutions. 
Though many have 'bought their own home', 
actually the bank owns it until they pay off their mortgage.
This leaves around 50 percent of the population, 
or 30 million people, effectively landless, 
either with a big mortgage, renting or homeless. 
Britain today too carries the shame of roughly 
200,000 homeless people, either overcrowded, 
sleeping on friends' floors or sofas, squatting or sleeping on the streets.

A Short History of Enclosure in Britain
Over the course of a few hundred years, much of 
Britain's land has been privatized — that is to 
say taken out of some form of collective 
ownership and management and handed over to 
individuals. Currently, in our "property-owning 
democracy", nearly half the country is owned by 
40,000 land millionaires, or 0.06 per cent of the 
population,1 while most of the rest of us spend 
half our working lives paying off the debt on a 
patch of land barely large enough to accommodate a dwelling and a washing line.

The great property swindle
The myth spun about Britain is that land is 
scarce. It is not -- landowners are paid to keep it off the market
Modern British history, excluding world wars and 
the loss of empire, is a record of two 
countervailing changes, one partly understood, 
one not understood at all. The partly understood 
change is the urbanisation of society to the 
point where 90 per cent of us in the United 
Kingdom live in urban areas. Hidden inside that 
trans­formation is the shift from a society in 
which, less than a century and a half ago, all 
land was owned by 4.5 per cent of the population 
and the rest owned nothing at all. Now, 70 per 
cent of the population has a stake in land, and 
collectively owns most of the 5 per cent of the 
UK that is urban. But this is a mere three million out of 60 million acres.
Through this transformation, the heirs to the 
disenfranchised of the Victorian era have 
inverted the relationship between the landed and 
the landless. This has happened even while huge 
changes have occurred in the 42 million acres of 
rural countryside. These account for 70 per cent 
of the home islands and are the agricultural 
plot. From being virtually the sole payers of 
such tax as was levied in 1873 (at fourpence in 
the 240p pound), the owners of Britain's 
agricultural plot are now the beneficiaries of an 
annual subsidy that may run as high as £23,000 
each, totalling between £3.5bn and £5bn a year. 
Urban dwellers, on the other hand, pay about 
£35bn in land-related taxes. Rural landowners 
receive a handout of roughly £83 per acre, while 
urban dwellers pay about £18,000 for each acre 
they hold, an average of £1,800 per dwelling, the 
average dwelling standing on one-tenth of an acre.

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