FRANCES HUTCHINSON AND BRIAN BURKITT
The Transformation of Fisher King to Robber Baron1
The writings of CH Douglas gave rise to the social credit movement, popular throughout the inter>*war years. In the years immediately following World War I, Douglas' earliest books, Economic Democracy, Credit-Power and Democracy and The Control and Distribution of Production (Douglas 1919,1920,1922) first appeared in serial form in the guild socialist weekly The New Age. Close examination of the early 'Douglas/New Age' texts and other contemporary evidence (see e.g. Carpenter 1922) reveals that the editor of The New Age, AR Orage, provided Douglas with a great deal more than editorial support in the formulation of the original texts. Without Orage's guild socialist contribution, Douglas' technical observations of the accounting mechanisms which underlie the role of finance in the formulation of policy on production and distribution, would have provided unpromising material for a popular debate that was sustained over two decades throughout the English-speaking world. Orange's synthesis of contemporary heterodox economic thought contributed the vital prerequisite for a revolutionary analysis of capitalist economic orthodoxy based upon the centrallty of time and finance.2 The resultant Douglas/New Age texts form the basis of a socialist economics in line with Smith's (1962:158) definition of socialism as an absence of economic conflict.
Douglas was before his time in presenting a true-to-life critique of capitalist finance. Like Veblen, he noted that economic activity cannot be presumed to bear any relationship to a physical or biological system governed by natural law. His unforgivable blunder was to shoot down elegant theory with the cannon of an uncomfortable fact; economic activity is governed by man-made institutions.
* Department of Social & Economic Studies, University of Bradford, UK.
Social Scientist, Vol. 29, Nos. 11-12, Nov.-Dec. 2000