Presenting the future: the Irish Social Credit movement 1932-1941

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Date
2023
Authors
Warren, Gordon
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University College Cork
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Abstract
This dissertation examines the monetary reform proposals tendered by the Irish Social Credit movement in the 1930s and early 1940s. The phenomenon of monetary reform constitutes an understudied aspect of Irish economic history and in focusing on the monetary reform proposals of the Financial Freedom Federation (latterly the Irish Social Credit Party, henceforth FFF/ISCP) I contend that, notwithstanding the fact that professional economists tended to give Social Credit a wide berth, aspects of the FFF/ISCP programme for reform were more forward looking than the literature gives them credit for being and are, therefore, worthy of revaluation. By monetary reform I mean alternative proposals for issuing money and financing the economy than the conventional debt-based model. Social Credit, an economic doctrine developed in the Interwar years by an obscure British engineer, Clifford Hugh Douglas, in collaboration with feted British intellectual, Alfred Richard Orage, became the preeminent monetary reform theory in circulation in Britain and Ireland after the 1929 crash when the world experienced an acute and prolonged economic depression. The Irish Social Credit movement, which numbered Maud Gonne MacBride amongst its foremost campaigners, has received scant to no attention in the literature to date. Indeed, save for a short and impressionistic treatment of the movement in Ray Douglas’ 2009 work Architects of the Resurrection, the literature is silent on this phenomenon. The objective of the monetary innovations proffered by the Irish Social Credit movement was the removal of money creation from the hands of the banking system and making it a sovereign prerogative (democracy in a substantive sense). Although not especially numerous, the movement succeeded in attracting large crowds to their rallies and in alerting the general public to the possibility of alternate methods of stimulating the economy. Herein, I detail the forward-looking aspects of the FFF/ISCP’s monetary reform proposals arguing that the FFF/ISCP was significantly ahead of future economic developments in advocating a nascent form of basic income in the form of the National Dividend and in identifying a democratic deficit in permitting democratically unaccountable institutions a near monopoly on the supply of credit. All too often, we are apt to dismiss proposals for social and economic reform that emanate from traditions we might label as ‘suspect’ or ‘other’ not comprehending the assumptions that underpin them. This dissertation will elucidate some of the assumptions underpinning the FFF/ISCP proposals in the hope that it will be of value in assisting us in assessing the viability of the proposals for economic and monetary reform propounded by this hitherto substantially neglected entity.
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Social Credit , Basic income , Major Douglas , Catholic action
Citation
Warren, G. 2023. Presenting the future: the Irish Social Credit movement 1932-1941. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.