01 August 2009

Capital, freedom and the King's head

Copy of a reply to an email from a person living overseas, who appears to have been a fan of my books for some years. What I have written is of general relevance to people who might consider coming.

I gather you are thinking of coming to this country. There are problems associated with someone coming from outside the EU, and I am afraid we could not give you any help with them. Things are very difficult these days with all the restrictions on personal liberty that have arisen. We are extremely overworked as it is. You would have to solve these problems for yourself, if at all.

The idea has been widely encouraged, in this country and elsewhere, that the difficulties of becoming sufficiently independent to do what you want to do by building up capital (if you have not inherited enough without building it up for yourself) can be avoided by accepting an impoverished life and finding something ‘creative’ or ‘interesting’ to do within it.

I do not myself subscribe to this idea, although unfortunately I think that some people have taken my books as providing support for it.

If anyone wants to come and form an association with us, it is very desirable that they first build up enough capital, by saving out of income if necessary, to get themselves to Oxford in a trouble-free way and pay for rented accommodation for themselves near to us.

It is only by building up money for oneself that one increases one’s freedom of action, which includes freedom from social interference.

In the pre-1945 world, saving money had a numinous respectability. Children had money-boxes, provided by the Post Office, with the King’s head on the front. When the boxes were opened, the coins could be used to buy savings stamps or savings certificates, which were stuck into books with the child’s name on the front, encouraging him to think of his capital – built up by saving – as his territory and as an extension of himself.

Now capital is seen as faintly immoral, and idealistic young people are encouraged to believe it would be better if it was not in the hands of private individuals at all.