Talk:Great Famine (Ireland)/Archive 6

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----


__________________________ Thanks for your diligance, JTD . I don't have the article on my watchlist; it's a sucker's game to make changes there.

In my experience edit wars often happen when someone feels that their concerns about the quality of an article are not being addressed, and that someone is being unfair, or domineering. I removed ironic quotation marks from around geocide. That simply had to go: the language was too vulgar.


I can't say for sure what was on the other pages and doctoring histories serves no moral good; but what I see here is anything but propagandistic gibberish. I don't have to ask what he was doing. It SHOUTTED at me. Stevertigo has delivered an object lesson in communication that will humble you: make you embrace Wikipedian ethos.


I wrote this poem in the style of John Robert Columbo:



===By His Own Petard: Well Hung===
It is my belief,
perhaps more than a strong belief,
of npov supression,
througha deliberate policy of man
Surely there must be another view?
Perhaps ignorance, a common enough sight.
Eureka!
Ignorance blind must be the cause,
'cause SHOUTTED in his eyes
was POV nonsense. named:
  • bogus pov
  • among the fake' Irish - living abroad pov
  • patently false pov



I have read all the existing Irish President articles: I was impressed with their quality. I know that you can participate in the writing of good encyclopedia. The quality of the articles that you have had a hand in is very high in deed. It is far above the median.

Your behavior in this talk group and about this article have been appalling.

Now Justice has been served.

  • Never again shall you run roughshod over wikipedians.
  • Never again shall you appeal to a phd for authority and refuse to discuss things intellegently.
  • Never again shall you pull rank:your judgement is suspect.

It is never fun to be hurt: to be shown ones weakness; simply learn from this experience and act with grace. You must always give respect to individuals. Never submit to prejudice. Eliminate prejudice at every cost.

I have every sympathy for the amount of frustration, that drove Stevertigo to fight, so effectively, your dictatorial supression of this wiki.

 I contribute anonomously: we need move beyond authority to quality.  
   
  • Study npov: Ingrain it.
  • Study logical fallacy (and then don't make them).
  • Read those posts or they will trip you up.

This is not the end of the world. This article could dispell ignorance. But first we must dispell the ignorance inside ourselves.

Two16

From half-watching the controversy here over the last week or two (but not following it in any detail) and from reading the article again just now, I am left with a clear impression that it has, in fact, deteriorated considerably. It's now so full of qualifications and references that the flow of information is lost. Tannin


Sv, I am rather disappointed at your behaviour. To disagree is one thing, to deliberately tamper with an article to twist its meaning and add in provocatively POV opinions is immature and wrong, particular when you try to bury your POV twists in the text

I deliberately re-wrote the article to add in references you suggested, including a detailed section on the genocide claim, highlighted both the majority and minority opinions. Instead you proceded to twist the section, so that the minority view is treated as the majority view, and the majority as the minority. Worst of all, you had the audacity to categorize the views of the vast majority of the Irish people, Irish historians, Irish researchers, Irish famine experts as the "British point-of-view" and crude revisionism. By what right does someone whose views on the famine are so out of touch with the opinions of the IRISH people (it was after all an IRISH famine) and who is so ignorant of Irish history that he didn't know who the patriot John Mitchel was, to accuse the Irish people of holding a British point of view.

Furthermore, most of the people who read this page disagree with your 'analysis'. So obviously most of the people on Wikipedia are also crude revisionists. I have had a host of emails today from people slating your behaviour as unprofessional, unhelpful, irresponsible and ill-informed.

According to Mav "the changes Sv made were appalling. I see you have also complained to the mailing list. Good."

This page is about the Irish famine, not about an ill-informed neo-marxist rant. You have contributed a lot of good stuff in some areas, which is why your behaviour here is so perplexing and unacceptable. This is not a marxist Wikipedia. It is based on the principle of consensus. If the majority of historians, the majority of famine researchers, the majority of Irish people and the majority of people on Wikipedia who have consulted this page view it as factually correct, fair and NPOV, then that is the consensus. You do not have the right to vandalise it to put your minority POV opinion, twist everyone else's words to suit your POV and accuse all others who disagree with you as being crude revisionists and holding a so called British point of view. JTD 21:28 Jan 16, 2003 (UTC)

Ill not answer these "comments". Tannnin is correct - for a "PHD" youre commentary reflects a 3 year old level. And your arrogance speaks for itself. -Sv

Tannin (two ns then one) didn't say anything about 3 year olds. If anything Tannin was criticizing the edits that were made to satisfy your POV. --mav

I may have complimented the wrong man. Its a crime ill have to answer for on my day of judiciousness.-Sv

Sv STOP reverting this page. Your version is distinctly POV and not appropriate for this article! Mintguy

Speaking as only an amature historian (and concerned Wikipedian), I don't think that Sv's genocide section is really that bad. It is perhaps longer than is warrented due to its relative importance to the subject of this article (and the quote needs to go) and of course needs to be copyedited for POV, but it didn't read like fundamentally biased POV that warrent outright reverting. We might, perhaps, be a bit too trigger-happy due to some of Sv's previous edits - which were, er, less than stellar or at all productive. Would it be possible to summarize the genocide issue here and spin-off a more complete article on the subject? I would find that interesting. --mav

Who's is the reversion? You Mint, might try youre hand at a re-write then, because his is no doubt POV.

I appreciate Two16's words of support. He makes a clear point which noone has picked up on, and that is simply that JDT's manner, his arrogance, rudeness, haughtiness, presumption, hypocricy, and foul mouth did no service to his cause. I choose my battles carefully, and this issue is one worthy of making a stand for. Despite an apparently spanking new "Phd", no pompous bigot will be respected, if he does not extend such respect, Nor has it the right to dicate terms, hold claim to 'higher knowlege', and disguise his "lazzeis faire" bigotry as history. The person of whom I speak is no doubt, a true 'inheritor of "the wind". --Sv


Can we clarify something. Consensus. In all that has been going on here, only two people have expressed opposition to the current page. Everyone else is in general terms happy with it. (Mintguy. DuggieH, Mav, Derek Ross, Sirubenstein, Tannin, 159.134.168.165, 9 emails I had received at the last time I checked my account). They may have quibbles which can be discussed. Only two people have expressed problems, Two16, who has a thought provoking interesting argument and has offered constructive suggestions, and Sv, who has spent days dumping an article everyone else is OK with and putting in his own POV in a garbled version of the genocide piece that uses POV language, a POV tone and a POV construction that seeks to put the majority view of those who have studied the topic as the minority view, while the view he expresses is written as though it was the overwhelming view.

  • It is not the view of the vast majority of historians.
  • It is not the view of the vast majority of Irish people.
  • It is not the view of the vast majority of people who have spent years researching the famine.
  • It is not the view of the vast majority of people who did the local studies on the famine's impact.
  • It is not the view of the vast majority of the people who read this page and had no problem with it.

It is one person's view. Sv.

Mav is right. As least it wasn't as over the top as his first attempt. But it still misrepresents the views of the vast majority of those who have written, who have researched, and who have commented on the issue. Consensus on Wiki means the vast majority agreement, Sv. It doesn't mean things Sv agrees with. And you show contempt for the Irish people and their famine by suggesting that they subscribe to British point of view. They don't. They subscribe to an Irish point of view, based on Irish experience. We had enough colonial masters in the past telling us what to do. We don't need American so-called, self proclaimed experts to tell us about our history, what it means, or what you think it means, and how we must accept your view as correct. We don't and we won't. JTD 05:10 Jan 17, 2003 (UTC)

PS: I've just checked my email. I've another message, the 10th. This one says 'just keeping reverting and reverting his changes. Stevertigo's behavior is outrageous. Maybe we should ban him if he keeps on pushing his POV like this. It is not first time he has acted the dictator.' JTD

You presume to speak for an awful lot of people, Jay. Thats quite remarkable.-Sv

Wow, Jay added a quote from a different point of view. Hope is (somewhat) restored. I feel the evil strings of Jay's domineering attachment receeding.

On a sidenote: I understood the praise of the community (Myself included) was for the improvement of the article - not that it was "perfect," complete, nor even good. Jay started with a biased diatribe, ( and insults - which I note Jay (now) refrains from ) and any improvement no doubt brings a chorus. And I also appreciate Mav reading my edits, and commenting (somewhat) positively on my last edits. I'm glad to see Jay coming (somewhat) around, albeit with a spiteful discarding of my edits. As for Mint - well... I'm sure youll be of continued help ... -Sv

If you lived in Ireland, Sv, you'd know what the overwhelming view of the Irish people is. You'd have seen the famine exhibitions, have attended the summer schools, have read the texts, heard them debated on RTÉ radio and TV, read all the famine commemoration coverage in the newspapers from the Irish Independent, The Sunday Tribune and The Irish Times to Án Phoblacht, heard the speech of our taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, on the issue, the comments of our president, Mary McAleese, attended lectures in our colleges on nineteenth and twentieth century history, read magazines like History Ireland, If you had done all that, it not too difficult to see what the general view is and isn't. By the way, I've placed in the Seamus Metress quote into the body of the text. Though I disagree with it, it is a POV worth referring to. (I've also corrected Seamus's page on Wiki - the ISBN heading was wrong. It should work now.)

BTW, one of the comments re my re-write was to say 'bravo'. Another was 'really quite good'. Another in an email said 'way above normal Wiki standard!.' (just so you know!) And I am not coming around. I am always this way. I added in a genocide section because you convinced me there was merit in doing so, even if I disagreed with your analysis. And I made the point of the different attitudes between Irish local and Irish diaspora attitudes because I thought, in view of our 'discussion', it merited it. (Some urged me to drop both!) I had planned to put the Metress quote in but because my browser only allows limited space and would not allow me any more space, I was about to edit out a paragraph (I had already chosen the one) to specially make way for Metress when you began your 'edit'. I have since removed that paragraph to facilitate a paragraph on the famine in song & the Metress quote. Mav made some interesting suggestions on a restructure that I have been thinking about, in terms of how to best achieve what seemed to be a good idea. JTD 05:52 Jan 17, 2003 (UTC)


Your sad haughtiness is glaring, even from all the way over here in rainy California. At least you cut it out with the pottymouth. Am i going to have to fight you tooth and nail each time; just to add a quote to "your article", though you may "disagree with it"? You keep avoiding one central issue Jay, - your smart enough not to call it "my article" in so many words, but this is in fact the real problem; your attachment to something etheral and amorphous - a wiki page. God forbid anyone change a paragraph, let alone a whole section, which you admit you find distasteful, and believe me, your distaste for the material shows - in your "NPOV" writing. As for your Irishness, Ill defer to what Slrubinstein said - that your homelanders' point of view does'nt prevail any different view from outside of your country - Diasporic debates are to be represented in the article.

Im going to redo the atrocity article... an article I started... with alist of atrocities. The Irish potato famine will be added under a category of its own,

would you suggest: The "misguided," "ill-informed," and "counter-productive" management ventures of Lord Russell? -Sv
If you follow the standard NPOV policy, and rely on the official definition of genocide, and not some biased politically motivated definition, that's fine. I hope that you will point out in your article that the view that the Irish famine was a genocide is help by only a small minority, and that most say that as there is no evidence that it was deliberate, that's fine. But don't twist facts to suit your own agenda. And don't start some drawing some ludicrous distinction between deliberate genocide and other types. There is no other type. Genocide by definition has to be deliberate. That's the actual definition of genocide. If it wasn't deliberate, it wasn't genocide. Pol Pot's actions, Stalin's actions, the Nazi exterminations of jews, Poles, the handicapped and gay people was genocide because it was a conscious, deliberate policy. To suggest that the Irish famine was genocide would be to show gross disrespect not just to the Irish, whose famine you would be abusing for political motivation, but also to the victims of actual genocide. Try to be NPOV. As for your personal insults, I'll treat them with the contempt they deserve. You do yourself and your beliefs no good by stooping to them. JTD 18:17 Jan 17, 2003 (UTC)

"Maybe you thought I was the Packard Goose..."

well, If you actually read my "POV" you might have gathered that I dont claim that the profile fits Gencide - as deliberate. My problem was with your POV slant, disguised as sterile NPOV, and of your charachterisation of the genocide claim as being far more "miniscule" and "fringe" than you say. The claim that the deaths by starvation of between .25M and 2M (take your pick) British subjects just a stones throw away from the homeland as being caused entirely by potato, or by mismanagement, is at best contrived.

You bury the real meat of the article in secondary details - youre so keen to explain that 'land use traditions' were a major culprit, that you dont bother to answer or deal with the more interesting material - the human story... of the slow deaths of roughly a million people. And its relatively recent history too! This isnt so far back that you say 'leave it buried'.

I would not leave the recent genocides in Rawanda to American historians nor to Hutu tribesmen... And theres a case to be made that what happened in Rwanda, just a few years ago, "was not genocide". Remember the images of UN soldiers chopping up bayonets in protest for being pulled from the area- leaving innocent people to die a butchers death... America must come to account for its neglected responsibilities, its vetoed actions in the UN for which there is no record of... dont feel like this is America-bashing or Brit-bashing. But dont dismiss the tie between the Starvation and the cruelties of Imperial rule.

The "genocide accusation" is no doubt politicized and inaccurate - to the common-use definition of genocide ( with the implication of intent) but is not dismissed entirely, as you claim, as mere "counter-productive" management. Its too easy. We dont allow for these excuses to stand in history for atrocities, whether they be deliberate or not.--Stevert

For crying out loud, Sv. You don't know Irish history. You don't know what genocide is. In case you haven't noticed, this is supposed to be a high standard reference source, which means you base claims on facts, not on simplistic theories. Genocide IS deliberate. That's the definition. What happened in Rwanda WAS deliberate, therefore genocide. Ditto with Stalin, the Nazis, Pol Pot. Ireland's famine does not fit the criteria. There are many common definitions which can be explored, but we have to be able to have a definition that is universally applicable in Wiki entries, not simply 'gut feelings'.

Wiki has that objective definition for genocide, the same one the UN, the US and most of the states in the world uses. Having decided that your opinions are superior to the vast majority of historians, researchers and Irish people on the Irish famine, have you now decided that your views on genocide are superior to the UN and most states in the world? Is there no end to your self righteous arrogance and presumption of superiority to everyone else? Please, Sv, apply proper academic rigour to your analyses. Don't simply jump in to everything with theories, decide that your opinions alone are NPOV, and everyone else's aren't. You've clearly got strong opinions and I respect that. But opinions in something like Wiki have got to be based on exploration of facts, not pushing agendas. That's why I put so many footnotes on the Famine pages, quoted Lee and Mitchel, while explaining why interpret facts in a certain way. Genocide is too serious a charge to be thrown about with relying on a commonly applied definition. If you just throw the allegation out without following that definition, both your article and Wiki will be discredited, as agenda-driven POV. From the evidence of some of your work, you have a lot of ability. Channel it carefully, wisely and objectively. JTD 19:28 Jan 17, 2003 (UTC)

I can tell that this issue is becoming tiresome for several people now - including myself. Can we all just leave the article as is and take a break in order to prevent somebody from leaving Wikipedia in disgust? If, however, you all do feel a need to continue then I suggest we take Sv's genocide section out, leave Jtdirl's summary here and then work on Sv's text outside of this article (with a "The neutrality of this article is in dispute" disclaimer at the top). Then based on the consensus we reach at the genocide article we can tweak Jdirl's summary. What I see here is a lot of wasted energy being spent in argument - we need to focus our efforts on building an encyclopedia. --mav

I'm perfectly happy to let this tiresome argument drop. I've tried to three times and gone off to work on other things. I've done major re-writes on this page twice; I've added in quotes from John Mitchel and Seamus Metress that support Sv's interpretation. I added in the genocide section because Sv argued (and convinced me) that it should feature (only then to get attacked by Two16 for putting it in). I've even added in a paragraph on how the famine is remembered in song, even picking a modern song that would be more aligned with Sv's analysis than that of most historians. Yet even simply trying to archive a page to make more room for people gets me accused of censorship, put in bold letters on the page. I've been called a British reactionary, a Tory (which if Sv knew my politics, is about as ludicrous as accusing Yasser Arafat of being a right wing Jew!), an apologist for genocide, a Holocaust revisionist. All for a page that has more footnotes, book references and a deeper analysis of all sides of the famine issue and impact than occurs on almost any page in Wiki. And all from just two people on this page, who either make personal comments, snide allegations or keep reverting a page that no-one else has made any complaints about. I have NO PROBLEM whatsoever with never visiting this talk page ever again. I've NO PROBLEM working to adapt the article to incorporate other people's views; I've done that three times already. But what I can't do is twist my country's history and the story of my country's famine to suit theories and claims that are openly and quite literally laughed at in Ireland.
Just because myths exist doesn't mean Wiki has to take them seriously. Americans would (rightly) be furious if I rewrote an article on Wiki to mention and state as fact the often repeated myth that George Washington was actually a woman dressed as a man. (Yes, that claim is made. I've seen it mentioned in three books!) Or that Richard Nixon and Bebe Rebozzo were a secret gay couple (even though some of Nixon's own aides speculated that it might be true! One aide called them the 'fag boys'!) Or that Bill Clinton is really a virgin! (Ok, I made that one up!!!) All I want to see is a factually accurate article that reflects the reality of what happened and that varying analyses that have been placed on it, explaining where those analyses came from. That is what I have been told the page does. Only two people disagree. And disagree. And disagree. JTD 02:54 Jan 18, 2003 (UTC)

Not so fast Tyrant. You are being expelled by the Wikipedian Immune Response. The metaphor can change: but, given immune system, you are a disease. The Wikipedian Ethos is kind but logical. It is your Logical Fallacy to base an arguement on an appeal to Authority. QED. First year philosophy students would probably fail their Introution to Philosophy , if they did not understand this. You devalue your Alma Mater's degree.. Why won't your actions devalue your reputation among your peers as well ? Won't they turn you out to the dogs? After all you have made their work more dificult? Your words tarnish from reason deficiency. When push comes to shove, you will receive a wiki awakening. Didn't you read replies to critics?

You are in conflict with The Wikipedian Ethos. Your posts will not have any credibility with any one who matters here: npov is not afraid of strong statments. It is enough that statements be free from error and logical fallacy. The Jeffersonian Radical Free Speech Brigade will provide logical defence for Lockdown Sv Rule. Who will defend your actions ? You have committed every faux pas that is listed for my community. Your ad homineim attacks against Lockdown Sv Rule will make him a Revolutionary Hero: " I have sworn eternal hostility to every form of Tyrany in the Wikipedia."

As the wikipedian with the greatest knowlegde, of your Tyrant Crimes, I think that this is just:

  • voluntarily stay out of Irish Potato Famine one month --- This will be so that we can demonstrate the power of npov.
  • summarise the all arguements made in Archives 1 through 5 and the current talk

to learn how to present anothers arguement clearly in a manner they would agree

  • write a comprehensive encycopedic mpov article on coffin ship
  • append a photograph of what the blight looks like to potato blight

You should have no fears that Irish potato famine will be ruined. Because you didn't understand npov, you could never bring yourself to trust it. Please trust me: I have sworn eternal hostility to any form of Tyrany in the Wikipedia. I believe my offer is fair: What treatment can you expect after I have prepared the wikipedians? Would you like to see how far npov can go to protect npov?

Then recieve Poetic Justice. Read the new article how_ to_read a_poem[1]. Then read the talk.

The Community will want to read your response here. If you want a fight, Wikipedians will take it to you, we have marshalled our resources. There is nothing more for you to say except, "I accept" or "In spite of all the object lessons, I disagree" User:Two16

LOL -Stevert

^ This article has since been moved to Poetry analysis. --Theo (Talk) 11:15, 8 Mar 2005 (UTC)


Slrubenstein invited me to mitigate the debate between Stevertigo and JTD over what an encyclopedia article should or should not include with regard to the genocide claims. I’m not alone in noticing a tone redolent of a polemic in Stevertigo’s radioactive aside, but I do agree in principle that those claims need to be addressed.

To reconcile the need to address the genocide claims, albeit the claims of those scholars in the minority, and the need to balance the tone of Stevertigo’s controversial section, I’ve tried to weave together other relevant Wikipedia articles, Stevertigo’s polemic, and my own information, hoping to form an article on the origins of the potato famine. This new section tries to trace Britain’s role and briefly introduces Stevertigo’s claims.

I hope this new section can reconcile the debate.

172

Social, Political, and Economic Origins of the Famine

The Union Act stipulated that Ireland would have in the United Kingdom one-fifth the representation of Great Britain with 100 members in the House of Commons. The union of the churches of England and Ireland also cemented British rule, strengthening the preeminent position in Ireland of the Protestant Episcopalians by securing the continuation of the British Test Act, which virtually excluded Nonconformists (both Catholic and Protestant) from Parliament and from membership of municipal corporations.

Part of the agreement that led to the Union Act stipulated that the Penal Laws were to be repealed and Catholic Emancipation granted. King George III, however, blocked emancipation, arguing that to grant it would break his coronation oath to defend the Anglican Church. A campaign under lawyer and politician Daniel O’Connel led to the conceding of Catholic Emancipation in 1829, so allowing Catholics to sit in parliament. O'Connell mounted an unsuccessful campaign for the “Repeal” of the Act of Union.

Not until 1828-29 did the repeal of the Test Act and the concession of Catholic Emancipation provide political equality for most purpose, including free trade between the British Isles that Irish merchandise would be admitted to British colonies on the same terms as British merchandise.

Political equality and laissez-faire were mixed blessings though. These advantages were not enough to offset the full impact of Britain’s Industrial Revolution. The time of the Potato Famine coincided with the era of Pax Britannica between the Congress of Vienna (after the defeat of Napoleon) and the Franco-Prussian War. Britain then reaped the benefits of being the world’s sole modern, industrial nation. Following the defeat of Napoleon, Britain was the "workshop of the world", meaning that its finished goods were produced so efficiently and cheaply that they could usually undersell comparable, locally manufactured goods in other markets.

Within half a century agricultural produce dropped in value, estate rentals declined, while the rural population increased substantially. When the potato, the staple food of rural Ireland, rotted in the ground through the onset of blight in the mid-1840s, thousands died of starvation of fever in the Great Famine that ensued, and thousands more fled abroad. Unfortunately this coincided with a fashionable economic policy of laissez-faire, which argued against state intervention of any sort. While no one knows how many died (state registration of deaths, even if was possible given the vast numbers dying, did not exist, while the major religion, Catholicism, only just freed from the Penal Laws was poor at keeping records) best calculations suggest somewhere in the region of 500,000 died. One entire class, the cottiers or farm laborers, was wiped out.

Part of the problem was also the small size of Irish landholdings, a result of excessive family size (due in part to the disappearance of traditional methods of contraception and growing sexual activity outside marital relationships), among the poorer segments of society least able to provide for their children. In particular, both the law and social tradition provided for subdivision of land, all sons inherited equal shared in a farm, meaning that farms became so small that only crop, potatoes, could be grown in sufficient amounts to feed a family. Furthermore many estates, from whom these rented, were poorly run by absentee landlords and in many cases heavily mortgaged.

That the Famine "amounted to genocide" by the British against the Irish, is a divisive issue, and largely representative of the difference in perspective and attitudes among the Amercan Irish from Irish nationals. Few Irish historians accept outright such a definition, as "genocide" implies a deliberate policy of extermination. All are agreed that the British policies during the Famine, particularly those applied under Lord John Russell, were misguided, ill-informed and disastrous. Professor Joe Lee once called what happened a holocaust.

There is little or no conflict on the facts; the records are incomplete, for whatever cause, and thus the "debate" is largely a moral one; attempting to ascertain, whether within the policies of the British Empire, lay a racist, forgetful, or simply inconsiderate mentality that, despite its power, was impotent to handle a humanitarian crisis in its own backyard. To British historians, this is so rudimentary and axiomatic, as to be forgotten: Imperial rule was cruel, just as was America's 'Conquering of the West', which America does not, in any sincere way, admit guilt for either, simply because it would raise political issues now.

Irish, British and American historians F.S.L. Lyons, John A. Murphy, Joe Lee, Roy Foster, and James S. Donnelly, Jr., as well as historians Cecil Woodham-Smith, Peter Gray, Ruth Dudley Edwards and many others have long dismissed claims of a deliberate policy of genocide. This dismissal usually does not preclude any assessment of British Imperial rule as inadequate, or ill-mannered to handle the task.

Hope this helps.

172

Thanks 172 -- I'd like to know what Sv and JTD think about this. I am not an expert in Irish or British history. For what it is worth, I think the above reads well. I am not sure, thought, how much of it should be incorporated into the IPF article, or into a general article on Irish history. As for the IPF article -- I still think there would be value to separating a historical narrative (what everyone agrees happened) from a review of different interpretations (why it happened, what the events reveal about the world at that time). 172's text is clear, but weaves the two together rather tightly -- and it isn't easy for me to figure out how to incorporate it into the article. What do others think? I want to emphasize that I am commenting only on the style, not on the content. Slrubenstein

Not on the genocide aspect (on purpose - but Nassau Senior does have a bearing on that debate).

I want to make some comments on parts of a recent version, to get feedback before incorporating the changes. They are mostly to try to give wider context, but in some cases that context reveals a flawed insight (e.g. about the need for outworking "proving" farms had failed). Even if the insights are useful, there's a risk that they might prove too much of a digression and so they are bound to need editing to keep their value without straying too far from the main thrust. So here goes, looking for feedback.

"Other lands were used for cash crops like flax." It's a characteristic of the potato that it doesn't work well as a liquid reserve of capital. Rice and potatoes need minimal equipment, so they can start from a low base (though they end up with capital in the form of land improvements), but corn needs special tools to grow it and use it for food; you have to start with some separate source of capital. Rice and corn can however be readily stored and transported to distant markets, whereas potatoes have limited value in this respect - in the "Communist Manifesto" Marx even commented on the Prussian Junkers' dependency on potato spirit as a source of cash. So potatoes could only plug into the cash economy indirectly, by enabling those other activities, and they didn't help much with climbing into greater corn production (N.B., corn is NOT maize) - I'll come back to flax later.

"...the traditional Irish practice of sub-dividing plots among the male children of a family, though reducing was still widely practiced in the poorer areas of the country." Two things:-

- This rested easily on Celtic systems of land tenure, which reflected a bottleneck in the ownership of capital etc. and not of agricultural land as such (Ireland was predominantly pastoral rather than agricultural until it was pacified, and indeed forcing the Irish into a settled agricultural existence was one tactic in repressing endemic resistance). In fact, the provisions in the penal laws enforcing subdivision except where a protestant heir turned up rested on misapplying customs that were already there.

- Nevertheless, many cultures have adopted the subdivision approach when circumstances warranted, even when that was not their tradition, most notably the poor white Boers in the South Africa of a few generations ago. Their ancestors had eventually picked up on customs suited to extensive use of land, even though (as shown by the New York patroon system) the ancestors of those ancestors had customs relating to intensive use.

The point here is that the customs were not uniquely Irish, and also that wherever there were customs relating to intensive or extensive uses, they tended to have a time lag and survive past their best fitness.

The tradition of electing monarchs from among a limited group is merely an analogy with subdivision of inheritances, not an extension of it. It can be found in many cultures, for instance the Yoruba of West Africa, the Accession Council of the United Kingdom, the Cardinals of Rome, the Electors of the Holy Roman Empire and indeed those of the United States of America. It is in fact a flexible mechanism that can be adapted in many different directions - but this in turn shows that it is NOT an instance of personal property. The nearest that the Crown of England ever came to this was probably how it was dealt with under the will of Henry VIII. But even that Crown was indeed reserved by a legal fiction from Philip of Spain when he married Mary Tudor, an exemption in favour of King Arthur should he come again - which shows that this mechanism does NOT handle a crown as property.

"A British Government report carried out shortly before the Famine noted that the scale of the poverty was such that one third of all small holdings in Ireland were presumed to be unable to support their families, after paying their rent, other than through the earnings of seasonal migrant labour in England and Scotland." This is highly misleading. It suggests that the need for outworking was itself equivalent to poverty. It is in fact something that occurs before that, with poverty only coming in when it is not enough even so. There are roughly three stages, though agriculture in Ireland did not pass through the first (for Ireland, as with many countries, the first stage happened with less settled and more pastoral forms of activity):-

- Smallholdings are enough to live off, and lifestyles have not changed to generate demands for outside goods and services. It is very hard for outsiders to mobilise local resources, and colonialists in these situations have tried various expedients. The price of labour is high, but the labour market clears.

- Smallholdings are not quite enough, either from taxes or rents or from the best land being somehow taken, or from simple increase of population past the first hints of Malthusian problems, or from some small requirements for things which need to be bought for cash. Then outworking becomes necessary to earn a top up, which is vital but need not be much so competition bids the price of labour down; outworking can be putting out/taking in of commercial work to be done in place, or migrant labour, or whatever. Things like flax become practical, since it can most conveniently be produced with intermittent work in the agricultural year and the passage of time for some stages (e.g. "retting"); it is not well suited to industrial scale regular production. The price of labour is low, but the labour market clears (since wages can fall enough for cutting wages to do this - even below a minimum for subsistence).

- Even with all the expedients, there is still not enough. Workers are now in a developed economy, and cash becomes a good proxy for standard of living. There is more cash but less substance (which is why Dollar and Kraay's work is nonsense, when it is used to claim that globalisation has helped poor countries). Unfortunately, this means that people have to hold out for higher cash wages, so the price of labour is high and the labour market cannot clear (wages have an effective bottom higher than the market clearing rate).

Ireland had long been in the second stage, which is merely a cash oriented extension of the mixed crofting lifestyle known to the Scots, with different seasonal activities none of which were enough to live off in isolation. Only the third stage amounted to poverty. The evidence in the British Government report merely pointed to this second stage, but the faulty inference was drawn that the third stage had been reached. So it had, but that evidence didn't go to show it.

"...Irish emigrated in notorious coffin ships..." It should be noted that while folk memory associates these ships with dangerous emigrations (also including Scots), this is misleading. Coffin ships were ANY ships with high risk of death, and in their day the ships that Samuel Plimsoll campaigned to regulate were also known as coffin ships. These were unseaworthy vessels loaded or overloaded with high risk/high premium cargo, and with unfit (even octogenarian) sailors desperate for a living, and often set up for insurance fraud. Coffin ships were ANY death ships.

It was the work of economists like Nassau Senior in that era - working BEFORE the famine hit - that first brought out a formal understanding of what is or is not harmful about the economics of situations like these. He was in fact involved with setting up laissez faire and workhouses - yet he understood the nature of the problem of exporting staples from Ireland, despite being one of the most notoriously hard hearted in applying stringent remedies that he saw as cures. But the thing is, he and his like were NOT recommending simplistic and harmful measures. The mistakes were not made by the economists but by the statesmen who misunderstood them. Oh, and right now the IMF is REPEATING the screw ups in places like Malawi, and with generic advice that developing countries would be better off if only they could export freely (not if they exported their staples, they wouldn't be).

"...local relief was paid for through the Poor Law Union, which was funded by rates (local taxes) paid by landlords, on the basis of an estate's tenant numbers." A lesser mistake is that there was "a" Union; actually, there were several Unions. There is also a greater mistake, which is repeated under tithes. Since we are dealing with technical matters, it is important to be precise; while rates are LIKE taxes, they are not taxes (see below for the difference between tithes and taxes). The crucial distinction is that rates are not based on the tax approach of "the formula says someone in your position owes this much" - in fact "tax" means "assess", as found in (say) taxing legal fees. Rates are based on "the formula says you should pay this proportion of our budgetary need". It's a proportion, not an amount - and the burden will swing wildly depending on what is hitting the budget. The difference really shows up when numbers of indigent dependent on the rates suddenly blow out; it's another cause of variation like the one that lowers the rate when people get evicted. It produces yet another wrong incentive, in extreme cases - yet it works far better than a straight tax system when the actual local revenue burden is less. The whole area can be analysed by game theory, which shows up how you can get market imperfections that make laissez faire not work, from mechanisms like the "Prisoners' Dilemma". This also shows how to improve the formula (base rates on POTENTIAL capacity to hold tenants, not actual occupancy, and offset the amount levied according to numbers of actual tenants who do not hit the poor relief rolls) - and Nassau Senior's work shows that that only helps with keeping everything working efficiently, and that it does NOT guarantee that doing one's best is good enough. "Fixing" the system would have staved off collapse but made it more widespread when it hit, which it probably still would have. (That was what creating these "Unions" ended up doing, though not on such a huge scale.) That actually means that "Only central funding of Poor Law Unions from the exchequer could solve this conundrum..." is dead wrong. It would NOT have solved it, just ensured everything sank on an even keel with one of two possible outcomes: things get better before disaster hits and people wrongly tell themselves they found the solution; or, everything collapses and the whole state is full of roaming, starving hordes. Emigration was the only known, available, reliable and short term solution, if only by buying time and resources for other measures - and this, too, was brought out by Nassau Senior.

In the matter of tithes, these too were not a tax in the precise sense. Rather, tithes were a proportion of produce (and also, were not precisely paid to the state - though an established church may be regarded as part of the state, and tithes were bound up with this). This again looks like a quibble, and turns out to have profound effects. In particular, whenever and wherever tithes were abolished this was done not straightforwardly but by commutation for cash; when there were continuing cash payments, these were creating a tax where there had been none, with all its economic, administrative and political differences. The main one was an increase in the "transaction demand for cash"; it is one reason why an influx of Zionist funds into Palestine did not coincide with measured inflation - the economy needed more cash in it, since tithes had been commuted. An increase in the "transaction demand for cash", needless to say, makes it harder for independent subsistence lifestyles to continue and often forces smallholders to sell up (as in Palestine).

"Some landlords evicted... to 'clear' their lands to allow cattle grazing." This was not a new effect, but a chronic and endemic one that Nassau Senior had already looked at - and was noted by later observers such as Marx and Henry George (who however had axes to grind).

"From 1846 a disastrous application of the laissez faire economic theory and ignorance in London of the scale of the problem, coupled with the lack of the 'Three Fs' to protect tenants, turned a crisis into a catastrophe." Yes to the first, emphatically no to the second. All the second would have done was shift food from mouth to mouth (in the short term). In the long term, of course, it was a desirable measure in that it would have increased both capacity and access to that capacity - but in the teeth of the storm it was worthless. Possibly this just means "the lack of the 'Three Fs'... before the famine", which would be accurate.

"Native Americans" in these days is a euphemism for what used to be called Indians; though in those days, of course, "natives" didn't mean that.

The argument that grain exports should have been kept up can only be at best a sound long term argument. It conspicuously fails in the short term. This begs the question of whether barring exports of staples would have led to a non-survivable long term, and the question of whether relief arrangements could have diverted staples to those who would have been displaced by the flow on effects in the short term. Nevertheless, a sound system of rates and relief (which they didn't have), and the chance of a lower and manageable pattern of emigration to cope with long term flow on problems, would have made barring the export of staples work. See also Solon's reforms in Athens.

"The growth in the numbers of railways made the importation of foodstuffs easier..." - irrelevant, in Irish circumstances. Communications were quite good enough to bring people and supplies together, by sea and by land. The difficulty only relates to costs of resources - and there were workers to be had, while there were no fundamental geographical problems (which is why geography had always favoured invaders strategically and logistically).

"The 1870s agricultural economy [had] access to new farm machinery..." - this is irrelevant to the food problem; it only affects financial issues and productivity issues in terms of proportions of product to input, not issues of total capacity to produce. Productivity measures like improving land, those mattered - not ways of getting the same amount of food produced for less money (unless, of course, the displaced workers were separately given places to go - which should be accounted to those changes, not to the machinery).

"...state intervention was quicker, more effective, and more directed than had been the case in the 1840s." True and irrelevant. This only relates to moving food from mouth to mouth; had there been no improvements in access to total supplies, this would not have helped. This reasoning is the same sinking-on-an-even-keel-is-safe fallacy mentioned before. The actual improvements are ably described in the introductory part of Keynes' "The Economic Consequences of the Peace".

For "Emcumbered" read "Encumbered".

Population drops for Ireland are very similar to ones recorded for the Scottish Highlands after their changes of economics and lifestyle. They should probably not be ascribed simply to post famine changes; after all, for these things that was more a precipitating event than a cause proper.

I hope these comments can be incorporated usefully. PML