The Government Goes a-Viking

It is always a temptation to a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say:
“Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
We will therefore pay you cash to go away.”

And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we’ve proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane.

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
For fear they should succumb and go astray,
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say:

“We never pay any one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost,
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that plays it is lost!”

Rudyard Kipling- Danegeld

Recent news of the White House’s “offended values” via the TARP laden Bank bonuses reminded me of Kipling’s poem, the lessons that should have been learned from the oft-quoted Danegeld apply to individuals and businesses as well as nations. If they were familiar with more than just the quote, that is.

England had endured Viking raids since 793, when the Scandinavian Raiders from Norway, Sweden and Denmark (the term Viking comes from the phrase fara í víking or going a-raiding) destroyed the Abby at Lindisfarne, carrying off the church treasures and making slaves of the monks that were not killed or drowned at the scene. By 991 the situation had worsened to see the raids being conducted by organized Danish Armies. After the disastrous Battle of Malden, the earliest known Democratic politician, King Æthelred the Unræd (noble-council; no-counsel) of England found a solution. He paid the Danes 10,000 roman pounds of silver. Not having the Chinese to borrow from, Æthelred laid one of the planks of the Democrat Party Platform which survives to this day, tax and spend. Both his ineffective tribute and the land tax that supported it became known as “Danegeld” (Danish Tax).

Small raids continued, in 994 another 22,000 pounds of gold and silver was paid, the taxes were raised, payments were made again in 997, 1000, 1001, and 1002, each time seeing the taxes increased accordingly. The Danes invaded in 1004, were paid off again in 1007, 36,000 pounds this time, guess what happened to the taxes! 1009 saw the largest invasion yet which was bought off in 1012 with a payment of 48,000 pounds of gold and silver.

In 1014 King Sweyn of Denmark decided to eliminate the middleman, that being King Æthelred, and collect the taxes himself. By 1016, Sweyn’s son Canute ruled England and paid his victorious army from the collected Danegeld.

Much like Æthelred the Unræd and his plague of Danish raiders, American Banks found themselves plagued by Democrat Politicians. Ever increasing numbers of risky loans, new markets in defaulting loans, the looming recession and the collapse of the entire house of cards is a familiar story. But then, rather than fail, as our capitalist system demands, the banks paid the Danegeld. This time it wasn’t silver pennies the banks paid in tribute, but power and control. Playing the part of the Danes in our modern day bit of history re-dux is the Federal Government, now controlled by those same Democrat Politicians. The banks paid the Danegeld again in March and are going to make another payment soon, as the Federal Government and its Pay Czar demand still more tribute.

While it’s tempting to point out that they paid the Danegeld, effectively asking for whatever they get, the Danegeld also strengthened the Danes. Politics recently blocked Rush Limbaugh, a private citizen and member of the White House “Enemies List” from minority ownership in an NFL Team. The White House recently felt strong enough to declare war on Fox News. How long and how many tributes will be demanded before the Federal Government “eliminates the middle man” as Canute did to Æthelred? How can our 21st century raiders “gone a-viking” threaten private industry that didn’t take the TARP funds?

While I can’t predict the future, I can give you more history of the Danegeld.

The Danegeld funded Canute’s later war with Scandinavia, in 1026 he declared himself Cnut the Great, “King of all England and Denmark and the Norwegians and of some of the Swedes.” William the Conqueror used it to fund his continental wars, his descendants coming to rely on it more and more, doubling and re-doubling the rates. By 1130 King Henry collected £23,000, roughly 100 million current USD. The Danegeld continued until 1162.

The effectiveness of the early democrat tax and spend philosophy is proven by archaeologists. English silver pennies were the most common coinage paid as Danegeld and more silver pennies from the time period are to be found in Scandinavia than in England. The recorded amounts of the Danegeld paid by Æthelred and Canute combined, total approximately £250,000, its purchasing power at that time is estimated to have been roughly £1,000,000,000 (1.635 Billion USD).

Contributor to The Minority Report