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Working Paper #80

Of Arms, Freedom, and Capitalism
What Piers Morgan Does Not Know



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14 pages, 513 KB


Generations of students have been taught that the emergence of Parliament and capitalism in England were caused by factors such as the rise of the bourgeoisie, the rediscovery of ancient Greek democracy and the Roman republic, the Magna Carta, the enclosure movement, the Protestant ethic of accumulation (which may not actually apply to England), and English common law.

To these factors should be added: a population of extremely well-armed and trained commoners, reliance upon them by the monarchy for military service, and the willingness of the commoners to stage large-scale and ferocious rebellions. It was highly advisable to secure the consent of the commoners before taxing them. The power of the commoners limited what taxation could be imposed. Limited taxation allowed commoners to accumulate substantial sums of money, a crucial factor in the emergence of capitalism in England as early as the 1400s. The power of the commoners forced elites to accommodate the notion of government for the common good (commonweal), eroded the notion that the aristocrat was superior to the commoner, and strengthened the case for equality of opportunity.

The history of England stands for the proposition that contemporary firearms laws should be the most permissive reasonably possible. The article also discusses the need to achieve social change without violence. But this is not possible with many regimes worldwide, and it is naive to think tyranny can’t happen here.


Charles A. Breiterman is a practicing attorney in New York City. He is admitted to the bar in New York and the District of Columbia. He received his B.A. from Wesleyan University and his J.D. from Boston University School of Law, and he reached the all-but-dissertation stage in Government and Politics at the University of Maryland. His articles include Considering the Earth as an Open System, published by the Journal of Earth System Science Education, and Mass Extinctions of Life: An Update on Astrophysical Causes, published by the Lake County (Illinois) Astronomical Society.






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