2011 and 1085

Wan An-shih (1085) undertook a pervasive governmental domination of the Chinese economy. “The state,” he held, “should take the entire management of commerce, industry, and agriculture into its own hands, with a view to succoring the working classes and preventing them from being ground into the dust by the rich.” He rescued the peasants from the moneylenders by loans at low interest. He encouraged new settlers by advancing them seed and other aid, to be repaid out of the later yield of their land. He organized great engineering works to control floods and check unemployment. Boards were appointed in every district to regulate wages and prices. Commerce was nationalized. Pensions were provided for the aged, the unemployed, and the poor.

What undermined the experiment? First, high taxes, laid upon all to finance a swelling band of governmental employees. Second, conscription of a male in every family to man the armies made necessary by barbarian invasions. Third. corruption in the bureaucracy.

From the book The Lessons of History, by Will and Ariel Durant. Chapter IX, Socialism and History.

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