The following first appeared on the Substack ‘Creeve Rua’ and is syndicated with the permission of the author.

While the trite cultural spat over George Berkeley’s colonial legacy interests me little, I’m glad the Bishop has been thrust into the limelight again, at least as an opportunity to turn the conversation toward his radical economic system of protection.

It truly is remarkable how such a revolutionary system – elaborated upon in the 1740s – has been so thoroughly overlooked. A more cynical perspective would say that it is precisely the Economic Patriotism of his Querist – undeservedly rendering the title ‘Querism’ in some humourless academic papers – that makes the modern Irish scholarly establishment so full of vitriol. 

In this essay, I will attempt to sketch how Berkeley lays out a programme of social economy that would free Irish Industry, Finance and Culture from the yoke of Consumerist Globalisation.

The main three principles of Berkeley’s Querist are Protectionism, National Banking & Social Paternalism.

Protectionism and the ‘Wall of Brass’

Perhaps the most enduring concept of the Querist is Berkeley’s notion of the ‘wall of brass’, and the need to protect Irish industry. Writing at the zenith of English mercantilism, Berkeley focuses on the dire state of Gaelic wagiedom. His own Anglo-elitism certainly shines through when describing ‘the bulk of our Irish natives’ – notice the paternalistic “our” – as being ‘content in dirt and beggary’ (Q.19). Of course, there’s nothing unique about his prejudice, but what is important is the weight of the blame he imposes on the ‘idle rich’ (Q.1) who have sold out the manufacturing base of the nation.

For him, the famines and unemployment of the 1720s are more results of ‘he who whose luxury consumeth foreign products, and whose industry produceth nothing domestic to exchange for them’ (Q.57) – namely, the opulent cosmopolite bugman who relies on luxury imports over native goods. Neither do women get off, as Berkeley – embracing his inner-Belfort Bax menninism – ‘112. Whether our ladies might not as well endow monasteries as wear Flanders lace?’ and asked, ‘141. Whether a woman of fashion ought not to be declared a public enemy?’. 

For him, Ireland’s hollowed-out industry – exemplified in the prohibition of the woll trade – is spurred on by an effeminate consumerist elite.

The question arises: what is the alternative to the luxury-export model of Liberal political economy? Berkeley answers resoundingly – Protection. In particular, he proposes his famous giant wall: ‘140. Whether, if there was a wall of brass a thousand cubits high round this kingdom, our natives might not nevertheless live cleanly and comfortably, till the land, and reap the fruits of it?’. Berkeley argues that protecting nascent industry would create native jobs, circulate coin and make the overall country richer: ‘265. Whether an inward trade would not cause industry to flourish, and multiply the circulation of our coin, and whether this may not do as well as multiplying the coin itself?’. 

The Irish economy could ‘nourish and clothe its inhabitants, and provide them with reasonable conveniences and even comforts of life’ through an internal ‘domestic trade’ alone (Q.133). The Bishop’s wall – with state-planning – would see manufacturing and jobs come back to the nation:

‘264. Whether, as our trade and manufactures increased, magazines should not be established in proper places, fitted by their situation, near great roads and navigable rivers, lakes, or canals, for the ready reception and distribution of all sorts of commodities from and to the several parts of the kingdom; and whether the town of Athlone, for instance, may not be fitly situated for such a magazine, or centre of domestic commerce?’

Naturally, the next question which arises is exactly how Berkeley would manage such a fiscally ambitious programme. Unfortunately, he will not make England pay for it, innstead the answer lies in his monetary reform.

National Credit, Paper Money & Banking:

Firstly, Berkeley quite predictably argues – continuing his aversion to exports – that state funds can be obtained through ‘a tax on all gold and silver in apparel, on all foreign laces and silks’, a policy which would also ‘have other salutary effects on the public’ (Q.117). Following this however, Berkeley urged a radical departure from the conventional monetary system of British control.

Since the Dutch Financial Conspiracy of 1688, or its official neutral title of ‘The Glorious Revolution’, the City of London’s financial tentacles held control over its colonies’ economies due to being backed by expansive gold reserves, and its ever-increasing mobs of stock companies and private speculators. Its power was in its reluctance to circulate its own coinage: ‘

As in the American colonies, Britain refused to permit setting up a local mint for gold and silver – despite a succession of Irish demands from the Restoration onwards. The Irish economy was thus dependent for its circulating medium on what English gold and silver coins could be attracted through trade’ (Kelly, 345).

While Berkeley wants English political rule over Ireland, the new form of global financial dominance too often allows for catastrophic events like the South Sea Bubble of 1720 and Law’s Mississippi disaster. In cases such as these, bubbles are created by reckless speculation on government debt, and excessive printing of paper money leading to inflation. Berkeley was heavily concerned about this new order, well described by Kelly:

‘This disastrous episode provoked widespread reappraisal of financial and commercial developments in England since the late seventeenth century, such as the growth of banking and fractionary credit, the emergence of a stock market and the relations between the new financial class of “monied men” and the mass of ordinary property owners who had suffered in the Bubble.

Setting its face against many of these recent developments, Berkeley’s Essay sought to demonstrate that a nation could only be weakened by a financial system that divorced wealth and prosperity from trade, industry, and labour. It condemned the South Sea directors as deliberate architects of their country’s ruin, and argued that only by returning to religion, frugality, industry, and public spirit could the nation hope to avoid disaster’ (Kelly, 342)

The central economic proposal which would strengthen the public virtue, was that of a National Bank. A bank, with necessary regulations on stock-jobbing, profiteering and non-productive finance (Q.428, Q.308, Q. 277) could help provide monetary sovereignty for the Irish economy. Local initiatives could be directly funded, the poor would be provided with productive relief and infrastructure would be revolutionised under the new nationally financed paper-money system. As he described:

‘A properly regulated issue of paper-credit (together with adequate provision for small change) would stimulate trade and industry; turn the Irish poor wretched, starving idlers into contented, well-fed workers able to provide for themselves and their families (1.225, 11.129, 315); establish an active public-minded gentry, serving as promoters of activity in their own localities ( II.243-5); and lead Britain to value her hitherto despised colony as a junior partner in a flourishing empire (III.74, 77).’ (Kelly, 105).

Departing from the mental plantation of Anglo-Saxon pearl clutching, Berkeley rejects the gold standard for not coming to terms with the ‘mystery of banking’ (Q.28). Certainly, Central Banks use gold reserves to back up their currency, but the bishop argues that gold is less accessible and able to for circulation – a similar argument later made by the American Populists of the 1890s. For Berkeley, a nationally controlled banking system would be more worthy than a goldmine (Q. 289). Gold attracts usurers and stockjobbers – a national system of banking, managed by a benevolent elite can coordinate society in a virtuous manner.

Social Paternalism:

Overall, the planning of society Berkeley is putting forward is teleologically ordered towards a unified whole, in which the common labourer and the aristocratic nobility all have their role in the mediated gradations of being.

As he says in The Bond of Society (1713): the ‘Law of attraction’ insures men ‘are drawn together in communities, clubs, families, friendships, and all the various species of society.’ (225-28). Every healthy body politic is coordinated out of the multifarious organs of the economy, as in the mediaeval Guild system. He’s in line with the contemporary Tory Idealism, best exemplified by the satires of Alexander Pope when he describes the simplicity of classical society, when one is expected to ‘Act well your part; there all the honour lies.’ The only way of reaching such a state is through Berkeley’s social motto: ‘frugal fashions in the upper rank, and comfortable living in the lower’ (Q.18).

Beyond a general return to pre-liberal paternalism, Berkeley also advocates a type of modern cultural patriotism – at least in combating the cultural degeneration of consumerism and materialism. 

Perhaps most pronounced in his Maxims Concerning Patriotism (1750), Berkeley insists that a true patria must require suspicion of avarice and materialism – why? – he does not say, but by contrast it is clear. 

While ‘5. It is impossible an Epicure should be a Patriot.’ and ‘3. A Man whose Passion for Money runs high, bids fair for being no Patriot.’, the man who sees ‘his Countrymen as God’s Creatures’ is a ‘real Patriot’. From here once can assume Berkeley feels that modern atomistic materialism – as well commercial liberation – is a threat to the traditional order of the world. Only through class collaboration, with the lower orders of the labourers — alongside the higher ranks of the nobility — can the financial and cultural forces of usury and indolence be defeated.

In a sense, Berkeley’s economic and cultural platform is the reversal of the dominant Liberal Radicalism platform of the 17th and 18th Centuries in British and Irish politics. Whether under the realisation of 1688 under the Whig Walpole, or the repeal of Corn Laws under the Tory Peel (which exacerbated the Famine) – the ‘left’ and ‘right’ represented the dominance of the entrenched consumerist Anglo-empire, and its exporting of Liberalism to its colonies.

The radicals of the Whigs advocated economic liberation for the new financial elites while the old guard of the Tories fought for the scientistic tyranny of Utilitarian Malthusianism. Both were revolutionaries, hacking away at the established paternal order, precisely the conception of society which Berkeley advocated for: the ordering of a mass base of labourers by a sophisticated harmony of Guilds and Protection.

Posted by Creeve Rua


  1. Ivaus@thetricolour 14/08/2023 at 12:51 pm

    HISTORY 18th Century V Ivaus 2023…TODAY.
    Thank you Creeve Rua for the article that bears significance to yesterday’s and today. The dumb Paddy that was to be allocated crumbs from the thieving parasites table that stole his land,wealth,language,culture and inheritance is well and truly alive today. You omitted one glaring fact…OUR LIVES ARE STILL BEING STOLEN IN 2023.
    Having just turned 69 ,despite being born in 1954,I received my first pension payment.I migrated to a COMMONWEALTH COUNTRY in 1980 through
    their embassy.No assistance from either IRISH/COMMONWEALTH govts. and despite the initial contact I signed ,successive governments have moved the goalposts, 65 became 66…only pensioned at 69.
    Born,educated,qualified,worked throughout IRELAND before migrating and never claimed any GOVERNMENT ASSISTANCE FROM IRISH commonwealth old age pension is to be made up by the facts that I WAS BORN IN IRELAND,WORKED ALSO,NEVER CLAIMED, ..but a 40+ years working in a Commonwealth Countries is not enough working life
    for the COMMONWEALTH alone to pay me my pension. Rob Paddy to pay a PADDY.
    Young Irish Sons and Daughters of the GAEL,if you are contemplating migration do notice go, STAY HOME AVOID THE COMMONWEALTH.


  2. Daniel BUCKLEY 14/08/2023 at 8:50 pm

    Since time immemorable, the battle has been between the have and the have nots.
    From medieval serfdom , where the serf was allowed a small patch for a dwelling and a garden, to keep fowl and a pig to give subsistence living.
    He was required to give his labor free to the Lord of the Manor, 3 day a week , and more at harvest time and furnish himself with arms to fight in any wars in which the Lords political allegiances were involved.
    Fast forward to the days of Mercantilism and the Industrial Revolution.
    The Lords had the Capital and land, the Industrial entrepreneurs had the ideas/concepts and engineering and the lower class had but their Labor to offer.
    Capital wished to accumulate as much Rentier profit as possible, by lending to the Industrialist for premises and machinery.
    The industrialist,with loan payments to meet , sought as much cheap labor as possible for production.
    Thus were the roots of slavery and immigration of low cost Labor.
    Thus began the lifelong battle beween Capital and exploited Labor , as described in Karl Marx’s , Das Kapitals, 3 volumes.
    This was also the beginning of Industrial Capitalism, to exploit,for profit, natural resources and labor.
    Industrial Capitalism has a long incubation period ,from an original idea/concept, to designing a product and the machines and skills to manufacture, develop a market, and sell it.
    Finance Capitalism seeks short term , risk free returns on Capital, based on Rentier returns.
    Thus the rise of the Finance,Insurance and Real Estate sectors, (FIRE) to dominate Western economies .
    The FIRE sector is a predator on the real wealth producing economy, extracting approx 40% in mortgage loan interest, Insurance costs and rent payments on propertyand land.
    The West has now de-industrialised heavily,leaving behind shattered communities of skilled and unskilled labor,creating many social problems for the unemployed communities.
    Whole Industries were moved abroad to cheap labor locations, and lax environmental and labor regualtions, to increase profits for the Corporations.
    Finance Capital can be compared to a snake eating its tail and the payment has come due for the West in a most unexpected way.
    The war in Ukraine has demonstrated the flaws in Finance Capitalism , when it has destroyed its Production base.
    The 30+ Nations comprising NATO , have proven unable to produce weaponry and ammunition to expedite a war on Russia.
    The imbalance is approximate 10/1 in a war of production verses attrition.
    Greed for short term profit has deprived the West of the ability to project Military power and the once infallible Financial sanctions war was neutered in the first week of the conflict.
    The Wests colonial domination by the US$ and the French CFA currency in West Africa is fading fast and a new multi polar world has seen the weakness and been emboldened to reject both, as we see in Niger and its allies.
    We indeed live in interesting times. Nothing happens for decades and overnight the world order has changed dramatically.
    The future for the West is not bright and its destruction is self-imposed.
    Ireland as a dependent of US Finance Capital will not escape the reverbations of the Wests downfall and is not prepared.


  3. Triggernometry 15/08/2023 at 7:26 pm

    – All I can say is – if you have a house , keep it do not sell it. Sell it and you might not get a sucessful bid on a new home, parents get sick? Don’t chuck em in a nursing home or ”home help” do your bit, put your muscle in and mind them carefully, these are your years to pay them back for what they done for you. A house should be an heirloom, from father to son or daughter or mother or whatever…. Don’t just be a transient puff of smoke in the dark, build community have family, have friends have meaning, avoid the current state of affairs on the news, listen, there will always be fucking news, the news, the news the news.

    The times we came from may have been ideal in many ways, but for what they sold us, with comfort and convenience, they taxed the hell out of us and took our rights away.

    Casapound italy, believes, a house and the right to heritage and a house roots family and community to the country, they have it right and they are gaining traction – only too bad that they are rotted by the kosher nostra mafia.

    The uprooting of a house and land is key to their complete consolidation of domincance over us all and to watch the earth burn… They think it means they are close to god, who is satan, that is why saturday is celebrated – satans day.

    The word is out, they want to put the genie back in the bottle too late! The word is out all over the world.

    Even if this dissapears, this website or my comments or whatever they get up to, or bash a door in for thought speech, people will know how where and why, there is a re-education going on here. And , it is not going away.


  4. Daniel BUCKLEY 16/08/2023 at 4:51 pm

    George Berkeley ‘s proposals for the stimulation of a National Economy ,bears close resemblance to Alexander Hamiltons, American System of protection of a developing indigenous Industry and making Govt Credit available to develop these fledgling Industries.
    The German Economist Friedrich List had similar concepts.
    Arthur Griffiths was an admirer of Lists ideas and Ireland lost its only econmically aware patriot when he died suddenly in 1922.
    James Connolly was also aware of economic systems ,but obviously had a Socialist outlook on the issues.
    The first Irish Govt had no real plan to develop the economy, and did not appeciate the great power and privilege of an Independent Sovereign Govt’s ability to create its own Credit and invest in development of its home Industries, to create wealth and employment.
    Ireland’s currency remained pegged to the Sterling area , and without its own credit creating power,Irelands economy stagnated for decades, until a brief period in the ’70’s.
    The surrender to the ECB Eurozone was the greatest mistake in Ireland ‘s brief perod as an Independent Nation,with power over its Economic development lost .
    The attraction of US multinational’s to benefit from low Corporation tax to Ireland was the option to create employment ,but at a cost of further dilution of Sovereignity, with profits after shareholder’s cost s invested in US Treasury Bonds .
    This has also attracted many other Finance and Corporates to open brass plate Offices to avail of the low taxes.This has created a bubble economy with itinerant Financiers , which can vanish overnight at the first sign of crisis in money markets.
    The means to develop an Industrial,long lasting wealth and employment creating economyhas long been known to Germany and copied by the Chinese to create their phenomenol growth.
    It is to create local non -profit community Banks , to invest in local indigenous start-up Industries.
    Germany has had its Sparkasse banking sector of approx 5k banks, serving the local family owned Manufactruring sector for generations . comprising 60% of German employment.
    No Sparkasse has ever gone bankrupt , even thru’ 2 World wars.#, but the EU has placed a heavy burden of bureacratic form filling regulations, and forced over a 1k to close down.
    China has a similar local development bank system, of credit creation for local industrial investment and the results have been phenomenol economic growth.
    Ireland applied to open its first Sparkkasse, over 10 years ago ,but a combination of Legacy Bank Lobbying, Regime inertia and EU obstruction, has strangled it at birth.
    Indigenous Industry can only develop ,if initial credit is made available for skill training, machinery equipment ,premises, materials ,design & marketing research.
    Only local non-profit community banking can offer this service, to create a thriving business ,creating wealth and long term. employment and contributing to the Tax base of the Nation.
    Credit creation is a utility of the Govt. Thsi unused utility leads to a stagnant economy.


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