Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Shakespeare: Loan shark and tax-dodger, or libertarian hero?

Yesterday the LA Times ran an article about a recent study that suggests William Shakespeare was a real-estate mogul, tax-dodger, and illicit money financier in the very late 16th century:
William Shakespeare was fined repeatedly for illegally hoarding grain, malt and barley for resale during a time of food shortages. He also was threatened with jail for avoiding taxes, according to the study of court and tax archives by researchers at Aberystwyth University in Wales.
Now, keep in mind that the overwhelming majority of historians lean hard left politically, and that the LA Times is strongly liberal as well.  Thus, it may well be that Shakespeare is getting a bum deal in this article.  Indeed, Dan Mitchell, in a light-hearted post at Cato-at-Liberty, argues (sort of) that Shakespeare was the first libertarian.  In this excerpt, Mitchell identifies the third of three Shakespearean behaviors that support his view:
Last but not least, what does it mean that Shakespeare “sidelined in money lending”? Nations used to have statist “usury laws” that interfered with the ability to charge interest when lending money. Shakespeare apparently didn’t think “usury” was a bad thing, so he was standing up for the liberty of consenting adults to engage in voluntary exchange. Check another box for libertarianism.
You can find Mitchell's post here.