Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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ABSENTEEISM, an expression which has arisen out of the discussions on the miserable condition of the Irish people, and which, as its derivation shows, denotes the habitual absence of the landed proprietors of a country from their estates. From such absenteeism has naturally sprung a system of farming out these estates to intermediaries, which has proved in its consequences of ever increasing injury to the tenant. These absentee Irish proprietors grant long leases of their estates to rich English capitalists, who sublet at a profit to other speculators, commonly known as middlemen, and these latter, dealing directly with the tenants, sublet for short terms, and contrive, by the minutest possible subdivisions, so to in crease the number of bidders as to obtain for each holding the highest rental possible. Besides the effect of this feudal system of rack-rents in impoverishing the tenant to the last degree, the bulk of the rentals so accruing is annually exported without any return in exchange. No portion of such rentals is ever applied to the introduction of improved methods of agriculture, nor even to the development of either the manufacturing industries or the commercial enterprises of Ireland, as would naturally be the case were these proprietors themselves residenters. It is unquestionable, then, that absenteeism is one of the causes of the wretched condition of Ireland.


—The politico-economical effects of absenteeism are everywhere the same, and are more marked in Ireland only because more general there than elsewhere. All export of capital or of income, without any counter-balancing return, is hurtful to the country from which such capital is withdrawn, and beneficial to that to which it is exported; it takes from the one for the use of the other, the means for the maintenance of labor, for the improvement of the natural capacities of the soil, and for the accumulation of wealth; and these results are in exact proportion to the magnitude of the sums exported. Among the causes provocative of absenteeism may be cited a corrupt administration of public affairs, or too burdensome taxation. These and like causes have determined many English families to seek homes in other countries. They thus escape a taxation which in England is very great upon all articles of consumption, and hence the government, to obtain the same amount of revenue, has no alternative but to impose upon the resident classes those taxes which the non-residenters escape. Of all the factors which determine this emigration of capital, the most powerful is the feeling of insecurity. The political turmoils which at times so greatly unsettled the state of continental Europe, drove many families of wealth to seek a refuge in England, although the cost of living is greater there than anywhere else.


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