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web logoDane-Geld
March 21, 2015
Arvin Michel

Have you ever heard of Rudyard Kipling or read any of his writings? After today you will have to answer that question with a “Yes”. But first, a little background. At the beginning of the 11th century, Ethelred was the king of England. He did not care at all for war and had the nickname Ethelred the Unready. He ruled during a period of intense attacks by the Danish. Instead of fighting, he bought them off with gold if they promised to go home which they did. But they were back the next year and got bought off again. Rudyard Kipling, in 1911, captured this activity in a poem which is titled Dane-Geld, meaning gold for the Danish. Here is that poem.

Dane-Geld
It is always a temptation to an armed and agile nation
To call upon a neighbour and to say: —
“We invaded you last night–we are quite prepared to fight,
Unless you pay us cash to go away.”

And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
And the people who ask it explain
That you’ve only to pay ‘em the Dane-geld
And then you’ll get rid of the Dane!

It is always a temptation for a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say: —
“Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
We will therefore pay you cash to go away.”

And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we’ve proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane.

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
For fear they should succumb and go astray;
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say: –

“We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that pays it is lost!”
–Rudyard Kipling

This analysis of what was going on in the early 11th century applied so well and it still applies today, maybe even more so. Do we ever quit paying foreign aid to anyone? Do we stop making so-called entitlement payments even though they no longer make sense? Do lawmakers when they set up a new system of payments to anyone ever consider how to stop making those payments in the future? Probably not. For “—once you have paid him the Dane-geld, you never get rid of the Dane”.

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