John Stuart Mill barely survived the rigorous upbringing forced upon him by his father, James Mill. He recovered from contemplating suicide at 20, however, to become a great liberal thinker.
Edward Gibbon Wakefield wasn’t as fortunate. He survived the inattentions of his real estate agent father and social philosopher (also Edward Wakefield) but went from being the son of a shit into a little shit himself.
By 1811, at fifteen years of age, Edward Gibbon had been kicked out of three schools for obstinacy and trouble making . His mother hadn’t been able to cope with him, having farmed him out to her physically stronger mother, who wrote back in February 1807 (just before his 11th birthday in March): “… my mind painfully engaged in the perverseness of dear little Edward – his obstinacy if he inclines to evil terrifies me”. [His] “pertinacious inflexible temper makes me fear for his own happiness and of those connected with him ….” [He] “has a mind that requires delicate handling”.
The purported quote of St Ignatius Loyola rings true about the young Edward: “Give me a boy until he is seven, and I will give you the man“. Wakefield came to develop all the traits of a sociopath. It’s interesting that his father used to get together with James Mill and other social reformers; too often, it seems, for the sake of “dear little Edward.”
Edward Gibbon Wakefield went on to abduct at least two heiresses, in order to increase his fortune and his chance of becoming a member of the UK parliament. However, his attempt to become a parliamentarian failed until he got to New Zealand.
While he was in prison in London for the second of his abductions, Wakefield wrote what became known as “The Wakefield Scheme”. It was a system of colonisation that didn’t require slaves or convicts for cheap labour: If you simply sold land at a sufficiently high enough price so that most people couldn’t afford it, you had your captive workforce. The idea was a hit with British investors, so the scheme was adopted for South Australia.
The colony developed a property bubble and an economic collapse within two years of its founding and the British military man, explorer and administrator, George Grey (who was to become a friend of the American Henry George) was sent to Adelaide to sort out the mess.
We can see that Wakefield’s “scheme” of high land prices and a servile workforce is the system under which Australia currently operates. It’s unlikely that most parents who support such a perverse system are as irresponsible as messrs Mill and Wakefield senior. Like most economists, they’re probably just unschooled in certain aspects of history and fundamental economics.