“Until August 1914 a sensible, law-abiding Englishman could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the state, beyond the post office and the policeman. He could live where he liked and as he liked. He had no official number or identity card. He could travel abroad or leave his country for ever without a passport or any sort of official permission. He could exchange his money for any other currency without restriction or limit. He could buy goods from any country in the world on the same terms as he brought goods at home. For that matter, a foreigner could spend his life in this country without permit and without informing the police. Unlike the countries of the European continent, the state did not require its citizens to perform military service….The Englishman paid taxes on a modest scale: nearly £200 million in 1913-14, or rather less than 8 per cent of the national income.”
– A.J.P. Taylor, English History 1914-1945, page 1. Quoted by Alvin Rabushka in “From Adam Smith to The Wealth of America, page 80. The latter is a particularly good book, written very much from the “supply-side” school of economics with a strong account of developments in UK 19th century politics, Hong Kong, and the Reagan presidency.
England also operated on a gold standard with full convertibility of Bank of England notes until 1914 when they suspended the standard for….WWI. They couldn’t finance the war and maintain the gold standard; doesn’t that tell you something? If you are against war, the best way to prevent it is to adopt a gold standard. Governments can’t wage war without the ability to pay for it.