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Wednesday September 4th 2019Tim Candler9

 

     If the Free Trade quarrel was a plant it would a woody perennial the kind of plant that just carries on and on, you can uproot it, incinerate it, and a couple of years later there it is, sticking its tongue out at you. The Whig Party in the UK pretty much disappeared, got itself gobbled up by the Liberal Party, as a result of the back and forth around repealing the Corn Laws which was really all about whether or not to get on with it and embrace free trade. Back then UK Liberal Party were Adam Smith Liberals, their support came from business and anyone who wasn't a Tory, or Conservative landowner trying to protect his corn prices from the wishy-washy more trusting liberals of the period 1815 to 1845. And back then a man like Karl Marx was very much against repealing the corn laws, he argued that cheaper food wouldn't result in more money in the workers pocket, he argued that the factory owners would simply lower workers' wages. The Liberal's pointed out that there was a very good chance that cheaper food would actually put more money in the workers' pockets and with the extra money they would buy more stuff, like clothes and boots and saucepans and shoe laces, and factory owners would see huge opportunities in the increased demand for stuff and they'd start churning stuff out as cheaply as they could then sell it to the workers. In a sense it was the repeal of the corn laws that led to a dramatic increase in the pace of the Industrial Revolution in Britain that put Britain as a country right up there at the tippy top, wealth of nations-wise.

Past

     One of the problems of course with just letting business people do pretty much anything they want to is the burden the rest of us have to carry for them. Following the repeal of the corn laws not everything went swimmingly. There were rampant business cycles and no safety net for employees, poverty could be extreme, so a whole bunch of laws had to be introduced to try and deal with the poor people. A number of big towns decided just to make being poor illegal, and there were work houses, where you worked for your food and a bit of shelter. An area like infrastructure was a whole other nightmare, inadequate drainage, sewer systems, roads, none of which business people reckoned was their problem, their job was wealth, pure and simple. Law and order was unfunded shall we say. Public health was an issue and a survey, unadulterated by a sharpie, discovered that the average height of town and city dwelling males was decreasing, worse city males looked downright unhealthy when compared to the fresh air and butter country lad, and the other thing was a higher and higher percentage of the population lived in towns and cities. This soon became a National Defense issue, there was no way you could properly man an army to do battle with somewhere like France, or maybe Prussia, or Holland, with the scrawny examples of males coming out of somewhere like that hell hole London. And too, back then, Britain had endless coal, there was iron ore, a few difficult to reach remaining stands of timber and there was farm land, almost every other raw material came from colonized countries.

 

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