“Free markets” and “free trade” as a religion, by Robert Henderson – Replies, Anyone?


Anyone fancy responding to this? An obvious response is to ask RH to define the laissez-faire religion he is attacking, and to distinguish this from corporatism, and then to ask if he knows anything about the economics of public choice and regulatory capture, or about the effects on business scale and morality brought about by infrastructure subsidies and the tax and regulatory burden….SIG

http://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/?p=590

Free marketeers fancy themselves to be rational, calculating beasts. In reality, their adoration of the market is essentially religious. They believe that it will solve all economic ills, if not immediately, then in the medium to long term. Armed with this supposed objective truth, they proselytize about the moral evils and inefficiencies of public service and the wondrous efficiency and ethical outcomes of private enterprise regardless of the practical effects of their policies or the frequent misbehaviour of those in command of large private companies. Their approach is essentially that of the religious believer.

Like the majority of religious believers, “free marketeers and traders” are none too certain of the theology of their religion. (I am always struck by how many of them lack a grasp of even basic economic theory and are almost invariably wholly ignorant of economic history). They recite their economic catechism sublime in the concrete of their ignorance.

The religion has its roots in the first half of the 18th century when there were occasional attempts to suggest tariff reform, but the idea only became a serious political policy in the 1780s with the advent of Pitt the Younger as Prime Minister in 1784 who long toyed with “economical reform”.

The 18th century also provided the religion with its holy book, The Wealth of Nations by the Scottish philosopher and economist Adam Smith. This strongly argued for “free markets” and “free trade”, but Smith also recognised the demands of national security, the need for government to engage in social provision such as road building and maintenance which would not otherwise be done and, must importantly, the nature of a society and its economy. Here is Smith on the Navigation Acts: “…the Act of Navigation by diminishing the number of buyers; and we are thus likely not only to buy foreign goods dearer, but to sell our own cheaper, than if there were a more perfect freedom of trade. As defence, however, is of much more importance than opulence, the Act of Navigation is, perhaps, the wisest of all the commercial regulations of England.” (Wealth of Nations Bk IV. ch ii)

But Smith and his book suffered the fate of all those who found religions, secular or otherwise. As the decades passed Smith’s cautious approach was redrawn in the minds of his disciples to become a surgically “clean” mechanical ideology in which all that mattered was the pursuit of profit and the growth of trade and industry through the application of the “holy edicts” of open markets and comparative advantage. The disciples, like other religious believers, avidly quoted the passages from their holy book which suited their purposes and ignored those which did not. They also found a further holy text in Thomas Malthus’ Essay on Population of 1802, whose predictions, although unproven by events, could be used to demonstrate that economic expansion was vital if widespread starvation was not to occur.

The clinical, soulless and inhuman nature of the laissez faire idea as it evolved is exemplified by the English economist David Ricardo. Here is a flavour of his mindset:”Under a system of perfectly free commerce each country naturally devotes its capital and labour to such employments as are most beneficial to both. The pursuit of individual advantage is admirably connected with the universal good of the whole. By stimulating industry, and by using most efficaciously the peculiar powers bestowed by nature, it distributes labour most economically, while increasing the general mass of the production it diffuses general benefits, and binds together by one common tie of interest and intercourse the universal society of nations”. (David Ricardo in The fall of protection p 174).

The Napoleonic wars largely foiled Pitt’s wish for broad reform and placed “free trade” in suspended animation as a serious political idea until the 1820s, when cautious attempts at tariff reform again were made. But underneath the political elite was a radical class who were very much enamoured of wholesale economical reform. With the Great Reform Act of 1832 they were given their opportunity to become part of the political elite. They took it with both hands, their most notable and extreme proponents being John Bright and Richard Cobden backed by the intellectual power of David Ricardo – all three became MPs.

Within a dozen years of the first election under the Great Reform Act’s passing, Parliament had been captured by the disciples of Adam Smith and the pass on protection had been sold by of all people a Tory prime minister, Sir Robert Peel, an action which kept the Tories from power for most of the next 40 years.

Such was their religious credulity that the “free traders” advocated not merely opening up Britain’s markets, both at home and in the colonies, to nations who would allow Britain equivalent access to their markets, they advocated opening up Britain’s markets regardless of how other nations acted. The consequence was, as we have seen, disastrous for Britain.

Disraeli in a speech on 1st February 1849 cruelly dissected this insanity:” There are some who say that foreigners will not give us their production for nothing, and that therefore we have no occasion to concern ourselves as to the means and modes of repayment. There is no doubt that foreigners will not give us their goods without exchange for them; but the question is what are the terms of exchange most beneficial for us to adopt. You may glut markets, but the only effect of your attempt to struggle against the hostile tariffs by opening your ports is that you exchange more of your own labour each year for a less quantity of foreign labour, that you render British labour less efficient, that you degrade British labour, diminish profits, and, therefore, must lower wages; while philosophical enquirers have shown that you will finally effect a change in the distribution of the precious metals that must be pernicious and may be fatal to this country. It is for these reasons that all practical men are impressed with a conviction that you should adopt reciprocity as the principle of your tariff – not merely from practical experience, but as an abstract truth. This was the principle of the commercial negations at Utrecht – which were followed by Mr Pitt in his commercial negotiations at Paris – and which were wisely adopted and applied by the Cabinet of Lord Liverpool, but which were deserted flagrantly and unwisely in 1846″. (The fall of Protection pp 337/8″).

Ironically, the “free traders” make the same general errors as Marxists. They believe that everything stems from economics. For the neo-liberal the market has the same pseudo-mystical significance that the dialectic has for the Marxist. Just as the Marxist sees the dialectic working inexorably through history to an eventual state of communism (or a reversion to barbarism to be exact), so the neo-liberal believes that the market will solve any economic problem and most social ills. Neither ideology works because it ignores the reality of human nature and its sociological realisation.

The one track economic mentality of the early “free traders” is well represented by the father of J S Mill, James Mill:”The benefit which is derived from exchanging one commodity for another arises from the commodity received rather than the from the commodity given. When one country exchanges, or in other words, traffics with another, the whole of its advantage consists of the in the commodities imported. It benefits by the importation and by nothing else. A protecting duty which, if it acts at all, limits imports, must limit exports likewise, checking and restraining national industry, thus diminishing national wealth.” (The fall of protection p 174). And to Hell with any social or strategic consideration or changing economic circumstances.

After the Great War and the fall of “free trade” as public policy in 1931, the religion went underground for nearly fifty years. When it re-emerged as a political idea in the 1970s the politicians who fell under its spell were every bit as unquestioning and credulous as those of the 1840s. Tony Blair’ statement on Globalisation, ie, free trade, at the 2005 Labour Party Conference shows that it is alive and kicking today. Scorning any attempt to discuss Globalisation, Blair said of those who wished to oppose it “You might as well debate whether autumn should follow summer”. (Daily Telegraph 1 10 2005.)

None of this would matter very much now if those who believe in “free markets” and “free trade” were without political power. Unfortunately, theirs is the elite ideology of the moment and the past 25 years. In Britain, the Tories may be more fanatical in their devotion to the market as panacea, but Blairite Labour have caught more than a mild dose of the disease. A good example of this is their response to house price hyperinflation where they desperately and futilely attempt remedies within the constraints of what they perceive to be “free market” disciplines rather than opting for the obvious state generated remedies such as restricting immigration, building a great deal of social housing and forcing developers to release land for building.

Both the traditional Left and Right have been duped by globalisation. The Left initially welcomed globalisation as a dissolver of national sovereignty, but they are discovering by the day just how restrictive international treaties and membership of supra national groups can be. As things stand, through our membership of the EU and the World Trade Organisation treaties, no British government could introduce new socialist measures because they cannot nationalise companies, protect their own commerce and industry or even ensure that taxpayers’ money is spent in Britain with British firms. A British government can have any economic system they like provided it is largely free trade, free enterprise.

The Right are suffering the same sickness with different symptoms. They find that they are no longer masters in their own house and cannot meaningfully appeal to traditional national interests because treaties make that impossible.

But there is a significant difference between the position of the two sides. The traditional Right have simply been usurped by neo-Liberals in blue clothes: the traditional Left have been betrayed by a confusion in their ideology which has allowed their main political vehicles to be surreptitiously by the likes of Blair.

The left have historically objected to “free-trade” on the grounds that it destroys jobs and reduces wages. But what they (and especially the British Left) have rarely if ever done is walk upon the other two necessary planks in the anti-”free trade” platform: the maintenance of (1) national sovereignty and (2) a sense of national cohesion. The consequence is that the Left has been and are still struggling with two competing and mutually exclusive ends: internationalism and the material improvement of the mass of the people.

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24 responses to ““Free markets” and “free trade” as a religion, by Robert Henderson – Replies, Anyone?

  1. A lot of false characterisations, misrepresentations and ad hominen slurs.

    Not deserving of any serious response.

  2. Well, as CH said…

    It’s just not worth debunking. There are numerous texts in the economics literature which do so. For instance Henderson uses a common straw man that free marketeers “…believe that it will solve all economic ills, if not immediately, then in the medium to long term” when in fact all that free marketeers “believe” is that a free market is the best system on offer when you compare it to others.

    I don’t really understand why this is being posted here at the LA. No doubt Henderson will characterise me as a “believer” seeking to stifle heresy that pricks my belief system. But to me as a Libertarian who was once a Leftie of a kind, I feel I’ve answered his naive reasoning countless times to others and for myself too, that being why I am a Libertarian. I adopted this worldview because having read the various economic doctrines, I concluded that the free market one is the best fit to reality and best hope of approaching my personal goals in life- liberty, wealth and happiness for the greatest number of people.

    It’s not about building Utopia. There is no such thing. But the best possible world is a reasonable goal.

  3. Who the hell is this Robert Henderson bloke, anyway?

  4. Okay, just did a websearch and am presuming this is the Robert Henderson who doesn’t like darkies playing cricket for England. A strange choice of columnist for a Libertarian blog indeed.

  5. “Free marketeers fancy themselves to be rational, calculating beasts. In reality, their adoration of the market is essentially religious. They believe that it will solve all economic ills, if not immediately, then in the medium to long term. “

    Well, hello, Artie McStrawman!—fancy you turning up here…

    DK

  6. I’m the one posting Robert Henderson’s writings. I think refuting them is good practice for all of you, and a useful lesson for him. I don’t think sniffy comments relevant about how they are beneath refuting. These are able and well-written expositions of economic fallacy. I suggest it is your duty to refute them. If you won’t, he will suppose you can’t, and will persist in his errors.

  7. Well then Sean, I suggest Mr Henderson ponder how he intends to play cricket without importing any cork for the balls, cotton for the clothes, rubber for the wicket keeper’s gloves, or indeed tea to drink afterwards.

    Really Sean, the last thing any of us seasoned internetty libertarians need is “practice” at this. Autarky is one of the most common and least interesting fallacies, and we’ve all spent probably several years in total of futile typing of refutations of it. How thoroughly patronising of you.

  8. Sean is more-than-half-right here. (But so is IanB.) In this particular case of Robert Hs’s writings, Sean points out that Autarky is sadly viscerally popular, and particularly among peoples whose critical-analysis-faculties have been deliberately abolished by socialism and the worship of (always wicked if Anglo-Socialist in origin) Trade Unions. The more practice we have in dealing with pro-autarkic arguments, the better.

    Although it is also probably true to say that there are today rather more pressing dangers facing liberty.

  9. Robert Henderson is a good writer, who does think hard. It behoves us to try, if he will continue to feel that he can write well while under positive libertarian criticism, to redirect him slghtly, as one trims the azimuth and elevation of one’s gun turret.

  10. I don’t understand why we are supposed to think that Robert Henderson is worthy of attention. Who is this guy? Of what significance is he to Libertarianism?

  11. Perhaps Mr. Henderson’s significance is that he is our worthiest opponent.

  12. “…their adoration of the market is essentially religious”. This assumes adoration, and by implication creates from thin air a corollary; that it is blind faith alone which motivates free marketeers.
    Where is this adoration, the worship, the idolatry, the Divinity even? Does agreeing with some general principles of economic life, principles which I have had repeatedly confirmed by long experience, equal adoration?
    The argument fails, even without the lamentably superficial race through English history.
    Ricardo exemplifies the “clinical, soulless and inhuman nature of the laissez faire idea”. He apparently does this by advocating that “each country devotes its capital and labour to such employments as are most beneficial to both.” Mutual benefit is soulless? “universal good of the whole” is inhuman. As it is to diffuse “general benefits, and bind(s) together by one common tie of interest and intercourse the universal society of nations”? Inhumanity should be made of sterner stuff.
    I simply do not understand what this means; “the pass on protection had been sold by of all people a Tory prime minister, Sir Robert Peel”. Does it mean that …No, I’m sorry, I can’t begin to formulate a meaning.
    “The consequence (of opening up Britain’s markets) was, as we have seen, disastrous for Britain.” Would that be the disaster of world economic primacy, growing personal and national wealth, increased leisure and lengthening life expectancy?
    Disraeli, engaged in a clause 4 type fight and spinning like a Mandelson, blew wherever he saw political advantage. I do not know what he was arguing in this quote, but I’ll bet he was not making a principled plea in the national interest.
    James Mill as “one track economically minded”! Does he know anything about the Mills?
    “… in 1931, the religion went underground for nearly fifty years.” Followed by fifty years of prosperity and universal brotherly love?
    “Unfortunately, theirs (the free marketers) is the elite ideology of the moment and the past 25 years.” Hence the lack of business regulation we now enjoy and the reduced size of the State?
    “the obvious state generated remedies such as restricting immigration [a cause of house price hyperinflation???], building a great deal of social housing and forcing developers to release land for building.” Forcing? Threats of imprisonment? Torture? At the point of a gun? Seems we don’t have a monopoly on soulless and inhuman. Oh I forgot, they are only developers.

  13. Robert Henderson mistakes Free Trade and Free Markets for Corporatism. I would refer him to the Oxford dictionary and perhaps to an encyclopaedia. Failing that he can read the book “The politically Incorrect guide to Capitalism”.

  14. It is interesting, as Sean points out, that many of the responders have not attempted to offer any argument against me, but instead retreat into saying no refutation is needed or such and such lay scriptures refute the arguments . This is the response I commonly encounter when faced with laissez faire worshippers. Some , such as Ian B just rely on abuse and slander. ( My Wisden Cricket Monthly article which dealt with the England cricket team made the case not against people on grounds of race but whether they were English in any meaningful sense, for example, white immigrants such as Hick or black immigrants such as Malcolm. ) All these types of response are quintessentially religious
    Tony Hewson Mr Hewson makes a proper attempt at argument so I will give him a serious answer. Most people who say they support laissez faire economics have little understanding of economics and, more importantly, no understanding of economic history. Listen or watch presenters on radio and TV programmes interviewing politicians about economic matters and you will find examples of this every day.
    Comparative advantage is not only a soulless idea, it is a positively dangerous one for those who pursue it. This is because it assumes that (1) hostility between countries will never arise and the international supply of goods and services will always be assured and (2) that the goods and/or services a country or region specialises in will remain both wanted by other countries and regions and that the comparative advantage of a particular county or region will not be eroded by other countries or regions.
    The traditional Tory view was to support the Old Colonial System. It was the Whigs who supported free or at least freer trade. Peel betrayed his party on this, just as he did over Catholic emancipation – on both issues he made firm promises not to support change and then did.
    As for growing wealth etc, you forget that the industrial revolution occurred under the Old Colonial System – the heaviest of protectionism with the Navigation Acts – and such interferences with the market as magistrates setting wages . Britain became wealthy because of the industrial revolution not laissez faire. After the economic changes of the period 1840-60 Britain’s economic dominance declined rapidly.
    “Disraeli, engaged in a clause 4 type fight and spinning like a Mandelson, blew wherever he saw political advantage. I do not know what he was arguing in this quote, but I’ll bet he was not making a principled plea in the national interest.”
    Disraeli was simply giving the true Tory line.
    ‘James Mill as “one track economically minded”! Does he know anything about the Mills?’
    You are claiming that James Mill was not a laissez faire worshipper?
    “… in 1931, the religion went underground for nearly fifty years.” Followed by fifty years of prosperity and universal brotherly love?
    WW2 occurred primarily because of the consequences of (1) the peace settlement of 1919 and (2) the Great Depression which was largely caused by a failure to control speculation, a consequence of laissez faire. Take those two factors away and Hitler would never have gained power. What the banishing of laissez faire did give Britain and the developed world for 30 odd years after 1945 was a period of great stability.
    “Unfortunately, theirs (the free marketers) is the elite ideology of the moment and the past 25 years.” Hence the lack of business regulation we now enjoy and the reduced size of the State?
    You make the mistake of assuming that economic policy has to be black or white. Like most things, it is grey. We do not have complete laissez faire, but we have enough of it cause massive damage to the long term interest of Britain as we become ever more dependent on foreigners and ever more socially dislocated through mass immigration. You also need to understand that
    “the obvious state generated remedies such as restricting immigration [a cause of house price hyperinflation???], building a great deal of social housing and forcing developers to release land for building.” Forcing? Threats of imprisonment? Torture? At the point of a gun? Seems we don’t have a monopoly on soulless and inhuman. Oh I forgot, they are only developers.
    Sigh. No, merely stopping people coming into the country for permanent settlement, using tax revenues to build social housing and using compulsory purchase to take land from developers.

  15. Thank you Robert for the, mostly, serious answers to some of my points. I suspect that we will not entirely convince one another.
    As you state, “Most people who say they support laissez faire economics have little understanding of economics …” We can probably agree that it would be equally true, and equally irrelevant to your argument, to say that most people who say they do NOT support laissez faire economics have little understanding of economics… etc, so I agree with you on the dismal experience of the popular mass media.

    You repeat that Comparative Advantage is soulless. You may as well say that the weather is soulless. It is an observable fact of life. My point was that your quotation from Ricardo just did not support your argument. Quite the contrary. The assumptions you see in Comparative Advantage and which I simply can not, do not refute the fact of it. They only confirm that, like the weather, circumstances change.
    Hence Peel changes his opinions, as you say, twice, and has the courage to act accordingly despite the personal costs. This is pragmatic and principled. It is not deserving of your sneers (“of all people a Tory prime minister” which suggest you hold a prejudiced position. Tory Prime Minister = Evil. That, and the selling the pass bit, is why I did not, and still do not understand your point. Disraeli, on the other hand, suited his utterances to his audience and to his personal quest for wealth and power.

    Is not seeing things in black and white exactly what you do with Whigs and Tories? These were very loose groupings and where it mattered most, in Parliament, were difficult to control by Ministers. Until someone created the Party.

    “Britain became wealthy because of the industrial revolution not laissez faire”, but that doctrine had a major influence and was probably the single most important reason why that revolution happened in Britain first. The Navigation Acts were not as all embracing as you suggest, I believe.

    “After the economic changes of the period 1840-60 Britain’s economic dominance declined rapidly” in relative terms, while in absolute terms growing personal and national wealth, increased leisure and lengthening life expectancy continued apace.

    The peace settlement of 1919, which imposed terms designed to eliminate Germany as an economic competitor and so was protectionist, did not cause World War II. It caused resentment and a thirst for revenge in Germany. Not the same thing at all. The Great Depression was American, and being less great in Britain and Europe, was not a primary factor in causing the second World War. I see the “30 odd years after 1945” not as “a period of great stability” but more as an era of lost personal freedom and rampant corporatism, both facilitated by state interference in every sphere of human activity.

    I can not accept that mass immigration is the problem, rather mass non-integration. This is the reason for the social dislocation and is caused by political ideology rather than economic theory. Indeed, free markets are doing more for integration than protectionism and isolationism.

    “You are claiming that James Mill was not a laissez faire worshipper?” Yes Siree. He was rational, not a man of blind faith leading to worship.
    Which brings me to the main point, your main point. Fascinating as it is to debate and analyse a small but vital period of the history of one small but influential nation, I repeat, Where is the adoration, the uncritical acceptance of dogmas handed down by supreme unquestionable authority?

  16. Thank you Robert for the, mostly, serious answers to some of my points. I suspect that we will not entirely convince one another.

    RH Probably not, although that does not mean there are no points of agreement. RH

    As you state, “Most people who say they support laissez faire economics have little understanding of economics …” We can probably agree that it would be equally true, and equally irrelevant to your argument, to say that most people who say they do NOT support laissez faire economics have little understanding of economics… etc, so I agree with you on the dismal experience of the popular mass media.

    RH There is a clear difference between the disciples of laissez faire and those who take what might be described as the traditional view. The desire to protect one’s own economy and country accords with human nature: laissez faire goes directly against human nature. We know this because the whole of economic history tells us that protectionism is the norm and laissez faire the exception. Hence, those who follow the traditional view are following nature, which is a much better guide than any ideology. RH

    You repeat that Comparative Advantage is soulless. You may as well say that the weather is soulless. It is an observable fact of life. My point was that your quotation from Ricardo just did not support your argument. Quite the contrary. The assumptions you see in Comparative Advantage and which I simply can not, do not refute the fact of it. They only confirm that, like the weather, circumstances change.

    RH There is a clear difference between comparative advantage and the weather: man can control comparative advantage by political and fiscal measures taken by countries or regions. RH

    Hence Peel changes his opinions, as you say, twice, and has the courage to act accordingly despite the personal costs. This is pragmatic and principled. It is not deserving of your sneers (“of all people a Tory prime minister” which suggest you hold a prejudiced position. Tory Prime Minister = Evil. That, and the selling the pass bit, is why I did not, and still do not understand your point. Disraeli, on the other hand, suited his utterances to his audience and to his personal quest for wealth and power.

    RH I am merely putting Peel in the context of his time. Being a Tory then meant being anti-Catholic and for protectionism. Peel shamed himself and his party by reneging on his word. RH

    Is not seeing things in black and white exactly what you do with Whigs and Tories? These were very loose groupings and where it mattered most, in Parliament, were difficult to control by Ministers. Until someone created the Party.

    RH By the mid-19th century there was enough party discipline – not least because of the diminished power of the monarch which did away with the placeman problem – to make betrayal of party a serious matter and to give governments a strong chance of pushing through policy. RH

    “Britain became wealthy because of the industrial revolution not laissez faire”, but that doctrine had a major influence and was probably the single most important reason why that revolution happened in Britain first. The Navigation Acts were not as all embracing as you suggest, I believe.

    RH Laissez faire did not have a significant effect on enacted political policy until the 1840s as is shown by the survival of the Old Colonial system until the 1850s and the passing a core protectionist measure – the Corn Laws as late as 1815. The Navigation Acts were rigorously enforced against the colonies and were effective in hamstringing the Dutch carrying trade. RH

    “After the economic changes of the period 1840-60 Britain’s economic dominance declined rapidly” in relative terms, while in absolute terms growing personal and national wealth, increased leisure and lengthening life expectancy continued apace.
    The peace settlement of 1919, which imposed terms designed to eliminate Germany as an economic competitor and so was protectionist, did not cause World War II. It caused resentment and a thirst for revenge in Germany.

    RH That was the reason Hitler and the Nazis managed to gain a political foothold. RH

    Not the same thing at all. The Great Depression was American, and being less great in Britain and Europe, was not a primary factor in causing the second World War.

    RH I suggest you look at the Nazi vote record in the late twenties and early thirties. It follows the economic situation: down as times improve, up when it deteriorates. RH

    I see the “30 odd years after 1945” not as “a period of great stability” but more as an era of lost personal freedom and rampant corporatism, both facilitated by state interference in every sphere of human activity.

    RH You have lost far more freedom in the age of laissez faire economics through the promotion of political correctness and state surveillance in a manner never approached before. RH

    I cannot accept that mass immigration is the problem, rather mass non-integration.

    RH There is no example in the whole history of the world of massive influxes of different races into a society being assimilated. This it reasonable to assume it will never happen. RH

    This is the reason for the social dislocation and is caused by political ideology rather than economic theory. Indeed, free markets are doing more for integration than protectionism and isolationism.

    RH Really? How? Your state controlled markets – for that is what they are – introduce dislocation by removing employment and creating mass movement of peoples. RH

    “You are claiming that James Mill was not a laissez faire worshipper?” Yes Siree. He was rational, not a man of blind faith leading to worship.

    RH Your evidence for this? Don’t confuse the rational working out of theory from flawed premises with reason. RH

    Which brings me to the main point, your main point. Fascinating as it is to debate and analyse a small but vital period of the history of one small but influential nation, I repeat, Where is the adoration, the uncritical acceptance of dogmas handed down by supreme unquestionable authority?

    RH Just listen to any Thatcherite or Blairite and you will have your evidence. RH

  17. That’s it?
    “Just listen to any Thatcherite or Blairite and you will have your evidence.”
    Your evidence of worship comes from your subjective experiences of listening to some politically motivated ideologs?
    No wonder you get so much wrong. It is pointless to try to debate against such “evidence”.

  18. I wouldnt waste my time with Robert Henderson. Why Sean Gabb wishes to promote this clown is beyond me. Opponents of free trade are just like the ghetto blacks they so demean…LOSERS. Free trade and Free markets are a reality and have existed for thousands of years. Britain became Great through world trade and we wont be cowed into retreating behind a protectionist wall by a national socialist ‘writer’ with delusions of grandeur and an influence over nothingness.

  19. I forgot to add the words DISGRACED and DISCREDITED before the word ‘writer’.

  20. Tony Hewson | 17 January, 2011 at 11:17 am | That’s it?
    “Just listen to any Thatcherite or Blairite and you will have your evidence.”
    Your evidence of worship comes from your subjective experiences of listening to some politically motivated ideologs?
    No wonder you get so much wrong. It is pointless to try to debate against such “evidence”.

    I’m intrigued. How else would one judge an ideology other than by listening to its advocates? Serendipitously, Brian has provided a classic statement of laissez faire religious belief to act as an example of what I was referring to .
    ———————————-
    Brian |- Thank for demonstrating your religious belief so emphatically. particularly enjoyed ” Free markets are a reality and have existed for thousands of years. Britain became Great through world trade ” , both of which statements are objectively wrong. Britain became rich because of the Industrial Revolution which was conducted for over a century behind protectionist barriers and after those were largely dropped there was still the bulwark of the imperial markets to fall back on. Once trade became truly global Britain’s position deteriorated. In 1850 Britain was the richest nation in the world: by 1914 America and Germany had a higher GDP.

  21. What’s your opinion on the current free trade status between England and Wales, Robert? Is that a good thing or a bad thing for the citizens of England and Wales?

    What precisely constitutes a distinct nation which requires trade barriers around it? At what point are two geographical areas politically separate enough to require restriction of trade? Are the Welsh and English two distinct blocs, or one single “British” bloc- and how do goods being traded know the difference? If it is an economic good for a Welshman to buy an Englishman’s corn now, what economically changes if the Welsh Assembly were given autonomy? Or do the English and Welsh currently suffer from this free trade? If so, at what level should barriers be introduced? Between the “countries”, or between counties, or individual towns…?

  22. Ian B, you are refering to what one of my tutors at the LSE called ‘internal Imperialism’. Apparently richer regions of nations are benefiting from exploitation of poorer areas of the nation they are in. And, of course, the answer is internal protectionism. Poorer areas need to protect themselves with trade barriers from richer areas. The logic leads to Yorkshire having trade barriers against London.

    This sort of idea is taught as orthodox common wisdom in our universities today.

  23. Ian B The answer is simple: while Wales is part of a nation state called the UK free trade is permissible. Once it ceases to be part of the UK, all bets are off.

    The question of British internal free trade historically is complex because not only did Scotland and Ireland not enjoy it until their respective unions with England, but until the modern period there was a great deal of local obstruction and control of trade through such things as guild membership, the power of magistrates to intervene and Royal licences for fairs . There was also the practical difficulties in moving stuff about the country with rotten roads and no canals and little matters such as wars and outbreaks of the plague.

    As to what makes a nation, try this:
    https://englandcalling.wordpress.com/2010/10/30/what-makes-a-nation/