Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Some Conservatives and Mercantile Political Economy

During any week I receive many emails from various politically-minded groups picking on current news stories and using them to present their arguments for this or that (left, right and religious) solution. It was from some of these that I realised that plain Libertarians are joined by Left and Right Libertarians (imagine trying to keep neighbouring communities of these two apart without a 'Libertarian' war!), anarcho-socialist, anarcho-communists, anarcho-capitalists and plain anarachoists.

One such newsletter is from a conservative group and in today’s posting it contains this paragraph from before the article (nice to know some readers question two of its main obsessions):

I know that some of you may disagree with this assessment on outsourcing and free trade. But mind you, the authentic conservative position is to oppose free trade and outsourcing. Russell Kirk and Richard M. Weaver, "the fathers of American conservatism," were both extremely skeptical of global capitalism and both opposed free trade and outsourcing. Unfortunately, many in the GOP have been "neoconned" into supporting free trade and outsourcing.” (Conservative News, 26 June 07 – no url, except ‘no reply’, so I cannot say where it comes from.)

If Russell Kirk and Richard M. Weaver inspire Conservative News, I have some news for them too.

For Conservatives to be ‘skeptical of global capitalism and both opposed free trade and outsourcing’ they would be modern representatives of Mercantile political economy, a doctrine and practice built out of the end of feudalism and its replacement by monarchist nation states in the 17th – 18th centuries, against which Adam Smith wrote Wealth Of Nations.

Wealth Of Nations was not a textbook on economics, as we are familiar with today. It was a detailed critique of the doctrine that the sovereign rules over a territory in which domestic agriculture fed its populace, and which exported more goods than it imported, and accumulated gold and silver bullion to enable the King to defend his territory against land invasions and sea power, and used bounties on exports and protective tariffs and outright prohibitions on foreign goods to ensure this outcome. These regimes were (and to a large extent still are) characterised by jealousy of trade, colonial monopolies and a proclivity for wars, often over trivial 'princely' ends.

If Republican Party representatives support ‘free trade and outsourcing’ that is a step forward, bearing in mind that Smith was sceptical that free trade would ever be restored in Britain (he called it a belief in ‘utopia’: WN IV.ii.43: p 471), and judging by events since 1776, we can see what he meant. If Conservative News wants to return to the mercantile political economy as a deliberate state policy, then we all could have something to be concerned about if the electorate voted for such a mutually impoverishing policy.


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