Sunday, November 20, 2005

Letter in The Business (UK)

My Blog piece last Sunday on an article by John Blundell in Britain's weekly, The Business, became a short letter which this Sunday's The Business has published today.

"Free trade and the victims of protectionism

Sir – I agree with the drift of John Blundell’s message “EU cows are paid more than third-world families” (13/14 November). But is it true that “David Ricardo and Adam Smith and others laughed mercantilism off the stage of respectable ideas”?

The idea of David Ricardo laughing is somewhat unlikely – his Principles of Economics is as difficult as Karl Marx’s early chapters in volume 1 of Capital.

And Adam Smith’s writings on mercantile political economy (he never used the word “mercantilism”) are among the most angry, sharply polemical and high-blown of his rhetoric in Wealth of Nations. He considered mercantile policies an outrageous pretence to be defending national interests when in reality they defended the squalid self-interests of producers, not consumers.

The free trader case is lumbered with phoney “free traders” who speak on our behalf while running the world’s most destructive protectionist economies, namely in the European Union and the United States. Anti-free traders only have to point to EU/US agricultural protectionism to shrug off free trade attacks as being hypocritical – which they are.

Smith and Ricardo won the intellectual argument, but politicians and the special interest groups of subsidised farmers threw that advantage away. Nobody’s laughing, least of all the victims of protectionism.

Professor Gavin Kennedy, Edinburgh"


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