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Free Trade vs. Insanity

Europe's agricultural policy was dismissed 150 years ago...

on the whole cheap to us as an advanced or even a post-industrial nation, writes Toby Baxendale at the Cobden Centre.

Richard Cobden, with a small group of fellow manufacturers, took on the whole might of the aristocracy in putting forward the case to abolish the Corn Laws and have unilateral free trade.

For those interested in free trade, I have dug out possibly one of Cobden's finest orations delivered in the House of Commons, on March 13, 1845, and described by John Morley as:

Probably the most powerful speech he ever made. Men on the Tory benches whispered to one another, "Peel must answer this." But Peel crushed in his hand the notes he had made and remarked, "Those may answer him who can..."

For economic history buffs, you will love it. For its relevance today, we must remember we have one of the most economically insane policies that covers agricultural production in the United Kingdom and through the whole of Europe: the Common Agricultural Policy.

The Tax Payers Alliance has shown us the utter madness of the policy. Here is part of their executive summary:

With the onset of a recession, family budgets are tight. Despite agricultural commodity prices falling from their recent exceptional high, there are still global concerns at a food crisis. Saving £400 a year, over one per cent of average household, post-tax income, would be a welcome boost for many families struggling in a these tough economic times.

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) imposes a significant burden on families both by costing significant amounts of taxpayers' money and by pushing up food prices: The CAP costs the UK £10.3 billion a year, £398 per household. That is equivalent to adding around £7.65 per week to family food bills.

Abolish CAP; it serves no purpose for the public of this nation. Let farmers use cheap food and make cheaper products for the people of our nation. Let farmers invest long term in things that people want to consume.

Cobden's speech, made one full century and a half ago, could be made today by one of our politicians. Sadly, we seldom see such oratory in the House of Commons nowadays.

To enjoy it, read here...

Built on anti-Corn Law radical Richard Cobden's vision that "Peace will come to earth when the people have more to do with each other and governments less," the Cobden Centre promotes sound scholarship on honest money and free trade. Chaired by Toby Baxendale, founder of the Hayek Visiting Teaching Fellowship Program at the London School of Economics, the Cobden Centre brings together economists, businesspeople and finance professionals to better help these ideas influence policy.

Cobden Centre articles

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