Bring Back the League
All of a sudden, every Fish and Agriculture ministry in the European Union has gone libertarian. At least that is the impression they gave with their unanimous decision to suspend tariffs on imported cereal. Is this because of some abrupt ideological conversion?
This turn of events recalls Richard Cobden's glorious triumph in mid-nineteenth century England. Cobden put together a parliamentary majority to abolish the Corn Laws, a protectionist policy which artificially raised the price for wheat and other grains. Perhaps better than protectionist, such interventionist laws should be called “aggressionist” since they favour a privileged few and injure the rest of the population.
Cobden led the Anti-Corn Law League in masterful fashion. He not only explained the perverse economic effects, but he tirelessly exposed the sinister moral implications of these tariff policies. Those politicians voting to retain the Corn Laws could count on one thing: Richard Cobden would make sure they were known as defenders of the idea that British citizens did not deserve to be treated as well as citizens in other free countries where there were no trade barriers and prices for basic foods were cheaper.
However, taking a quick look at the European Union's initiative, we realize the Fish and Agriculture ministries aren't acting out of libertarian sympathies or a desire to eradicate the harmful effects of agricultural mercantilism that dominate the Union. The suspension is only temporary and the French government has already set the expiration date for July 2008.
The real motive is the high, unstoppable and unpopular price for wheat. It seems there is an underlying fear that current inflation could get out of control. The price of wheat, like other raw materials, has skyrocketed since August, the same month central banks on both sides of the Atlantic inundated markets with new money and credit fresh off the printing presses. I suspect, however, the ministers will not demand the central bank stop debasing our currency.
Our representatives do not mind sending European consumers back into the captivity of quotas and tariffs. Much less, if possible, do they care that grain producers in poor countries cannot prosper because we block their ability to engage us in free trade.
We need to bring back the League to demonstrate how total free trade implies, as Cobden said, "the highest moral revolution ever achieved in the world."