More Timely Than Ever!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Who Said It?

“It must be observed, however, that free trade is impractical so long as land is kept out of free competition with industry in the labour-market. Discussions of the rival policies of free trade and protection invariably leave this limitation out of account, and are therefore nugatory. Holland and England, commonly spoken of as free-trade countries, were never really such; they had only so much freedom of trade as was consistent with their special economic requirements. American free-traders of the last century, such as Sumner and Godkin, were not really free-traders; they were never able – or willing – to entertain the crucial question why, if free trade is a good thing, the conditions of labour were no better in free-trade England than, for instance, in protectionist Germany, but were in fact worse. The answer is, of course, that England had no unpreempted land to absorb displaced labour, or to stand in continuous competition with industry for labour.”

That’s from libertarian hero Albert Jay Nock in Our Enemy, the State (chapter 4, note 18).  Nock regarded the tariff as “robbery,” but understood the systemic advantage that the history state capitalism has bestowed on “capital” at the expense of the rest of us.

(Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.)

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