What kind of British industry do the protectionists think would emerge? Some sort of crazy autarkic system in which we tried to substitute imports with home-made PlayStations and home-made shoes and brassieres once again produced in the cotton mills of Lancashire? We would not only be forcing British consumers to accept second-rate goods; we would be impoverishing them by obliging them to pay more. It is terrifying that some serious politicians – including members of the Labour Cabinet – seem prepared to support these strikes, and to side with the Luddite trades unions and the far-Right BNP. Now is the time to stick up for free trade, and the huge benefits it has brought.
Remember what happened in the Thirties, when they had exactly the same instinctive and panic-stricken reaction, and a recession was turned into a slump. Remember the old truth, that when goods, people and services are not allowed to cross borders, soldiers eventually force the way. It is vital now that we complete the Doha round of world trade talks, not so much because it will liberate a great pent-up wave of trade, but because without it a signal will have been sent around the world that protectionism is winning.
- it is worth a few moments of anyone's time to read the whole article. Note particularly the date in the footnote to the article; a 'typo', or simply someone foretelling where current actions in the US (the 'Buy American Act') and in the UK (the 'British Jobs for British Workers' strikes) are likely to lead? I'm pretty sure it's the latter - an all too believable scenario, unfortunately. I don't believe that history is likely to repeat itself exactly, but there are worrying similarities to the 1930s and the sense that governments now seem to be completely losing control of the situation is a very worrying development, not masked in any way by their frenetic activity.
PS/ There is a useful article, based on the same kinds of premises, in John Redwood's blog here.