Free Trade These

Free Trade These

Free Trade These qualifications do not amount to a rebuttal of the underlying case for free trade, or form a general case for protectionism. Nevertheless, since the 1870's protectionism has grown throughout the world and free trade has lost ground. The decline of the great liberal era in trade, which had spread out from England after the Napoleonic wars, was largely a reflection of the rise of nationalism during the second half of the nineteenth century; contributory factors were the growth of world competition and the 'Great Depression' of the 1870's. Similarly the wars of the twentieth century and the world depression of the inter-war years promoted a further growth in protectionism. Politically the protectionist is in a strong position vis4-vis the advocate of free trade because the benefits of protection are usually concentrated on particular industries or trades and immediately obvious, while its costs or burdens are normally diffused throughout the whole economy and the final consumer cannot easily recognize them. Hence the formation of strong political pressure groups to seek protection. Conversely, the benefits of free trade are long-term and diffuse, and apparent only to the trained observer. They thus exercise little emotive appeal except when allied to the removal of a real or fancied injustice, as in the Anti-Corn Law movement. Nevertheless, since World War If the re-emergence of internationalism and the growth of supra-national institutions have reflected and encouraged re-examination of the case for free trade. The Common Market is forming a large free trade area in Europe, and some economists (J. E. Meade, Sir Sydney Caine and others) have argued for a North Atlantic community that would free trade not only within itself but also with the developing countries of Africa, Asia and elsewhere.

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