Sunday, 1 October 2017

Free trade or fair trade?

Vince Cable criticises Mrs May for espousing free trade while moving to exclude the UK from the most successful free trade area, the EU. He might have added that at the same time the EU protects third-world countries within its ambit from unfair competition. To those who would criticise the EU itself for being a protectionist organisation, I would reply that the best way to lower any protectionist barriers is to remain a member and work towards that end. Outside, we have no influence and concede more power to those EU nations with a protectionist bent.

But I would point out another May hypocrisy. She is quoted as saying:
A free market economy, operating under the right rules and regulations, is the greatest agent of collective human progress ever created.

The failures which Corbyn and McDonnell point to do not result from the nature of capitalism but the timidity of governments in the face of over-mighty financial and commercial interests, which if unchecked lead to cartels and monopolies. Mrs May does not have all the "right rules and regulations" at her disposal, and those she does have are not consistently applied. In this, she has followed the laissez-faire attitude of Blair, Brown and Mandelson. It does not help that the current president of the United States seeks to remove controls on multi-national corporations, but unless the government makes the effort to restore fairness to the economy, the Corbyn message that the only alternatives on offer are unfettered capitalism or a Stalinist state may become accepted wisdom.

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