Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Good Old Days...

...of The Economist, circa 1843.

Check out how eloquent, well-reasoned and thoroughly grounded in economics their arguments against slavery-based sanctions are:

We firmly believe that free labour, properly exercised, is cheaper than slave labour; but there is no pretence to say that it is so at this moment in our West India colonies; and we undertake to show, in an early number, in connexion with this fact, that the existence of the high protecting duties on our West India produce has done more than anything else to endanger the whole experiment of emancipation.
But, moreover, our West India monopoly,—the existence of the high prohibitory differential duty on sugar, is the greatest, strongest, and least answerable argument at present used by slave-holding countries against emancipation. The following was put strongly to ourselves in Amsterdam a short time since by a large slave owner in Dutch Guiana:—"We should be glad," said he, "to follow your example, and emancipate our slaves, if it were possible; but as long as your differential duties on sugar are maintained, it will be impossible 
But now were it otherwise:—have the professors of these opinions ever considered the huge responsibility which they arrogate to themselves by such a course? Let these men remember that, by seeking to coerce the slave-labour producer in distant countries, they inflict a severe punishment on the millions of hard-working, ill-fedconsumers among their fellow countrymen; but they seem always to overlook the fact, that there is a consumer to consider as well as a producer;—and that this consumer is their own countryman, their own neighbour, whose condition it is their first duty to consult and watch;

Note the lack of polemical assertions on economic matters far in excess of what economics can actually establish ("Stock markets are clearly overvalued, and the Fed should raise interest rates to fix this").

Examine how they deal with the anti-slavery trade restrictionists who share many of their aims, but who they feel are incorrect on some matters:

We must, however, in doing so, make a great distinction between the two classes of persons who are now found to be joined in an alliance against this application of free-trade principles; two classes who have always hitherto been so much opposed to each other, that it would have been very difficult ten years since to have conceived any possible combinations of circumstances that could have brought them to act in concert: we mean the West India interest, who so violently opposed every step of amelioration to the slave from first to last; and that body of truly great philanthropists who have been unceasing in their efforts to abolish slavery wherever and in whatever form it was to be found. To the latter alone we shall address our remarks.
We trust we shall be among the last who will ever be found advocating the continuance of slavery, or opposing any legitimate means for its extinction; but we feel well assured that those who have adopted the opinion quoted above, have little considered either the consequences or the tendencies of the policy they support.

Compare this with the sneering condescension of the modern magazine towards the Tea Party, who ostensibly share many of the aims of the magazine:
For all the talk about practical electioneering, some of [the Tea Partiers] teetered on the edge of the extreme and wacky. Mr Tancredo denounced the “cult of multiculturalism” ... Andrew Breitbart, the founder of a news site (, railed in a speech against the hostile “mainstream media” in hock to the far left. 
Wacky! Extreme!

I'd definitely renew my subscription to the 1843 Economist.

(via Marginal Revolution)

No comments:

Post a Comment