Effects of the Great War upon Agriculture in the United States and Great Britain

By Benjamin Hibbard H. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
Activities of the Government in the Control of
Consumption and Price of Food

PRELIMINARY CONSIDERATIONS

From the beginning of the war the price level in England mounted slowly until 1916. Then the rise became more abrupt. This was the cause of considerable hardship among the masses of the English people and was the occasion for a great deal of adverse criticism of the government. During this year the demand became more and more insistent, particularly from labor organizations, that some governmental agenty should handle England's food problem. Mr. Prothero, in the House of Commons, May 22, urged the government "to grapple immediately with the problem of the food supply, and to put the nation on rations at once instead of waiting until they were compelled to do so." While these demands were being made a great deal of discussion was taking place among economic writers about the general question of control of food prices. The most of the discussion turned upon the advisability of the government attempting to fix maximum prices for foodstuffs in an attempt to keep down the increasing cost of living. The bulk of the opinion seemed to be in favor of extreme caution in tampering with the prices of commodities. In a country like England, which is so dependent upon foreign countries for her very subsistence, it was argued that the holding down of prices would have the double effect of diverting supplies to other countries and keeping down the production of those products so essential to the existence of the mass of the English people. (It was during the summer of 1916 that a departmental Committee on Food Supply and Prices was appointed to inquire into the causes of the rise in the prices of commodities.)

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