The Next Ten Years in British Social and Economic Policy

By G. D. H. Cole | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER II
BRITISH TRADE AND THE FUTURE1

Free Trade and the international division of labour—The growth of world Protectionism—The export of British capital and its effects— Great Britain loses her monopoly—The 'balance of trade' before the War— British exports before and after the War—The post-war 'trade balance'— Can Great Britain afford to specialise as much as before the War?—Or must we redistribute capital and labour?—Our trade in coal and cotton goods considered—We must expect a permanent decline in the export of cheap cottons—The coal problem turns on an increased home consumption—Oil from coal—Increased efficiency may involve displacement of labour—We must rely on exports less than in the past—This involves the development of the home market—And the revival of agriculture—The problem of trade with the Empire considered—'Europeans' versus 'Imperialists'—The policy of the 'City'—Impossibilities of Imperial self- sufficiency—Economic Imperialism and the export of capital—Migration dependent on capital supply—The 'trade cycle' considered—Does it really exist?—The alleged rise of new industries and shifting of industries to the South—Unemployment a proof of our political futility.

In the course of the nineteenth century Great Britain definitely built up her economic system on the basis of the international division of labour. The theory of Free Trade, as taught by the orthodox economists, was an incitement to each country to find out those forms of production in which its comparative advantage was greatest, and, concentrating upon these, to exchange its surplus for the necessary products which it was uneconomic to produce at home. The repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846 is universally recognised as marking the definitive adoption of this policy, and the subsequent transition to a practically complete system of free trade followed inevitably upon it.

For a time, despite isolated voices, such as List's, raised in protest against the cosmopolitan assumptions of orthodox politi

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1
For statistics and comments illustrating the argument of this chapter see Appendix I., at p. 437.

-22-

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