West African Trade: A Study of Competition, Oligopoly and Monopoly in a Changing Economy

By P. T. Bauer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
THE GROWTH OF RESTRICTIVE TENDENCIES

1. RESTRICTIVE TENDENCIES IN EMERGING ECONOMIES

A serious result of the rapid growth and sudden impact of a money economy in West Africa is a marked tendency towards economic restrictionism drawing strength from two distinct sources: xenophobia and the pressure of sectional economic interests. In West Africa the two sources seem to operate simultaneously, whereas elsewhere they have often been separated by considerable periods of time.

Xenophobia is found in societies near the tribal level, much as elsewhere. It is directed not only against those who are of different colour or who are racially far removed, but also frequently against members of neighbouring tribes and of related races. This sentiment leads to an exclusion of strangers and restriction of trade with them.

There is a strong restrictive tendency in societies based on specialization and the division of labour. In such a society each specialized group can improve its relative position (and up to a point also its real income) by restricting its numbers and thereby increasing the scarcity value of its services. Restriction can be achieved openly by obstructing entry into a trade, or indirectly by a multitude of devices. Such measures are widespread in modern economic society, and the promotion of the public welfare is generally advanced in their support. The nature, motivation and effects of this type of restrictionism deserve analysis in some detail, since public acceptance of restrictive measures is connected with the underlying motives of this restrictionism.


2. RESTRICTIVE TENDENCIES IN SPECIALIZED ECONOMIES

An increase in the supply of a particular commodity or service is likely to affect numerous consumers and producers. But these effects will differ in direction and extent. Generally, the benefits tend to be diffused over a large number of people so that each benefits slightly; moreover, the benefits may be indirect in the sense that they are partly enjoyed by producers and consumers not directly concerned with the market for the particular commodity or service. On the other hand, the adverse consequences tend to be concentrated upon a small number of people so that each is more seriously affected; again, the adverse effects tend to be directly felt in the market for the particular commodity or service. Thus there is a tendency for the gains to be less noticeable than the losses.

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