Great Corn Laws Debate

Given their numerous wars with France, Protectionists also argued that Great Britain had some public debt that would need o be repaid and this would be done primarily through taxing the farm land. Since the landowners taxes would be going up the stabilized commodity prices were thought to help offset their increased taxation. The last argument and most important according to the protectionists is in regard to national security. If there was no Corn Law, then Great Britain might become dependent on foreigners or enemies for their food supplies in the event they cannot produce enough for their own demand.

The protectionists warn that trading partners can cut off supply at any given time and it is necessary to be independent when it comes to the food supply. The free-trade crowd had a differing opinion from the protectionists. Represented mainly by the manufacturing owners and eventually the laborers, they argued that artificial corn prices drove up prices everywhere else In the economy. Bread cost more to buy and food was the main expense of the labor class. Along with food rising so did the labor costs across various sectors such as manufacturing which In turn made them more expensive compared to their competition In other countries.

The free-trade crowd also noted that protected agricultural price laws were driving p demand for the land which normally wouldn’t be used In agricultural production. This Is seen as a competitive disadvantage because It would take away manufacturing opportunities which may help Great Britain globally. Great Britain lawmakers concede there will be dependence on foreign countries for a food supply and the free-trade crowd points out the fact Great Britain Is wasting resources on developing commercial land for farming.

The free-trade crowd also makes the argument that national security would not be In Jeopardy because trade partners would be dependent on the manufactured goods Great Brutal supplies and that loud give them leverage to remain viable trading partners. Given the arguments above It Is pretty clear that Robert Peel had a big decision to make. On one hand, Britain was the world’s leading economic power and had attained this by being a protectionist’s economy but at the same time these polices were harming the labor class through higher priced goods, higher rents along with lower or no wages.

Something had to be done to reverse this and there was growing opposition to the Corn Laws by the day. A political action group called the “League” was formed and supported the free-trade agenda along with becoming a voice for he labor class. Through the League, more and more power was able to shift away from the landowners and Into the manufacturing owners along with the laborers. The League needed support from the labor class and they pretty much won them rising pressure from the citizens. By repealing these Corn-Laws many in power might have seen Peel as a radical for doing this but will eventually come around and praise him.

I didn’t see any mention of Peel being a farmland or manufacturing owner so he literally had no hidden agenda other than do what was best for Britain. By participating in free-trade instead of protectionism, Britain could reallocate sources effectively as mentioned by Adam Smith’s assertion of “if a foreign country can supply us with a commodity cheaper than we ourselves can make it, better buy it off them with some part of the produce of our own industry, employed in a way which we have some advantage”. The Adam Smith quote to me pretty much tells the story.

Since Britain is perceived strongly as a manufacturer then it is more prudent to be known for manufacturing and not for protecting grain trade. Through free-trade, Britain should be able to acquire the additional food for the citizens by importing from trading partners. There are implications for these actions but in the end the market always seems to prevail. Short term implications for Peels decisions could leave the agricultural industry itself in shock initially given they are now competing globally and there won’t be a fixed price for commodities.

This would bring down food costs for the citizens but may also cause some of the farms to cut Jobs because of protected crop prices that are significantly higher than the US prices in the appendices. The farming industry in this time period more than likely looked like the 2008 financial crisis in the housing market in the short term. Rent for farmland couldn’t be paid because of crop supply and demand being out of control due to Mother Nature yet the pricing structures for rent and crop pricing didn’t really account for this.

This short-term farming depression might have spread into the other sectors initially but over time I see the markets coming in to balance things out. Once the government is out of the way in terms of regulating the market, the invisible hand is able to work. Long term, land that is not suitable for farming is now used for manufacturing in Britain which in turn leads to more Jobs being created. Competition for agricultural commodities brings down food prices for the labor crowd which then puts money back into the economy.

Long term trends would also show trading partnerships develop across allied countries provided they work out appropriate trade arrangements and trade with each other based on their own comparative strengths. I would also note in the long term, more power is shifted between the landowners to the labor class giving them a voice in the long run. Part of this whole debate in my eyes comes down too power grab. Atone point, protectionism made sense for Britain but later on it Just ere out of control.

The manufacturers eventually saw the light and conceited on protectionism but the agricultural sector did not. The power seemed to blind the landowners and mask what was going on. Prices across the board were rising on everything except the agricultural commodities and the laborers were getting tired. The laborers eventually received a voice by Joining forces with the “League” and helped move Britain towards free-trade in my opinion. I believe Robert Peel saw this momentum along with the destruction the protectionism caused by stifling competition and had to act by repealing the Corn Law.

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