Star of the Sea: Free markets

Sarah from work (knowing that I'm an advocate of free markets) photocopied some pages from Star of the Sea which contained a newspaper article that said that the free market was to blame for the Irish Potato Famine. I've thought about it on-and-off for several months and I've decided I don't know enough about the history of the period to comment on that particular case.

However in general it is true that free markets as described by Adam Smith did regulate the labour force by starvation. In other words, if the price of labour dropped below a certain point the labourer couldn't feed herself and died of starvation. This reduced the supply of labour, and so the price of labour rose again. It works, but isn't morally acceptable.

The good thing about free markets is that they are the quickest way to make your country rich; the bad thing is that the wealth isn't distributed evenly. That's why I think that government should stop taxing the poorest in society, and in this way redistribute the wealth a bit.


  1. The point is that there arent free markets anywhere - people who advocate them ignore the fact that they never will be.

    The EU still prevents poor African countires form exporting produce to us by using tarrfs - ditto the americans who hugely subsidiase grain.

    As I understand it, Ireland exported food right throughout the potatol famine, as Africa does now.

  2. May I say I totally agree with your previous correspondent.

    A further point is that in free markets the people who hold all the capital will basically manipulate investments to make them ever wealthier, including buying government policies as per US.

    Free market advocates tend to use the imaginary non existent but much lauded theoretical possibility to avoid facing up to these fundamental issues.

  3. It's true that you'll never get totally free markets, but the freer they are the better.

    You are right to attack EU protectionism. Let's scrap the Common Agricultural Policy!

    You raise the problem of countries exporting food during a famine. This is why governments should redistribute the wealth generated by free markets, so that the poor can afford to buy food.

    Lastly, it's true that there's a danger of governments being bribed by the rich. But this is a potential problem under any system. One thing that would help is state funding of political parties, and banning any other form of fundraising.

  4. Tony - you say there is a danger of governments being bought> where have you been the last 35 years? Have you not noticed that in the US which is the benchmark democracy and which is pushing its dogmatic fee trade policy on the rest of us, is governed entirely by the whims of big business. Each presidential candidate, indeed any candidate has to raise huge amounts of money, and this money is given in return for explicit policy promises.

  5. Well regardless of how bad it is, can we agree to state funding of political parties? We can't do much about the US, but we can and should reform the UK / EU.

    Also, I'm in favour of the EU dropping its protectionist policies unilaterally. I wouldn't try and force other countries to do the same, although I think they would benefit if they did.

  6. Personally, I think that agreeeing to agree on State funding is cop out - ie one doesn't have to worry any more about the elephant in the room.
    The elephant in the room is the stranglehold corporations, mainly US have on all democratic governments.
    Lets talk about that.
    After all, it was the UK government and its capitalist masters who organised the export of food throughout the potato famine, and then the people.


  7. Tony - read this link, and then tell me which is more important - free trade or democracy or paying for political parties?

    Happy New Year


  8. I read the article, but I have to admit I didn't really understand it!

    But to answer your question, I think that democracy is the most important, then state funding of political parties supports democracy. Free markets are a good idea that democratic governments should implement.

  9. Tony, no disrespect to you, but I think you find it very difficult to question the difficulties of the system we live under, and use abstract unreal concepts like "free trade" " democracy" etc to avoid actually recognising and talking about them. It means we will never make any progress.
    All the very best,
    your chum, generarator

  10. nice to see i'm not the only one fighting against tony's determination to free the world's trade!

    free trade is a good idea(l) but impossible to achieve and - like communism - not neccessarily a good idea to attempt.

    corporations act in their own best interest and governments (are supposed to) work in our best interest. therefore, you will always get conflict between free markets and legislative governing.

    what we need is govenment that is not paid for by business and not afraid to upset us (ie. the opposite of what we have now). this is the first stage.

    the second stage is to understand the effects of what the markets are doing (ie. starving the Irish) and whether legislation needs to be bought in to counteract that and, if that happens, what the consequences will be.