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Wit and Wisdom – Churchill and the Free Market

Finest Hour 131, Summer 2006

Page 29


Deputy Secretary of Commerce David Sampson asked us to track what Churchill said on this subject. Here are all instances of “free market” in 13 million words of Churchill writings and speeches. He had parallel things to say on private enterprise, etc.

1903: “The price of sugar in [other countries] meanwhile is kept up by rigid Protection. Every foreigner has to pay more for his sugar, and consequently he buys less, and the consuming power in those countries steadily declines….Now look at England, at the other side of the picture. England has done nothing in the meanwhile. She grows no sugar; she does not give bounties; she has made no observation or remark of any kind. In England sugar becomes cheap, extremely cheap; it becomes cheap in proportion as it gets higher in the countries where it is actually grown. The English people consumed every year (the ratio is altering now in consequence of recent legislation) three times as much per head as the people of France. On the basis of this cheap sugar, which is a benefit and a source of pleasure to great masses of people who use it, a whole range of secondary industries has sprung up—jam, biscuits, soda-water, even blacking, I am told, sweet-meats, preserved fruits, and pickles. We have become the world’s confectioners. Chocolat Menier is already made in London. The confectioners in other countries contemplate moving, and in some cases actually do move, their businesses into this great free market where the distribution of the good things of the earth is not distorted and twisted by the avarice and the folly of man.” —29 July 1903 (For Free Trade 102-03)

1947: “The French have a saying, ‘Drive Nature away, and she will return at the gallop.’ Destroy the free market and you create a black market: you overwhelm the people with laws and regulations, and you induce a general disrespect of law….You may try to destroy wealth, and find that all you have done is to increase poverty. In their class warfare, the Government have no right to appeal to the spirit of Dunkirk.” —12 March 1947 {Europe Unite 42-43)

1949: “If you make 10,000 regulations you destroy all respect for the law. As Burke said… ‘Those who make professions above the ordinary customs of society will often be found in practice to fall far below them.'” —3 February 1949 (In the Balance 21)

“I am all for a free market and a true market. As I told the House two or three years ago, it is only a false and untrue market officially supported that breeds a black market. A sham market can no more escape a black market than a man can escape from his own shadow. Therefore I should myself have been more inclined, had I been in any way responsible, to set the pound free under regular and necessary safeguards and control [Laughter] —certainly, and accept the results, than to the present rigid method of pegging the exchange at the very lowest rate which anyone could possibly conceive.” —28 September 1949 {In the Balance 91)

1950: “Cheap and abundant food is the foundation of our strength. It will be the foundation of our policy. But this can only come in the long run from the workings of a free market.” —21 January 1950 (Complete Speeches 7906)

1954: “It is the policy of both parties in the state to sustain and increase homegrown food on which this island depends so largely for a favourable trade balance and, in the ultimate issue, for its life. It is not an easy task to reconcile the beneficial liberation of our food supply from Government controls with that effective stimulus of home production which is vital. [Interruption.] Hon. Members want the good without the evil; that is often very difficult to solve. It is necessary for the Exchequer to subsidize in one form or another, so as to bridge the gap between the price level reached in a free market on the one hand, and the price level necessary to sustain the welfare of the farmers on the other. Moreover, the gap must not only be bridged in the industry as a whole by maintaining average returns but we must also, in the case of what are called fat stock- a technical term covering a very considerable field—provide safeguards for individual transactions where necessary.” —3 November 1954 (The Unwritten Alliance 75)

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