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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 104 of historian Frank Trentmann’s 2008 book, Free Trade Nation; here, Trentmann is discussing politics in Great Britain in the early 20th century:

In the domain of popular politics, statistics proved to be like the many-headed hydra of Greek mythology.  The moment one head was cut off, another appeared.  While statistics gave Free Traders factual ammunition to challenge Tariff Reform [i.e., protectionist] prophesies of doom, they also offered Tariff Reformers endless fresh opportunities to draw people’s attention to yet another dying local industry.  For Free Traders, that partly raised questions of resources, but it also became more than that.  Simply put, they faced a communication problem of the highest order.  There was a mismatch between Free Trade, the economic idea, and the dynamic nature of democratic politics.  The world of economic knowledge was becoming ever more complex and specialized at the very time that politics had come to rely more than ever on mass support, rather than experts or authorities.  And, to add to the pressure, Free Traders faced a marketing problem, having to rally support, again and again, over the course of a decade, for what was effectively the same basic article.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.


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