The Monkey Economists and Free Trade


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Molinari saw a French translation of a British pamphlet of an article which was first published in the Westminster Review in January 1830. "The Article on Free Trade”was written by Col. Thomas Perronet Thompson who was very active in the free trade movement and whose work on the Corn Law Fallacies influenced Frédéric Bastiat. The essay was accompanied by a cartoon drawn by Thomas Landseer (1795-1880) who had made a name for himself by publishing a series of caricatures of humans as monkeys, Monkey-ana, or Men in Miniature (1827). Molinari was so taken with Landseer's drawing that he mentioned it twice: once in Les Soirées and again in his article on "Liberté du commerce”in the DEP. Thompson began his article with this description of the cartoon: "The monkeys in Exeter Change used to be confined in a row of narrow cages, each of which had a pan in the centre of its front for the tenant's food. When all the monkeys were supplied with their messes, it was observable that scarcely any one of them ate of his own pan. Each thrust his arm through the bars, and robbed his right or left hand neighbor. Half what was so seized was split and lost in the conveyance; and while one monkey was so unprofitably engaged in plundering, his own pan was exposed to similar depredation. The mingled knavery and absurdity was shockingly human.”This "beggar thy neighbor”policy is very similar to the views expressed by Huskisson in 1826 also quoted by Molinari. See, The Article on Free Trade, from the Westminister Review, no. XXIII. For January, 1830. To which is added a Collection of Objections and the Answers (London: Robert Heward, 1831); French translation of T. Perronet Thompson, Les Singes économistes, ou qu'est-ce que la liberté du commerce? extrait de la "Revue de Westminster" (The Monkey Economists, or what is free trade?), traduit de l'anglais par Benjamin Laroche (Paris: Goetschy fils, 1832). 


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A version of this cartoon also appeared in America in 1831 by E.W. Clay entitled "The Monkey System or 'Every one for himself at the expense of his neighbor'!!!!!!!!". Above the monkeys' cages is written "Home, Consumption, Internal Improvements,”and a figure states "Walk in! Walk in! and see the new improved grand original American system.” The American System as it was called was based upon high tariffs and extensive government funded infrastructure projects.

Posted: Sunday - March 18, 2012 at 06:41 PM