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Richard Cobden, free trade

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Richard Cobden, was a
Member of Parliament. He is still a strong voice for free trade, as “best” British (and universal) commercial policy. He was able to win his government to free trade in 1846, with a half-century of strong economic growth to follow.

This great idea, of the connection between free trade and peace, was urged at a time of a great delusion about “balance of power” and Russia. It sounds familiar to a 20-21st century observer. Cobden’s classical Liberal Party dominated the government during the following decades and Britain “ruled” the world in a period of great peace and prosperity.

His 2nd greatest achievement was the Free Trade Treaty with France (1860), which became a model for many other such treaties that opened up other countries; Britain was not “closed” again until conservatives took the government and wanted to enhance “imperial preference” in trade. Then the Boer War and the first World War were indirect consequences of that new direction for commercial policies, as other governments followed Bismarck instead of Cobden.

Wars historically come in years/decades following the closing off of an era of “free trade” as Britain enjoyed through the mid-19th century.

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