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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

You can't hold a candle to them

This really is beyond parody. We are getting desperately close to the point where even the most dedicated and vicious satirist is going to have to abandon their profession in the face of European Commission pronouncements. This morning, I hear...

European candle makers, from Germany, the Netherlands and other countries, complained to the European Commission in January that they were being damaged by illegal pricing by Chinese rivals, accusing them of getting unfair export aid.

[From EU starts dumping probe of Chinese candles and steel | Business | Reuters]

I assumed that I was hallucinating under the influence of Lemsip, and that my brain was feverishly conflating snapshots from economics text books with the memory of my dreary trip to Brussels last week. But I looked it up at Reuters, and it appears to be true. The candlemakers are complaining about foreign competition. Far be it from me to sneer as the European economy is about to be devasted, but who didn't hear or see the report and immediately think of Bastiat's famous "Candlemakers' petition"...

The Candlemakers' petition is a well known satire of protectionism written and published in 1845 by the French economist Frédéric Bastiat as part of his Economic Sophisms. In the Candlemakers' petition, the candlemakers and industrialists from other parts of the lighting industry petition the Chamber of Deputies of the French July Monarchy (1830–1848) to protect their trade from the unfair competition of a foreign power: the Sun.

[From Candlemakers' petition - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]

And for those of you unfamiliar with this landmark in economic history, the petition claims that

We are suffering from the ruinous competition of a rival who apparently works under conditions so far superior to our own for the production of light that he is flooding the domestic market with it at an incredibly low price; for the moment he appears, our sales cease, all the consumers turn to him, and a branch of French industry whose ramifications are innumerable is all at once reduced to complete stagnation. This rival, which is none other than the sun, is waging war on us so mercilessly we suspect he is being stirred up against us by perfidious Albion

[From Bastiat's famous Candlestick makers' Petition]

Today, as is the spirit of the times, the inscrutable Chinese have replaced perfidious Albion as the crucial "other", but other than that, what has changed?

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.

[posted with ecto]

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