As someone who swears by free trade for all it is worth, I fear I may be developing hues of protectionism in my approach.
This was brought home to me today as I made a food subsidy, whilst pondering on my new passion for food security.
Let me explain.
My daughter attends university in a seaside town. There is no possible way she could live on the £1,000 per term student loan and pay her own rent.
So, I subsidise her living by paying her rent.
After a weekend at home, she never leaves on a Monday morning, to join the rest of the student population migrating back via National Express (all with bags of clean washing), without what spare cash I have at the time, which I make her take.
The food subsidy comes in the form of the clever way she raids my freezer, fridge and larder and gleefully explains that she has a whole week’s food in her bag.
She has tried to get a job; however, every bar, café, hotel and shop is well staffed with Eastern European labour.
As I write this she, I hope, is sitting at a computer writing her dissertation, aware that as soon as she graduates the subsidies will stop. She doesn’t expect them.
She will be well-trained, a graduate, and able to go out into the world and compete.
Subsidy will continue in the form of a roof over her head and food on the table, whilst she gets herself started; however, once she’s fit, she’s on her own.
Although most of the people that I speak to are opposed to protectionism, maybe it’s the broad brush with which protectionist policies tend to be applied that make them such a disaster for trading partners.
Would protectionist principles work if applied in a sensible, minimal, clearly defined way with an absolute exit strategy? Is that possible? Can a government have its finger close enough to the pulse to know just how much and when?
Just a thought, because it kind of butts onto my new passion for food security, which I’ll blog about tomorrow, or Iain Dale will whinge that my blog's too long!