Cork

Mariano over at Liberalismo.org has been translating various pertinent texts into Spanish. His latest gem is a chapter entitled Inversión (Investment) taken from Thomas Mackay’s 1891 A Plea for Liberty: An Argument Against Socialism and Socialistic Legislation. As an ex-vintner, Mackay is of more than theoretical relevance to Spain and Catalonia. Here is part of chap 4, State Socialism in the Antipodes, written by Charles Fairfield, who I think I am right in saying was Rebecca West’s evil daddy:

The goal or ideal of State Socialists and Protectionists, so far as it can be ascertained from the speeches, writings, and actions of such persons in Australia, is one single worker earning all the wages paid in his own, rigidly protected and stationary, trade and producing an infinitesimal amount of exchangeable utilities.

One can imagine Mackay rubbing his hands in glee on reading the footnote:

The Victorian Tariff Commission of 1883-4 elicited the curious fact that one lonely human being earned his living by cutting corks in the colony. Thus, for the benefit of this cherished unit, a duty of 4d. per lb. on cut corks had been maintained, which was extremely irksome and injurious to the Colonial wine industry generally.

There’s quite a lot of cork production further up the Catalan coast (guided walks), but the big plantations and forests are down south, in Andalusia. There producers–who receive generous EU subsidies–are fighting alongside environmentalists–who hate the flammable, water-intensive eucalyptus plantations that often replace dehesa (Smithsonian)–to see off what they claim is the threat posed by plastic stoppers.

It is unlikely that Mackay would have been at all sympathetic to this view, or to attempts to reclassify plantations as nature in order to hang onto subsidies by hook or by crook, but with water stocks low and major forest fires around the corner, the conservationist/protectionist argument will probably win ground this summer.

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