Jim Cramer – Mr. Potatohead

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If
there was ever a financial show which should have the words, "For
entertainment uses only" that would be Mad
Money
with Jim Cramer. It is no secret that Cramer's stock
picks have done worse than the market averages
. However, the
other
day
, Cramer went off the deep end with a 14-minute rant of hyper-Keynesianism,
historical revisionism of Herbert Hoover and blaming the Irish Potato
famine of 1847 on laissez-faire.

Cramer says
that the government cannot "print money fast enough" to
save us from the mess the Federal Reserve got us into. Next Cramer
launches into a tirade on how Herbert Hoover was a do-nothing president
who didn't try to end the Great Depression, which of course was
total nonsense. Anybody familiar with the work of Murray
Rothbard
or British historian Paul
Johnson
knows that Herbert Hoover was hardly an advocate of
laissez-faire. Largest peacetime increase in USA history (up to
1931) in domestic spending occurred under Hoover. Likewise, Hoover
fathered the Agricultural Marketing Act, the Reconstruction Finance
Corporation, the Emergency Relief and Construction Act.

What about
Cramer's allegations that the Irish Potato famine was made worse
by "it's the market's will" attitude by the British? It
doesn't have a leg to stand on.

The Irish Potato
Famine was indeed a bellwether moment in the history of Ireland.
It was responsible for probably the death of over 1 million Irish
men and women, lead to the massive immigration of Irish to the United
States and is a period of time still etched in the folk music and
national psyche of the Irish today.

But to get
to Cramer's point. According to the Cecil Woodham-Smith, one of
the foremost authorities on the Irish Famine noted in his 1962 book
that during the entire time of the famine, Ireland was forced to
export its food by British authorities. So while millions of Irish
were starving for food during those five years, Ireland as a British
colony was in fact a NET exporter of food.

There is reason
why John Mitchel, the famous Irish journalist and founders of the
Young Ireland Movement at the time wrote
in 1860,

"I have
called it an artificial famine: that is to say, it was a famine
which desolated a rich and fertile island that produced every year
abundance and superabundance to sustain all her people and many
more. The English, indeed, call the famine a ‘dispensation of Providence';
and ascribe it entirely to the blight on potatoes. But potatoes
failed in like manner all over Europe; yet there was no famine save
in Ireland. The British account of the matter, then, is first, a
fraud — second, a blasphemy. The Almighty, indeed, sent the potato
blight, but the English created the famine.”

Mark Thornton
of the Mises Institute noted in an issue of the Free
Market
on this very subject that the British government turned
away charity ships full of food from the USA to Ireland because
the British considered it would "disturb trade." Even
worse, to save face, Queen Victoria demanded the Sultan of Turkey
to reduce his donation of 10,000 to 1,000 because the Queen was
only going to donate to Irish relief 1,000 of her personal income.

If that wasn't
enough, the Poor
Laws
help contribute to the suffering and homelessness of thousands
of Irish families. The financing of the Poor Laws fell on the local
landlords in Ireland who in order to cut down their financial objections,
simply evicted tenants. In 1849, 90,000 Irish tenants were evicted
from their homes, the next year in 1850, another 104,000 lost their
homes. One of the clauses in the Irish Poor Laws stated that a person
could not even own a quarter of an acre of land to receive aid.
Thus thousands of Irishmen simply sold everything they had to their
landlord. Thus as the Irish said at the time, "men went into
the poorhouse and a pauper came out."

In their book
on the Irish Famine, editors Christopher Morash and Richard Hayes
quote the London Times on March 24, 1847 which wrote of the
British relief efforts.

"a mass
of poverty, disaffection, and degradation without a parallel in
the world. It allowed proprietors to suck the very lifeblood of
that wretched race"

So contrary
to Jim Cramer’s wild unsubstantiated rants, the misery caused by
the blight (potato famine) is hardly an indictment of laissez-faire
liberalism. Much to the contrary, the continuing suffering was exacerbated
by mercantilism, political face-saving on the part of the Royal
Family of Britain and the unintended consequences of the welfare
state (Poor Laws).

October
6, 2008

Andrew Murphy
[send him mail] writes from
Knoxville Tennessee and has an insurance business.

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