So William Shakespeare was a speculator in grain was he? The man was a saint
AND good on Willy Shakespeare for being a speculator in grant. For it is speculation in food that ekes out the harvest from year to year. Without them we’d all start getting damn hungry around May while waiting for the August harvest.
The claim is here:
However, a new study has found that he was repeatedly prosecuted and fined for illegally hoarding food, and threatened with jail for failing to pay his taxes, The Sunday Times reported.
Court and tax records show that over a 15-year period Shakespeare purchased grain, malt and barley to store and resell for inflated prices, according to a paper by Aberystwyth University academics Dr Jayne Archer, Professor Richard Marggraf Turley and Professor Howard Thomas.
The study notes: “By combining both illegal and legal activities, Shakespeare was able to retire in 1613 as the largest property owner in his home town, Stratford-upon-Avon. His profits – minus a few fines for illegal hoarding and tax evasion – meant he had a working life of just 24 years.”
And of course we’re all meant to go “Boo, Hiss!” at the way that he profited from the need for food of others.
Which of course is complete bullshit:
No doubt Shakespeare was prosecuted under the engrossing and forestalling laws rightly excoriated by Adam Smith in Chapter V of Book IV of Wealth of Nations (“Digression Concerning the Corn Trade and Corn Laws.”) Laws which Smith demonstrated actually contributed to dearth and famine. As Smith clearly showed, rather than being exploitative, the speculative storage of grain reduced the likelihood and severity of “dearth”.
If you want to read the full 18th century prose version of why it’s bullshit it is there, in the link, starting at para 40.
The short version is that if you buy when it’s cheap you raise that cheap price. The you sell when it’s expensive, this lowers that expensive price. Thus speculation in food flattens prices over time. Further, because food is a little more expensive at the beginning than it would have been, then people are more careful about what they eat at that time. Maybe eating more oats instead of wheat, that sort of thing. And people being more careful means that less food is eaten, so there’s more to go around in that period just before the next harvest.
Man’s a damn saint for speculating in food.