Steering the free market through a food crisis? Fiscal policy and meat consumption in Brussels during the 1840s

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By the 1840s the Brussels city council had become distinctly liberalin its approach to the economy. Even the meat sector, onceuniquely intensely regulated by urban authorities, had shedalmost all early modern regulation and was largely left to the freemarket. However, the 1840s subsistence crisis and rising foodprices increased pressure on lawmakers to intervene. This paperexplores how, rather than returning to older consumer-protectinglimits on the market such as price-setting, the council used itsfiscal authority to ease its citizens’burden. What appears fromdiscussions on taxation is a great willingness to try to influencethe free market through changing tax rates in favour of theinterest of poor and labouring consumers. Unlike the shift fromprices to health the literature suggests (Horowitz, Pilcher andWatts [2004].“Meat for the Multitudes: Market Culture in Paris,New York City, and Mexico City over the Long NineteenthCentury.”The American Historical Review109, no. 4 (October2004): 1055–1083.doi:10.1086/530749), this consumer interestwas interpreted as relating both to meat prices and meat qualityand salubriousness. While the explicit focus on urban consumerswas new, many arguments repeated early modern concerns ofgreedy butchers preying on poor consumers, with price andhealth as twin priorities. The new liberal regime, facing crisis,used new tools, but traditional discourse and conceptions ofgovernment responsibility persisted.
Originele taal-2English
Pagina's (van-tot)31-48
Aantal pagina's18
TijdschriftHistory of Retailing and Consumption
Volume8
Nummer van het tijdschrift1
DOI's
StatusPublished - 7 mrt 2023

Bibliografische nota

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

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