« PreviousContinue »
for the foreign goods. Capital will be increased by both the productive industry and the trade; and, as a people grow strong in capital and in men, it is not possible for foreign competition to restrict their industry, or to prevent their taking up all the variety of industry which their needs require, and the facilities of their country favor. Competition, free and fair, is ever the strongest and healthiest stimulus of both productive industry and wide-spread active trade.
2. It is strongly urged that protection is a necessary means of maintaining national independence. This is a spe. cious argument, because the phrase "national independence" has a patriotic ring, to which the popular ear and the popular heart are peculiarly sensitive. But, as it stands in the proposition before us, it simply covers a subtle sophistry.
For individuals and for nations there are two kinds of inde. pendence. One may withdraw from his fellow-men to a cavo in the wilderness, and thus keep himself alive, and possibly find interest and enjoyment in a hermit-life. He may glory in his independence. But is there anything noble in such isolation? Is it the way for a man to make the most of him. self? The independence of genuine manhood is of another sort. It is the individuality of capacities, acquisitions, and character, which is able to stand on its own basis in full and free relations with fellow-men. It is, in the midst of society, a distinct personality, giving and receiving, supporting and supported, blessing and blessed, through the varied inter. course which nature prompts, and by which the completest development of the man and of the race is advanced. So of nations, there is an independence of isolation, such as China and Japan until recently maintained. But that independence which is the strength and glory of a nation is of another kind. It is an individuality of national resources and char. acter which stands up in the full brotherhood of nations, and in the consciousness of its own strength enters into all offices of mutual dependence through which nations grow, and civilization makes progress.
The policy of protection fosters the narrower kind of inde. pendence. It is a restrictive policy. Carried out to its logi. cal conclusion, it leads to isolation. The sophistry referred to consists in the concealment of this fact, while the term “national independence" is put forth in its broader, nobler
In an economic point of view, the real independence of a nation is commercial independence. That means, not that it does not need or will not have the productions of other nations, but that it is able to command them. The basis of such independence is the home-production of wealth. The way to increase wealth is to use to the best possible advan. tage the gifts of nature, and then, in the world's great mart, sell where things can be sold on the best terms, and buy
where things can be bought on the best terms. The nation is strongest and most complete in her independence, which can open most freely every avenue for the wealth of the world to flow in upon her, because, as the fruit of her own vital energies, freely exerted, she has wealth in abundance to give a fair equivalent.
A nation comes to this full maturity by a steady natural growth, just as a child comes to full manhood. In both cases freedom is the law of growth. Fair competition helps a nation's growth both in general wealth and in particular industries, just as the wrestling of a boy with one older and stronger than himself helps to develop in him particular muscles, and the pluck and vigor of a whole manhood. When at-times worsted and thrown, the boy may rise and say, “You beat me now, but I don't give up the contest. Let me get my growth, and I'll show you what I can do." The effort by protection to hasten a nation's independence is like binding an infant's limbs in splints, that he may sooner stand alone. The artificial appliance may develop prematurely a single function, but it is at a wasteful expense of general vigor, and is quite sure to induce chronic weakness and deformity.
3. The advantages of a home market for agricultural products are often urged in favor of the protective system. It is certainly an advantage to a farmer to find, in a manufacturing village near, a market for his produce. But, if this market is made and sustained for him by a protective tariff, he must pay for tools, for salt, for dry-goods, for many of the manufactured articles he needs, from twenty to fifty per cent. more than they would cost under the rule of free trade. This adds to the cost of producing his crops, and offsets what he may save in the expense of transportation to the distant commercial city.
But here, as in the first case, we take issue directly on the main point. The assumption that protection creates the home-market is a fallacy. These centers of varied industry grow up naturally and healthily with the increase of population and wealth. Mechanical genius, the investigating turn of mind, the energy of will-power, managing capacity,these qualities come not of protective tariffs. They are the gifts of God to men. Left to themselves, and stimulated by competition, they spontaneously lay hold on all gifts of God in nature, and, using all available capital, set up the workshops of industry, wherever best opportunities are presented.
Furthermore, the term “home market,” in this discussion, has force only as it implies the production at home of all manufactures wanted, and the consumption at home of all agricultural produce raised,—a condition of things, attain. able, if at all, only after the lapse of centuries. Meantime a people must buy the things they cannot produce, by selling the surplus of that which they can produce. For a long time to come this country will have a large surplus of breadstuffs, cotton, petroleum, silver, and gold, to dispose of. We can sell to others only as we give others a fair chance to sell
Domestic commerce and foreign commerce are neces. sarily interlocked. The prices of agricultural products in our home markets are deterinined by the prices in markets abroad. Where trade is freest, the prices will, on the average, be the best. Hence, free trade is the essential condition of a sound and healthy home market. Of all classes, those devoted to agriculture bear the heaviest share of the burden laid by the protective tariff, while they reap no direct benefit from it.
There are positive objections to the system of protection, which may be concisely stated as follows:
1. Protection introduces and fosters antagonism between the different industries of a country. The idea of giving protection to every branch of industry is absurd. The theory implies special encouragement to certain manufactures by taxing all other interests in their behalf. The duty which protects the woolen-manufacture increases the cost of the wool. grower's clothing, while the competition of cheap wools from abroad keeps down the price of his product. A tariff on the foreign wools will enhance the cost of material to the manufacturer. So two parties whose interests are really one are set against each other.
2. The unnatural stimulus given by protective legislation leads to over-production, and consequent stagnation and fail
The first effect of a high duty is to raise prices, and increase the profits of the protected industry. This causes a rush into that branch of production, till it is quickly over." done, and a disastrous re-action comes.
3. Protection diminishes the legitimate revenues of the state, at the same time that it lays a heavy tax on the people. Just so far as the tariff is protective in its operation, it reduces the imposts from which the government gets its incomo; yet, just so far as prices of the protected article in the market are enhanced by the tariff, all consumers pay a a special tax for the benefit of the favored producer.
4. In its application, the policy of protection must be unstable, disturbing the course of industry by frequent changes. This follows inevitably from the conflict of inter
ests just referred to. When the duty on iron is high, all who use iron as the material of their industry clamor against it. So new candidates for the special favor press their suit for a change of the tariff in their interest. With every ses. sion of Congress movements are made for some change of the tariff. A protective tariff can never be made fair and equal to all ; for its fundamental principle is an unjust favor. itism, against which those not favored instinctively protest and contend.
5. Protection tends to demoralize our national legislation. The lobby of the Capitol is thronged with representatives of certain manufactures, seeking to obtain or to perpetuate special protection. Money is freely used, and bargains are made to combine the friends of separate measures, when votes are given. Proposed acts come thus to be judged of not by their real merits, but by their relation to personal interests.
6. Protection tends to corrupt the public morals and the public service. It offers strong temptations to the violation of law by smuggling. The resistance of men's consciences to this temptation is slight, because the tariff-law rests on no ground of absolute right. ) The nice sense of honor and right is deadened ; and the making of false invoices, the swearing of false oaths, and direct bribery at the customhouse, are regarded as venal sins. Officials of the govern. ment come into collusion and partnership with these crimes, and betray the sacred public trusts with which they are charged.
Until within the last half century, the protective policy has ruled the industry and trade of the worid, with only here and there an exception, like Holland in her best days. Free trade has had scarcely a chance to try its experiment. Its principles are, however, illustrated and sustained in the hundred years' history of our nation's independent life. The States of our republic, in their extent of territory, their