Изображения страниц

country is compensated under their system of taxation for the losses inflicted on our working classes by the import of foreign manufactures.' I ask in turn, what losses? The community suffers no loss, as I have already shown, by these foreign imports; if some workers suffer, others gain, and the community is benefited. No compensation, therefore, is required, for there is no loss to be compensated. When foreigners invade our market by offering us something cheaper than we can make it ourselves, they involuntarily do us a service; they call our attention to some defect on our part, in our machinery, our methods, or what not. They give us a valuable warning. To prevent the entry of their goods by taxing them will drive them from our home market, but it will not prevent their competing with us in neutral markets; it will stimulate them to do so. Ex hypothesi they work cheaper than we do, and unless we also cheapen our products they will undersell Whether we like the process or not, we shall have to cheapen sooner or later, and if so why not do it at once? To suppose that by taxing foreign imports foreign competition will be killed, and home labour stimulated, is an idea compared with which that of taking a pill to ward off the danger of a threatened earthquake is sanity itself.


[ocr errors]

The principle which underlies 'Free Imports' is that which prevails throughout Nature in providing for the survival of the fittest. It favours no man, or trade, at the expense of another. It does not interfere between producer and consumer, or between buyer and seller, for it looks on such interference as an act of injustice to one or the other, and as doing a damage to the community. If, for instance, by means of a duty on imported boots, a bootmaker is enabled to obtain from home buyers a higher price for his boots than he would otherwise get, the community is mulcted for the benefit of the bootmaker; the increase in the price is transferred from their pockets to his. What justice is there in that? The buyer of the boots must also produce something before he can pay for them. Why should he be taxed for the benefit of the bootmaker? He also is a producer, and unless his particular manufacturé is also protected he is defrauded by the arrangement. In order to do justice to him, his trade must also be protected, and every other trade must be protected. But when this is done, of what benefit is all this to the community? Everybody will be protected against everybody else; there will be constant jealousies and contests respecting the amount of protection to which each interest will think itself entitled; and there will be a host of officials created to carry out the régime, who will simply live at the expense of the community; and a number of other evils will come into being—all which is avoided by the simple and effective means of leaving people at liberty to buy and sell just where their own individual interest leads them to do so. 'Free Imports,' in fine, means the maximum of production at the minimum of cost, and, as a consequence, the greatest happiness of the greatest number.

Concluding his article, Lord Penzance offers five propositions as worthy of discussion :

1. That the question of duty or no duty on any import is a separate question for each import, and cannot be rightly answered by the application of any general rule.

2. That no duty should be imposed save for the purpose of revenue.

3. That in selecting the articles upon which duties should be imposed it is advantageous to the community, cæteris paribus, that the duty should fall on any article in which the foreigner competes in our markets with the labour and skill of our own people.

4. That it may be desirable, if practicable, so to regulate our tariff as to favour the productions of our own colonies and dependencies in comparison with those of foreign countries.

5. That the rule prohibiting the imposition of a duty on any foreign article the like of which is produced at home, which now goes by the name of 'Free Trade,' has no good reason for its support, and was only adopted by this country as our part of that system of free and unfettered interchange of commodities which it offered to the rest of the world, an offer which, after the lapse of forty years, has never been accepted, and a system, in consequence, which has never existed.

[ocr errors]

These propositions are very remarkable. In No. 1 Lord Penzance says that as regards duty or no duty on any import there can be no general rule, yet in No. 2 he sets up the general rule that no duty is to be imposed save for the purpose of revenue. If so that is, if protection is not to be the object as well-the duty must be levied on articles which we do not make, and in which, therefore, the foreigner does not compete with us. But this is precisely the régime under which we are living-that system of Free Imports' which Lord Penzance condemns. He is, apparently, unaware of what constitutes the difference between a tariff for revenue only, and one which is protective. Duties for revenue only are levied on such articles as we do not make ourselves, always excepting those on which at the same time an excise is levied-which carries out the non-protective principle. Protective duties, on the other hand, are those which might be levied on articles similar to those we make at home, and which therefore compete with our own productions. If Lord Penzance had borne this distinction in mind, he would not have penned the contradictory and mutually destructive propositions contained in Nos. 2 and 3. It is impossible to carry out No. 2 without setting aside the directions in No. 3, while it is impossible to act on No. 3 without violating the principle contained in No. 2.

With regard to No. 4, which inculcates a new fiscal colonial policy, I have sufficiently dealt with the subject, and we may dismiss it as an impracticable dream.

I now come to No. 5, which is the last paragraph in the article. Lord Penzance says therein that our so-called 'Free Trade' system has no good reason for its support. This, under any circumstances, would be a bold assertion, but it is an especially bold one when we apply the slightest consideration to the facts which abound on every

side, and which directly contradict it. I have written to but little purpose if the reader has not been able to gather many good reasons for cherishing that system under which we have enjoyed a prosperity unexampled in the world's history. The fact that among the nations we are first, and by far the foremost, in trade, manufactures, commerce, and navigation, is one which in itself is most striking, and one which in reasonable minds leads to inquiry respecting the means by which such a supremacy as ours has been attained, and begets a predisposition to look with favour on any methods we may have adopted. When we do inquire, we find that between us and other nations there is in our fiscal system one feature which distinguishes it from that of any other great nation—that is, Free Imports. On the one hand Great Britain stands alone with her Free Imports, queen of the realms of commerce; on the other, grouped together we see other great nations with Protection as their system, not one of them approaching her in the magnitude of her international commerce, most of them, together with her numerous colonies, being indebted to her enterprise and her capital for the development of their resources, and owing her fabulous sums of money, from which she derives an annual tribute which, half a century ago, would have been deemed a potentiality beyond the wildest dream of avarice. To Lord Penzance and other Protectionists, however, all this goes for nothing. Free Traders are termed idolaters, and are accused of bringing their country to ruin.

[ocr errors]

Lord Penzance says that we were deluded into Free Imports.' Well, be it so. We have been deluded at any rate into a very good position, a position which is the admiration and envy of the world. The only possible reason for quarrelling with it is the supposition that by the adoption of a contrary policy we could have done better. But the onus of proving that lies on our opponents. Until they do that, we may rest content where we are-far ahead of any other nation.

And now, in conclusion, let me say a few words as to the general depression. It is not to be attributed to 'Free Imports' or to Protection. It is universal, and it differs from every other depression within living memory. Apart from any natural reaction from a previous inflation, there is one feature which distinguishes it from them all. That feature is the general fall in prices which has been going on for the last dozen years, and has been a disturbing element, an object of perplexity, and a source of loss to almost everyone engaged in commerce. Three concurrent causes have helped to produce it: (1) the opening up of new fields of production in agriculture and in mining; (2) the improvement and cheapening of processes in manufactures, and the facilitation of intercommunication by railways, and telegraphs; (3) the scarcity of gold. Up to a certain point producers and capitalists were the only sufferers from all this, while the wage-earning classes VOL. XIX.-No. 112. 3 K

largely benefited; for money wages were maintained while the prices of commodities were falling. At last, however, the fall has extended to money wages. Like every other commodity, labour is subject to the laws of supply and demand, among which are those which govern the relation between the precious metals in the shape of money, and other commodities; and until an adjustment is arrived at all round, we cannot hope to enjoy any general prosperity. The labour troubles which are taking place all over the world show what a painful process is going on, and should convince us that any attempts to bolster up wages by artificial means can end only in disaster.

Finally, as one who, in the language of Lord Penzance, is a Free Trade idolater, let me say a parting word. It is not by taxing foreign importations that we can keep our place in the world of commerce, and overcome foreign competition. We must do so by the extension of education among both masters and men, by endeavours to improve the suitability, the quality, and the tastefulness of our goods, and to reduce the cost of production by the study and adoption of scientific processes of which the world is daily giving some novel example. Our workpeople, moreover, must learn to exercise more than they do now the virtues of temperance and providence, in which they are sadly deficient. It is by such means alone that we as a nation shall be able to hold our own in the competition which gets keener day by day. A resort to Protection would only aggravate the evils which it was intended to cure.


[NOTE.-The foregoing article was written as an answer to Lord Penzance, on behalf of the Cobden Club, and at the special request of its Committee.-ED.]


THE idea that genius reveals itself early in life does not at once recommend itself to common sense. Observation of nature as a whole suggests first of all perhaps that her choicer and more costly gifts are the result of a long process of preparation. And, however this be, there is certainly more of moral suggestiveness in the thought that intellectual distinction is the reward of a strenuous adolescence and manhood than in the supposition that it can be reached by the stripling at a bound through sheer force of native talent. And it may not improbably have been a lively perception of this ethical significance which fostered in the classic mind so widespread a disbelief in early promises of great intellectual power. We find a typical expression of this sentiment in the saying of Quintilian: 'Illud ingeniorum velut præcox genus non temere umquam pervenit ad frugem.' That is to say, the early blossom of talent is rarely followed by the fruit of great achievement.

It is evident that this saying embodies something like a general theory of the relation between rank of talent and rate of development. Where superior intellectual ability shows itself at an early date, it is of the sort that reaches its full stature early, and so never attains to the greatest height. On the other hand, genius of the finer order declares itself more slowly.

In order to estimate the soundness of this view two lines of inquiry would be necessary. We should need to ask, first of all, what proportion of those who have shown marked precocity have afterwards redeemed the promise of their youth; and, secondly, what number of those who have unquestionably obtained a place among the great, were previously distinguished by precocity.

These two lines of investigation are, however, in a measure distinct. It may turn out that a large proportion of clever children never attain to anything but mediocrity in later life, and yet that the majority of great men have been remarkable as children. Hence we may confine ourselves in the present essay to the second branch of the above inquiry, the retrogressive search for signs of precocity in the early life of those who have attained distinction.

It is to be remarked that even the limited inquiry to which we propose to confine ourselves here is a complex one. It includes, at least,

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »