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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/303

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY.

 

JANUARY, 1888.


 

GOVERNMENTAL INTERFERENCE WITH PRODUCTION AND DISTRIBUTION.
By Hon. DAVID A. WELLS, LL. D., D. C. L., Etc.
ECONOMIC DISTURBANCE SERIES, No. VII.

ANOTHER factor of the economic disturbance of recent years (i. e., since 1873), and one which, in the opinion of the members of the British Commission "On the Depression of Trade and Industry" (1886), and also of most European writers, has been largely instrumental in occasioning universal depression of business, has been the increasing tendency among nations to favor and practically carry out the policy, that the prosperity of their respective people can be best promoted by artificially stimulating domestic industries on the one hand, and imposing restrictions on international commerce or the free interchange of products with foreign nations on the other.

After the repeal of the "Corn Laws" by Great Britain in 1846, and the subsequent gradual abandonment by that nation of its former illiberal commercial policy—followed, as were these measures, by a remarkable development of British trade and industry—the tendency of popular sentiment and the policy of governments throughout the civilized world was unquestionably in the direction of emancipating international trade from all arbitrary restrictions; and between 1854 and 1870 the leading nations negotiated numerous treaties for international commercial reciprocity for the achievement of this object, and at the same time materially reduced their duties on imports. This movement (as is now almost forgotten), first found expression in the form of positive legislation in the United States, which in 1854 negotiated a treaty which provided for a free exchange of nearly all crude materials, and mutually free fishery privileges with the British provinces of North America; and, in 1857 (by a vote of 33 to 12 in the Senate, and 124 to 71 in the House) reduced its average duty on all