Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/306

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

foreign countries which has not within recent years materially advanced its import or export duties.

Russia commenced raising her duties on imports in 1877, and has continued to do so until the Russian tariff at the present time is in a great degree prohibitory, and one of the highest ever enacted in modern times by any nation, the aggregate value of its importations for 1886 being returned at only $194,450,000, a reduction of about 25 per cent in three years, or since 1883. It is also to be noted that, whenever Russia extends its dominion, laws are at once promulgated with the undisguised purpose of greatly restricting or entirely destroying any commerce which people of the newly-acquired territory may have previously possessed with other nations. Italy and Austria-Hungary raised their tariffs in 1878; Germany in 1879; France in 1881; Austria-Hungary again in 1883 and 1887; Switzerland in 1885; the Dominion of Canada in 1883 and 1887; Roumania in 1886; Belgium and Brazil in 1887; while in the United States, owing to the decline in the prices of goods subject to specific duties, the average ad-valorem rate of duty on dutiable merchandise has advanced from 41·61 per cent in 1884 to 45·55 per cent in 1886. In Spain the restrictions on trade have become so excessive, that the only relief open to the consumer is by alliance with the contrabandist, whose profession is becoming almost as well established as in the middle ages, when but for him, according to Blanqui, commerce would have well-nigh perished. In Holland, which has hitherto resisted all demands for increased restrictions on her foreign commerce, an association of manufacturers petitioned the Government in May, 1887, in favor of speedy legislation on the tariff, for the purpose of protection to home industries, and set forth the following as reasons for their request:

The national industry lives in a most difficult time. It seems that the last period of the battle of life has appeared for many of its branches. Foreign competition, steeled by protection, equipped and encouraged to a decisive battle for the overpowering of a market for the world, even appears to drive aside the most natural protections of native industry. Now flour has its turn; next, cattle and meat. In other words, the aim of adjacent and more distant countries appears daily more openly. The industry of the Netherlands is menaced with a total ruin by their oppression.

And, as further illustrations of the degree to which a restrictive commercial policy is favored, and the extremes to which it is practically carried, it may be mentioned that some of the small British islands of the West Indies (Trinidad and St. Vincent, for example) maintain duties in a high degree restrictive of the interchange of their comparatively small products; while Venezuela, in 1886, when new and prospectively rich alluvial deposits of gold were discovered within her territory, at once imposed a duty of £5 ($25) on her exports of "raw gold."

To many, doubtless, these economic phenomena do not appear to