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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/309

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295
GOVERNMENTAL INTERFERENCE.

however, be regarded as wholly exceptional, and that of the United States as partially so. In the case of the former, her recent increased restrictions on foreign commerce, through greatly increased duties on imports, have not, apparently, been due to the acceptance of any economic theory in respect to trade, or with any reasonable expectations that an extensive prohibition of imports could permanently add to her revenues from customs; but rather because such action is an essential part of what seems to be a larger and fully accepted national policy, which aims to banish and exclude from the empire everything foreign in its nature and origin—merchandise, language, literature, immigration, and religion. While in the case of the latter the fiscal policy of the country for now more than a quarter of a century has been based upon the idea that foreign trade is injurious, and therefore importations, without which there can be no exportations, should be prevented.

Leaving Russia out of account, the nation that took the initiative in breaking in upon the system of comparatively free international exchanges that had gradually come to prevail among the commercial nations of Europe since 1860 was Austria-Hungary, which, feeling the necessity of securing larger markets for her manufactured products, increased her tariff in 1878, with the avowed expectation of obtaining, through new negotiations, greater commercial advantages or concessions, more especially from Germany, than were enjoyed under existing treaties. A similar policy also found favor at about the same time in France, and under its influence the "Anglo-French" and other commercial treaties were either allowed to lapse or were "denounced," and a new general tariff was constructed. The result was not what was probably anticipated. Increased restrictions on imports on the part of Austria, in place of inviting concessions led at once to retaliatory tariffs by Italy and Germany, and the example thus set has been followed by one European Continental state after another, each raising barrier after barrier against the competition of other nations, until all stability of duties on the numerous frontiers has practically ended, baffling the calculations alike of exporters and importers, and making the development of almost every trade and industry dependent on bounties, subsidies, and restrictions on exchanges, rather than on their own inherent strength and enterprise.

The following examples are illustrative of recent procedures in continuation of this policy: In 1885 Germany deliberately excluded Belgian linen from her markets. This act has not as yet been followed by reprisals by Belgium; but the action of Germany, in twice augmenting in recent years her duties on breadstuffs (i. e., 1880 and 1885), has been promptly imitated by Austria-Hungary, whose export of cereals was seriously affected. But, notwithstanding these increased duties on the movements of grain between Germany and Austria, the prices of cereals in both of these countries have since continually re-