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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/319

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305
GOVERNMENTAL INTERFERENCE.

an extraordinary and artificial stimulus more sugar has been produced than the world was ready to absorb, even at the reduced prices which the bounties made possible. The price of beet-root, and therefore of all sugar, has continued to decline, until the sugar-industry of Continental Europe (with the possible exception of France), is suffering under the severest depression. Many establishments have closed or passed into bankruptcy, and it is now well understood that the only profit available to the manufactories is that derivable from so much of their product as is exported, which, in the case of Germany, represents more than half of the annual production. In a recent discussion in the German Reichstag, Deputy Heine opposed the continuance of the present bounty system in that country, upon the ground that it was disastrous to the agricultural laborer, who had been compelled to sacrifice all his land to the beet-cultivators. These cultivators, who farmed upon a large scale, had effected many improvements in laborsaving machinery, and thus reduced the laborer's wages to a minimum; so that in some districts the laborers were little better off than serfs. At the same time the people of the sugar-producing states of Europe uniformly pay more for what proportion of their own sugars they consume than is paid by foreigners on the proportion exported. In Russia, where the depression is extreme, the manufacturers have petitioned the Government, but thus far unsuccessfully, to restrict production by law to whatever extent would be necessary to keep the price up to the point at which it stood when the domestic product was just sufficient to supply the home market; or, in other words, to permit production to continue at the producer's discretion, but not to allow him to sell anything over the regulation amount in the home market. The disaster which the extreme artificial reduction in recent years in the price of sugars has brought to other great business interests and to the material prosperity and even civilization of large areas of the earth's surface, can not well be overstated. In Barbadoes (British West Indies), in February, 1887, it was estimated[1] that the loss at that time on every ton of sugar produced and exported to London was £1 15s., and in the absence of all profit on what is almost the sole industry of the West Indies, it would seem as if civilization would disappear from many of the islands, as indeed it already has in a great degree from some of them—the island of Tortola, for example, which was, comparatively a few years ago, the seat of a profitable sugar-industry. In the Spanish islands of Cuba and Porto Rico, the taxation of sugar, mainly export duties, have hitherto constituted an important source of revenue, but within a recent time Spain, as a condition for saving the planters from ruin, has felt obliged to relinquish most of them. In Java, the situation of the sugar-industry is so deplorable that, in order to save it from destruction, with the consequent throwing of half a million of Javanese laborers out of employment, and thereby increas-

  1. "Barbadoes Agricultural Reporter," February, 1887.