Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/425

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

selves in order that certain manufactures may be established in the country? We answer, that if the people were really willing to impose the tax upon themselves, there would be no need of the law. It is just because if the cheaper goods were accessible, everybody would buy them, that the applicant for "protection" seeks to tie the hands of the public. But we are not without positive information as to the relation of protection to politics. We know that in the highest political circles men who have had the tariff fixed to suit themselves are regarded as having received important personal favors. They have been put in the way of accumulating large stores of "fat" at the expense of the public, and if they are not forward in yielding up a little of the fat, when required, to help the party that framed the tariff so accommodatingly, indignant chairmen or secretaries of committees are apt to talk in a very menacing way about "frying the fat out of them."

The issue we see here is a moral one. Certain relations between the state and individuals are moral, natural, right. Certain other relations are abnormal, unnatural, wrong. Certain relations give rise to no evil; others are inseparable from evil. The protectionist régime is fruitful—can any candid man deny it?—in hypocrisy and fraud: hypocrisy on the part of those who, while solely intent on their own gain, make the most specious pretenses of patriotism and philanthropy; and fraud on the part of those who are led into attempts to evade a portion of the huge tax levied on the goods they import. The régime of non-interference would, in these two respects, lift a tremendous burden oft the morals of the community. Who can pretend, in the face of known facts, that the relations between the seekers after protection and the tariff-makers are of a moral kind? How is it possible that we should have honest legislation, when interest after interest is constantly appealing for assistance or the continuance or increase of assistance, pledging itself tacitly if not expressly to return the favor when election-day comes round?

A well-known French economist, M. Courcelle-Seneuil, has lately expressed himself so vigorously and pointedly on this subject in the columns of the Nouvelle Revue, that we are tempted to quote one or two of his observations. Speaking of the common opinion that it is the business of government to promote the wealth of the community by special legislation, he says: "All inquiry in regard to this matter demonstrates: (1) That governments in general have no competence in questions of trade and industry of a nature to authorize them to regulate and control these departments of activity; (2) that the best means of enriching a nation is to leave its industry and commerce absolutely free; (3) that in interfering in commerce and industry the governing power can only transfer to one citizen the wealth of another, contrary to the very end of its institution, which is to maintain peace by justice. Justice consists in defending individual citizens against the violence or fraud which their fellows might otherwise exercise against them, while leaving to each as far as possible the conditions of existence natural to him as an inhabitant of the planet. The government could only favor a certain number by giving them what it had taken from the rest; in other words, by practicing the very thing which its business is to prevent—namely, injustice. ... For example: I am carrying on an industry; I affirm that the nation has an interest in having that industry favored or 'protected,' as they say; I add that, if it is not protected, either by means of a bounty paid out of the public chest, or by a tariff that shall enable me to levy a tax upon consumers for my own benefit, I can not continue my business. One or other of the two affirmations may be false, and both commonly are. Nevertheless, the public are so accus-