Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/453

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COMMON SENSE AND THE TARIFF QUESTION.

In the analysis which I shall present in this essay, I shall endeavor to prove how readily the remainder of the necessary contributions of the people to the support of the civil government may be collected wholly from taxes on articles of luxury or of voluntary use, or on the finer textiles which are dependent on style and fancy for their sale, without putting any tax of any kind upon any commodity, either partly manufactured, crude or raw material, which is necessary in the processes of our domestic industry. I shall endeavor to show how the removal of $40,000,000 to $50,000,000 of obnoxious taxes now imposed upon this class of materials may open the way to products, sales, wages, and profits amounting to at least $500,000,000 a year, which such a policy would add to the resources of this nation, to be divided equitably among the people in the form of additional wages and profits; thus promoting domestic industry, enlarging the home market, raising both the rate and the purchasing power of wages, and increasing profits.

In the renewed discussion of the tariff question it has become unpleasantly manifest that men are taking positions which may soon lead to a very bitter conflict, in which contest mutual recrimination will cause distrust and may prevent any suitable reform of the tariff being carried into effect, as it ought to be, by the common consent and governed by the common sense of all men who are directly interested in the matter, and by the application of that sound business judgment which should be applied to this business question.

It is very true that there are moral as well as political considerations underlying the whole problem of the tariff. Such being the case, it is a matter of duty for the citizen who will not be directly affected either in property or in person in any considerable measure by any changes in our tariff legislation, yet to watch it and to give it a true direction. The effect of tariff measures, considered from the money point of view in their burden or their benefit, has, I believe, been very much overrated; but the evil of dependence upon legislation in the conduct of industry can not be exaggerated.

In the way in which this subject of tariff reform is now being treated, whatever is done will be badly done; therefore, great harm


    In this connection, however, it may well be remembered that the interest on our public debt at its highest point amounted to more than $150,000,000. It is not probable that pensions and interest will exceed, if they equal, this sum. This great obligation for interest did not prove to be inconsistent with a large excess of revenue which has been so wisely applied to the reduction of our debt. The attempt to spend the public money in order to prevent the reduction of the tariff has probably culminated; but the increase of the obligation for pensions renders a scientific or common-sense treatment of the tariff question yet more necessary than it was before.