Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/714

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



THE tariff question is one that will not down. So long as the government of any country interposes arbitrary obstacles to the activity of the people, so long as it undertakes to make artificial channels for industry, to open markets here and close them there, to dictate the prices at which goods shall be sold—so long, in a word, as it assumes the prerogatives of an all-wise Providence in directing the affairs of individuals and showing them how to be happy—so long will there be "a doleful song steaming up" of the ignorance, incapacity, and injustice that mark its action. We endeavored to show, a couple of months ago, that a policy of protection, as it is called, naturally and inevitably allies itself with fraud and extravagance in the Government, and we do not think the demonstration can easily be refuted. The essence of the protective system is that the Government or the Legislature undertakes to make higher prices for goods by shutting out competition from abroad. Is it to be supposed for one moment that the people for whom a favorable price is thus to be made will not give pecuniary support to the party that so arranges things for their benefit? Is it not perfectly known that election funds are provided in this way, and that the taxing power is thus virtually put up to sale? The crowning disgrace of the worst days of the Roman Empire was that the supreme power in the state was made a matter of bargain and sale with a corrupt soldiery. We are far removed from the days of the Roman Empire; but how far are we removed from its methods? The question is a serious one.

We publish in this number of the Monthly the conclusion of a carefully prepared article by Mr. Edward Atkinson bearing on this subject, the first part of which will be found in the August number—an article which we trust will receive the attention it merits. Take one statement that Mr. Atkinson makes—and he is a writer who is known to be careful about his facts: "On the plea that this branch of industry" (production of iron) "should be sustained, the consumers of iron and steel in this country have paid a sum in excess of the price paid by the consumers who have been supplied by Great Britain and Germany, ranging from $50,000,000 to $80,000,000 a year. The excess of price has not been turned over to the workmen by the owners of the mines and works." Not at all; the workmen have been left to compete as savagely as they chose with one another, and with a constant stream of new-comers; and the manufacturers, profiting thus by cheap labor, have been enabled to carve huge fortunes for themselves out of the excess in price secured to them by the Legislature. It is no wonder if want of gratitude for such big mercies struck Chairman Foster as a most hideous crime; but such ingratitude is the exception rather than the rule, and would chiefly manifest itself when the monopoly seemed secure against attack; a little danger would develop "barrels" of gratitude.

The misery is that we have a manufactured and altogether falsified public opinion on this subject—a public opinion, we fully believe, which, has not attained its present consistency without much not altogether disinterested advocacy. What is the use of having the "sinews of war" if you do not employ them? Money speaks in more senses than one; the chamber of Danaë is not the only sanctum that has been violated by a shower of gold. Be this as it may, however, certain it is that the public at