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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/66

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

which are necessary or useful for the sustenance, comfort, and advantage of human life." There can be no dispute on this point. It is a self-evident truth. Aristotle tells us that he who rejects self-evident truths has no surer foundation on which to build. It follows, as a natural conclusion, that whatever interferes with or checks the natural flow of goods and commodities from one region to another, and from one class of men to another, is a decided loss to both classes. "If," adds Mr. Gladstone, "every country produced all commodities with exactly the same degree of facility or cheapness, it would be contrary to common sense to incur the charge of sending them from one country to another."

It has been the aim of protective legislation to offset those special aptitudes of production which foreign nations possess by artificial barriers. Such legislative acts have constituted, virtually, a leveling process whereby the natural flow of trade has been stopped. This has necessarily been attended with expense and loss of wealth. The premises may be stated in a different way. Since trade produces wealth, whatever increases trade increases wealth, and that which restricts trade restricts the production of wealth. Protection is restriction. Hence, protection hinders the production of wealth. It may be varied in another way: The growth of wealth is proportional to the growth of trade, and the growth of trade is proportional to its freedom from restraint. Hence the growth of wealth is proportional to the freedom which trade enjoys. Similarly, that monstrous statement that "protection does not tend to keep up prices" may be thus exploded; by stating the fact that free competition tends to reduce prices, and that protection hinders free competition. Ergo, protection hinders the reduction of prices. The premises here laid down are as self-evident as any truths regarding trade can be. In fact, they are contained in the definition of the words "free trade" and "protection" themselves. The protectionists have admitted them again and again, but yet so blinded have they become by their own method of induction, that they have been prevented from following out what reason dictates. The question is analogous to that of slavery. It was an argument used repeatedly during the Southern dispute that the slaves were better off under the slave trade. Numerous instances were given where the slave preferred to remain in slavery than to accept his freedom. Nevertheless, the question was decided on general principles, and the moral course has proved the economical one.

The party of protection, instancing the growth of the United States during the last quarter century—corresponding with the operation of the Morrill Tariff Act—challenges comparison with any period of equal duration in the world's history. It is doubtful if history could show any period which would stand compari-