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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/768

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744
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

or basket clause at the end to catch any article that could not be included in any enumeration. This desire to fix specific rates upon each imported commodity has been applied more generally in the law of 1897 than in any previous tariff act. An examination of the imports of manufactures of textile fibers will illustrate this increase of complexity without any increase of revenue. Indeed, these classifications and rates, being suggested by interested parties, have for their object a reduction of imports, and as a rule a reduction in revenue from them follows.

The second objection to the increasing complexity of the tariff laws is to be found in the petty annoyances imposed upon importers and others in enforcing the not always consistent provisions of the law. These vexations are made all the more telling by the fact that the administration of the law is apt to be in the hands of those who are openly hostile to foreign importations, and therefore regard the importer in an unfriendly spirit. The power given to the customs agents is enormous, and it is not remarkable that it is abused. The demand for samples, the appraisement of articles, the classification of new or compound commodities, all offer room for controversy, which is not always decided by an appeal to the courts of justice. In special instances, where a section of the law has been framed in behalf of a special interest, the attempt to enforce it becomes petty tyranny of the most intolerable kind.

In operation the law soon exhibited its failure as a revenue measure. Although duties were generally increased, the more important articles taxed yielded a smaller revenue than under lower rates. The aggregate collections under the bill did not meet the expectations of its sponsors, and for two reasons: first, because the higher duties discouraged imports; and secondly, the demand for imported articles was steadily decreasing under the expanding ability of home manufactures to meet the needs of the market. No measure short of a direct encouragement to importations can change this situation, or prevent the further shrinkage in the use of foreign manufactures. It follows that the tariff, unless radically altered, can no longer be depended on for a return sufficient to defray one half of the rapidly increasing expenditures of the national Government. By refusing to impose moderate duties on articles of general consumption, revenue is sacrificed; by insisting upon imposing protective duties where little revenue can be had, the tariff is converted into a political weapon. Its dangerous qualities are strengthened by turning these duties against the products of certain countries, a policy specially fit to invite reprisals.

Even the framers of this latest tariff entertained the belief that some provision should be made for breaking its full effect. The