The Farmers of America and a Policy of Protection.
(From the Aberdeen Free Press.)
It is a matter calculated to excite no little surprise that a rigidly Protectionist ; policy should be so tenaciously adhered to by a country like America, half the working population of which consists of persons engaged in agriculture, and who are dependent for a profitable livelihood upon a foreign market for their produce. It is doubtless an advantage to a country to be able to convert its raw material into manufactured goods at home, provided it can economise time and labor, and consequently effect a material saving by so doing. But the tendency of protective tariffs, especially in new countries, is to divert labor from the channels into which it would naturally and legitimately gravitate into others where it can be less profitably employed. Such a policy is, at best, but a false stimulant to industrial progress, and when carried to such an extreme as has been the case in America, it has evidently retarded instead of stimulating manufacturing energy; for the export of cotton manufactures from the States only increased by LIOO,OOO between 1860 and 1878, whereas the cotton exports of England in the same period increased hy L 12,000,000. In an address just issued to “ The Western Farmers of America,” by Mr. Mongredien, the evil effects of the protective system was brought into strong relief by a few telling facts. There are, at the present time, at least 7,000,000 of the adult male population of the country engaged in agricultural pursuits ; and it is computed that their average annual expenditure on all articles of consumption, except food and drink, is not less than L4O per annum, amounting, in the aggregate, to L 280,000,000. Now, instead of being able to lay out this vast sum in the cheapest market, it is nearly all expended in the dearest. On all kinds of articles of clothing, on iron and steel manufactures, and on earthen and other ware, ad valorem import duties, varying from 20 to 77 per cent, are levied. These duties are so high as to be almost prohibitive, but, nevertheless, we find that 1,20,000,000 of European goods are annually imported into the United States, “ where they must leave a profit to the senders, or they would not be sent.” That this tariff is solely adjusted for protectionist, and not revenue purposes, is shown by the fact that the heaviest rates “are imposed on articles ol general and necessary consumption” ; and the average rate levied is 42J —or, say, 4C per cent, on their value. This, Mr. Mongredien argues, “is the measure _ oi the difference between the prices which the Western farmers now' pay for what they consume, and those which they would pay were foreign articles admitted dutj free.” There is a measure of exageeratior in this, however, as the element of in ternal Competition keeps the excess of price charged by the Americar manufacturer under the amount o: the duty levied in its foreign com petitor. But, even so, the Americar consumer pays an enormous sum for tin privilege of getting his goods manufacturer: by his brother, instead of his cousin: and what is worse, nobody seems to derivi any benefit from it. The State gets litth for its share ; and it has been pretty wel ascertained that the profits of the manu facturers in the Eastern States are “pre carious, fluctuating, and by no mean! above the average of other occupations. ’ During the six years from 1873 to 1871 the average number of commercial failure was 78GG, considerably more than doubli the average of the previous seven years Bat there is another point still where th< Protective shoe is beginning to pinch the American farmer ; it tends to hamper hii dealings with his foreign customers, bias • much as, +he import trade being all.bu crushed out, vessels get little ar no freigh from Europe to America, and they mak up for it by “charging nearly doubt freight on the cotton, grain, and othe produce they convey from America b Europe.” Then again, the Americai mercantile navy, instead of expanding lik , the commerce of the world, is less than i was 20 years ago. It has declined fuon 5,000,000 to 4,000,000 tons, whereas thi , English tonnage has increased fron i 4,350,000 to 6,115,000. “ Formerly,” say Mr. Mongredien, “ your mercantile nav; shared the carrying trade of the -work with England ; now, not only that is lost but your own produce is carried awaj from your own ports in foreign vessels Is it that the American of to-day ha degenerated in energy, skill, or enter prise? Not a bit of it. But here alsi Protection has shed its baneful influence. Iron has superceded wood in the construe tion of large ships, and your tariff make: iron nearly twice as costly to the Ameri can shipbuilder as it is to his Britisl rival.” The sudden abolition of the fisca
duties would necessarily be attended with danger and loss, and would, therefore, be unwise. Mr. Mongredicn does not advocate this, but he makes a strong appeal to the farmers —an appeal which applies to all classes of consumers—to pledge their representatives in Congress to vote for a reduction of five per cent, on the duties every successive year till the whole are abolished.
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Ashburton Guardian, Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 182, 2 November 1880
The Farmers of America and a Policy of Protection. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 182, 2 November 1880
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