The proceedings of the Christchurch Protection League remind U3 of the fable of the fly on the wheel. " See how fast we go," cried the exultant fly. The League have just held their fifth annual meeting, at which the members in attendance mutually glorified other, and incidentally admitted that they had done nothing but sit on the wheel. The chairman's report was a gem in its way. The League, it said, had recommended the establishment of distilleries within the which nothing had resulted, They had prepared a series of questions to manufacturers, "with a view to ascer- " taining what effect, if any, the new "Tariff had had upon the various " industries " ; and had been informed in reply that the questions w*ejre premature. They had passed a resolution condemnatory of an increase of the quota to country districts, which has nevertheless been carried j and they had opposed the election at Christchuich North of a Freetrader, who had been elected. After thi3 bald record, the chairman went on to congratulate the League "on the success of their efforts "; taking credit for the increase of exports, which is due to natural results, and for the decrease of imports, which is due to the fluctuations of trade. But true to the tactios of the fly on the wheel, these things, harvest and all, are attributed to Protection; and the adoption of a Protectionist itariff is accredited to the League. Some of those present, such as Mr Perceval, M.H.R, were too astute or too honest to accept this pleasing fallacy, and admitted that the Tariff was not adopted for the purposes of Protection,' but simply as a means of increasing the revenue. " Though the Government " had given them a modicum of Pro"tection," he said, "they were not "their friends." Another of the speakers was not more happy in his congratulations, for he was compelled to admit that it was "somewhat peculiar" that out of a " supposed membership of 200," which appears to be the full strength of this powerful League—a society that proposes to revolutionise the policy, of the country and to regulate the course of trade—" they had only received subscriptions during the year of £3." However, we observe by the report that they are still in possession of the sinews of war, having no less than £1 2s 6£d to their credit, upon the strength of which they propose still further to augment our exports and curtail our imports. It would be a waste of effort to try to make them understand that, if a trader continues to send out more in value than he receives in return, he will soon become insolvent; and that countries are in the same position. If an excess of imports were adverse to the prosperity of a country, Great Britain should be on the verge of financial ruin ; for the surplus of her imports over exports amounts to one hundred millions sterling per annum. Protectionist Victoria, too, must be in a bad way, for her imports exceed her exports by nearly seven millions per annum. One fallacy is always the begetter of another j and therefore it was not surprising to find members of the "League" trotting out the wind-galled delusion that the balance is sent out to us in gold, and remains here. As a matter of fact this, unfortunately, is not the case. - Most of it remains in Britain to pay interest on loans, public and private, and this is the reason that it is not returned in the shape of imported merchandise. But if the League cannot be convinced of the error of their ways, there is consolation in the reflection that the funds at their command will not enable them to do much mischief.
The great popgun of the meeting was Mr Reeves, who appeared in the dual capacity of member of the House and editor of the 'Lyttelton Times,' and excelled himself in both. He told his audience that it was rather "uphill "work lighting the battle of Pro- " tection, because Freetrade was mainly "supported by the educated classes, " and by the wealth and influence of " the Colony " —admissions we should scarcely have expected such an astute young gentleman to make. " But," he said, "whilst this was so, they had " the knowledge that they had the " sympathy of the great mass of the "people with them"—who, presumedly, judging from this utterance, are neither educated nor influential. Well, the " great mass of the people," so far as Ohristchurch is concerned, appears t3 be a limited number, if the outcome of the " League's" operations may be accepted as a criterion. The subscription to that organisation, as we learn from the speeches, is only 2s 6d a year; and the amount of the year's subscriptions shows that no more than twenty-four subscribers rallied to the standard of the " League." Not only this, but they did not even put in an appearance to show their "Sympathy." "Though they did not pay up," said one of the Leaguers, "he " should like to see the members come "to their meetings. The one they " now held was the worst attended "since their inauguration in 1884." Possibly by this time they have been better educated, and, in consequence, have found out what a hollow sham Protection is. Mr Reeves waxed very pathetic on the. signi%;ant fact that at the recent election&ifor Ohristchurch North and Nelson, Freetraders had been returned in place of Protectionists who formerly represented those districts, and that Mr John .Bryce—whom Mr Reeves ad» mitted was " not only a staunch
Freetrader, but an able Freetrader " was likely to be returned for Waipa. The truth is that, in times of depression, men turn for relief to any panacea that political quacks oiler for acceptance. With the advent of better times and improved prospects, the Protectionist party are losing ground; and they know it. Hence the urgent appeals to the scanty audience to band together at the next election for the purpose of displacing the present Ministry. " They " must support those who were their " friends—the Opposition," cries Mr Reeves. " Codlin's your friend, not Short " : but it is Codlin who says so, and the assertion is capable of heavy discount. " Because the present Go- " vernment had given them the Tariff " they must not be blinded, as promi- " nent members had supported the ,•' Tariff, nob because they cared for it, 11 but because the taxation would fall *• on the mass of the people through the " Custo7ns." With this admission on the part of Mr Reeves we are content. Will " the mass of the people " be silly enough to support a policy which- their Protectionist friends now avow causes the taxation to fall most heavily upon themselves 1
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PROTECTION DISCOUNTED., Evening Star, Issue 8055, 4 November 1889
PROTECTION DISCOUNTED. Evening Star, Issue 8055, 4 November 1889
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