The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 51
10. Some protected nations are prosperous, therefore Protection is a benefit
10. Some protected nations are prosperous, therefore Protection is a benefit.
In this sentence the word "therefore" is entirely out of place. It involves a non sequitur. It might just as well be said that whereas some ignorant persons are clever, therefore ignorance is a benefit. We hold, on the contrary, that those protected nations which are prosperous are prosperous not because of, but in spite of, Protection—just as we hold that the ignorant persons who are clever, are clever not because of, but in spite of, their ignorance. No doubt, protected nations may and do attain a certain degree of prosperity in spite of Protection, for its evil influence only stunts without destroying their productive power. What we contend, is that they would be far more page 33 prosperous if they adopted Free Trade. We have never said that protected nations accumulate no wealth, but simply that they would accumulate it much faster if they abandoned the protective system. If a property being badly managed yields an income of £1,000 per annum, whereas under good management it would yield £1,500, it does not follow that the owner is utterly ruined by his bad management, but it does follow that, through it, his income is £500 per annum less than it might be. Neither does it follow that, because a badly-managed property yields a comfortable income, "therefore bad management is a benefit." The owner is prosperous not because of, but in spite of, his bad management. By adopting a better system, he might add 50 per cent, to his income.
The mere fact of a nation's comparative prosperity is surely no bar to improvements that may render that nation more prosperous still. It will be time enough to scout improvements and arrest progress, when we have reached (if ever we shall reach) the extreme limits of human perfectibility. Till then it is irrational to say, "We are prospering, and we therefore decline entertaining any scheme for the increase of that prosperity." To allege that the Free Trade scheme will not conduce to such increase of prosperity, affords a fair and legitimate subject for discussion. We contend that it will, and have adduced our reasons for coming to that conclusion. But to contend that Free Trade is an evil merely because a certain amount of prosperity has attended the opposite system, is an inconclusive inference, since it does not exclude the probability that a much greater amount of prosperity might have attended the Free Trade system; in which case, Free Trade would have been a benefit. No argument against Free Trade is deducible from that style of reasoning. Nations progressed at a certain rate before the application of steam to locomotion by sea or land, but afterwards the rate of that progress was greatly accelerated. So do we say that nations may prosper to a certain extent before the application of Free Trade to their international relations, but that when so applied that prosperity will increase in a greatly accelerated ratio.
The Protectionist proposition is a mere statement of page 34 opinion, unaccompanied by any proof, and therefore our contradiction of it must partake of similar vagueness. The truth or fallacy of either opinion must be reasoned out on other grounds. Indeed, the issues raised have been fully discussed by us in other shapes. Mere assertion can only be met by counter-assertion, and therefore, to sum up, the truth is that Some Protected Nations are Prosperous; but they would be Far more Prosperous still under Free Trade; therefore Protection is an Evil.