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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 51

Chapter IV. — If Protection be Beneficial as between Country and Country, it must be Beneficial as between Province and Province

Chapter IV.

If Protection be Beneficial as between Country and Country, it must be Beneficial as between Province and Province.

If to protect native industry by putting such duties on foreign commodities as shall keep them out of the market, and compel the consumers to deal exclusively with native producers, be beneficial to a country, the same system must, for the same reasons, be beneficial if applied to the various page 18 provinces of that country. Let us take an instance. Wales at present buys her cotton goods from Lancashire, and her pottery from Staffordshire. There are a few small cotton-mills and three or four manufacturers of coarse earthenware scattered here and there throughout the Principality, but these cannot develop themselves under the competition of English producers. Wales therefore demands "protection for her native industry, through the imposition of such protective duties on English cottons and pottery as shall keep them out of the Welsh market. Supposing the request granted, the Welsh cotton-mills and potteries at once receive great extension; capital and labour are diverted to them from other industries, and the entire Cambrian community pays a heavy tax in the shape of high prices for bad goods, in order to support a few native manufacturers, and in order that capital and labour should be transferred from profitable to unprofitable employments. We will suppose, however, that this is a benefit to the Principality. If so—by parity of reasoning—why should not the native industry of Monmouthshire be protected against the competition of the Carmarthenshire producers? And if we continue to carry out the principle to its logical results, we finally arrive at a state of things which in primitive times did really exist—viz., that in which each family live on their own farm produce, and in clothes of their own spinning and making—a state of things in which there would be no imports, and which would afford complete protection against foreign competition.

We have put the case of England and Wales, but the reasoning equally applies to the various parts of which all large states are constituted. If America or France deem it good policy to protect their population from foreign competition at the expense of their foreign trade, they must, as a logical sequence, deem it good policy for California to be protected from the competition of New England, or for Provence to be protected from that of Normandy. Why should not San Francisco and Marseilles be protected against the cotton goods of Lowell and Rouen, so as to foster and develop cotton manufactures of their own? Why should the west of America be dependent on the east, or page 19 the south of France dependent on the north, for hardware or linen fabrics? The fact of San Francisco and Lowell, or of Marseilles and Rouen, being under the same national government does not affect the question of free trade or protection in the slightest degree, for this is an economic, not a political question. If a free interchange of commodities between two regions be an evil at all it must be an evil inherent to the system itself, and not convertible into a good, if the two regions happen to be under the same government. If it be to the advantage of a community to restrict its trade with the rest of the world by lessening its imports, it can make no difference as to the truth of that doctrine whether the community be large or small, or whether it be independent or politically connected with other communities. We shall have occasion in a subsequent chapter to advert again to this subject.