The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 51
Chapter XIII. — Population, Debts, and Trade of the World
Population, Debts, and Trade of the World.
That there exists a great and general depression in trade throughout the United Kingdom is so notorious and recognised a fact, that it is needless to do more than to assert it. This depression has been growing in intensity since the year 1874, when it only just began to be perceptible; and the hopes that have from time to time been entertained that it had reached its maximum, and that a reaction was at hand, have hitherto been disappointed. What are the causes that have led to this untoward state of things? Are those causes of a permanent, or only of a transitory, nature? If the former, are they remediable by a change in our commercial policy? If the latter, when may we look for their ceasing to operate, and can any measures be devised to accelerate that result?
|1.||The amount of our foreign trade (combined imports and exports) has been diminishing since 1874.|
|2.||Since 1874 the price of almost every commodity, British and foreign, has been gradually falling—in many cases, considerably, but, more or less, in nearly all.|
|3.||Since then, there has been greater competition than page 46 before in neutral markets, between the English and foreign producer.|
|4.||The wages of labour have been forced down by the decline in the price of goods.|
|5.||Since 1874, there have been heavy failures among merchants, manufacturers, and banking establishments.|
|6.||Since then, the excess in the amount of our imports over that of our exports has exhibited a marked and unprecedented increase.|
|7.||The inactivity of trade and the decline in prices have during the last few years been more or less general throughout the civilised world.|
|8.||The peace of Europe has been much disturbed the last few years by actual war and by rumours of war.|
|9.||Since 1874, there have been some additional large national defaulters in the payment of interest on the loans made to them.|
|10.||Since then, we have made fewer foreign loans, and embarked in fewer foreign enterprises than before.|
|11.||There is, and there has been of late years, a larger amount in the country than usual of surplus unemployed capital.|
Before we enter on the consideration of these various topics, we must put forward an important statistical document which we have been at some pains to draw up as accurately as possible. It exhibits at a glance a comparative view of the population, of the indebtedness, and of the foreign trade of every country that can make any pretension to be called civilised. By a reference to it, it will be seen that, 1st, it records the financial and commercial position of fifty-six states whose united population amounts to nearly 1,200,000,000—that is, within about 200,000,000 of the computed population of the entire globe.* 2nd. The page 47 amount collectively due, for loans made to them, by the specified fifty-six governments to a number of individuals residing in all parts of the world, is £4,818,000,000, and on that sum the lenders are entitled to yearly interest according to certain stipulated rates. Seventeen states, however, have ceased paying interest on their debts, amounting to £929,000,000. On the remaining amount, viz., £3,889,000,000, interest is being paid, and of this interest, we are led, by what research we have been able to make, to estimate the average rate to be per cent. Assuming this to be correct, the holders of these various government stocks are in the annual receipt of £165,000,000 from the aggregate of the indebted countries. It may be remarked that these loans were contracted for at somewhat less than the nominal capital, not all of which therefore passed into the borrowers' hands, but they, nevertheless, engaged to repay the nominal capital in full, and meanwhile to pay interest thereon.
In the customs' returns of a country's imports, the amount is always in excess of that which has actually to be paid to the foreigner; for the valuation taken of them includes freight, insurance, and other expenses, whereas the foreign sender has only to receive the net amount after deduction of those charges. To him the importer has only the cost of the goods to pay; he has to pay the freight to quite a different person, viz., to the ship-owner. What percentage must, on the average, be deducted from the customs' valuation of imports in order to arrive at the correct sum which accrues to the foreign sender is a question of some difficulty. On cheap and bulky articles the percentage of freight is large, as is also the insurance when the voyages are long. On the other hand it is the reverse on compact articles of value and on short voyages. Taking everything into consideration, we have come to the conclusion that we shall be near the mark in estimating the average of freight, insurance, and other minor charges at 11 per cent, on the customs' valuation of imports. Accordingly, if we take 11 per cent, off the £1,456,000,000, which we find imported into all countries during the one year given, it reduces the amount to page 48 £1,296,000,000, which is within a mere trifle of the £1,316,000,000 exported, in totality, by the same countries during the same year.
Tabular view of the Population, Indebtedness, and Foreign Trade of all the (more or Less) Civilised Countries of the Earth.
|N.B.—I.||In the figures given 00,000's are omitted : that is, our figures represent millions and tenths of millions. Thus, 5.9 stands for 5,900,000; £16. for £16,000,000, and so on.|
|2.||The population, debt, and annual trade given are those of the latest year of which we could obtain a record.|
|3.||The annual foreign trade given is the aggregate of both imports and exports.|
|4.||The National Debts include both the home and the foreign, but not the floating debts.|
* From the reports of the latest African travellers, we are led to think that the population of Central Africa has hitherto been underrated, and we are inclined to estimate the number of the uncivilised nations of the earth (those not enumerated in our table) at nearly 400,000,000; which would make the total population of the earth about 1,600,000,000.