The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 52
Rowing a Thousand Peters to Pay One Paul
Rowing a Thousand Peters to Pay One Paul.
"I can't make chairs and get a living out of them under 30s. a dozen, but they are imported, I believe from Austria, for 20s. a dozen. What am I to do?"
The inference intended is that a duty of 10s. a dozen should be put on Austrian chairs, to prevent them being brought into this country. This means that all the poor families of England must pay 10s. more for a dozen chairs than they need pay. This is robbing more than a thousand Peters to pay one Paul.
If this be done, the Pauls who will get all the half-sovereigns which the poor families pay will not be the chair-makers. In America and Canada, where Austrian chairs and all other things are kept out of those countries by Protective Duties, I found that articles of convenience and household comfort which cost £1 here, the workmen there had to pay £3 for, because Protection keeps lower-priced commodities from coming into their markets. As the working men had to pay prices 200 per cent, higher than in England, I asked them if their wages were 200 per cent, higher? when they owned that their wages were only 10 per cent in most cases, and seldom more than 20 per cent, higher than in England. So that the "blessings" of Protection actually robbed them of 180 per cent in their household and personal expenditure for comfort and convenience. Here was a pretty extensive robbing of the millions of unfortunate Peters to pay page break the few lucky Pauls, who gathered in the rich harvest which ignorance permitted them to reap.
If Austrian chairs are taxed, another thing happens—the Austrian chair-sellers, shut out from our market, cannot exchange their goods for other English goods they would buy. No business is done, and other trades lose customers. Then work is scarcer among other workmen, wages become lower, while the price of chairs rises, and so of all other articles all round; for no sooner shall the chair-maker get foreign chairs taxed to increase the cost of chairs in East London, than all other workmen will ask, and have an equal right to ask, that whatever trade they follow shall be equally protected, and nothing shall be imported untaxed which they make. All commodities would then rise, all trades would be protected, and all the people impoverished. The Peters would be robbed all round, and Paul would not be paid at all.
If Austrian chairs are once taxed, why not American wheat and all foreign corn? If the chair-maker is to be protected, why not the farmer? Then rents would rise, to the great delight of landlords, and bread would rise, until poor workmen were famished, as they were famished before, when everybody was protected and custom duties were paid upon a thousand commodities. The poor Peters of Protection had a bad time of it in those days.
"Has Protection been a benefit?"
"Trade is stagnant. The commerce of the country has decayed. Mills are standing idle. Where wages have not been stopped they are reduced. Mechanics and labourers go about seeking employment in vain. Women and children are beginning to want bread, and yet the farmer can find no profitable market for grain."
Thus it is that Protection robs many million Peters to pay a few Pauls. Is it possible that the Peters of England can be induced to believe in Protection or suffer it to be inflicted upon them?
George Jacob Holyoake.
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