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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 52

Will a Five-Shilling Duty on Corn raise the price of Bread, or not?

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Will a Five-Shilling Duty on Corn raise the price of Bread, or not?

Buckle crest of the Cobden Club

Before answering this question I will ask another. If a duty on Corn would not have this effect who would have asked for it? The answer is—No one. The demand for it, although adopted by many Conservative candidates, comes from the Agriculturists, because a duty would raise the value of the corn which they grow; and from Landowners because it would increase their rents. But some of these candidates, who are coming forward for towns where corn is consumed but not grown, deny that it will have this effect. Let us examine into this.

The price of wheat, as of everything else, depends upon the supply keeping pace with the demand. If the supply is shortened, the price must rise. And the supply would be diminished by any increase in the cost of sending corn to England, because it would just make the difference to a large number of growers, page break of profit or no profit. Every farmer or grower in America, or India, or Russia, who gets a better price, even though it be but one shilling or two shillings a quarter, by sending it to England rather than by selling it at home, will of course send it here. But, if the cost of sending it here were increased by five shillings a quarter, the advantage would disappear, and the foreign grower would sell his corn in his own country, or grow some other crop. The supply here would then fall short of the demand, and the price would rise, to the grievous injury of the English consumer.

One of our ablest economists, Sir James Caird, has recently calculated that every shilling of duty on corn would cost the consumers in this country about four millions of pounds. Judge, then, what a burden would have to borne if a duty of five times this amount, or twenty millions of pounds, were imposed; and some have proposed even a heavier duty than this!

Moreover, this tax would fall most heavily on those who spend the largest proportion of their incomes on bread—namely, the working man.

We are bound, therefore, to resist to the uttermost this demand for a duty on the first necessary of life.

E. N. Buxton.

Messrs. Cassell & Company, Limited, La Belle Sauvage Yard, London, E.C., supply this Leaflet in packets of 100, price 1s.