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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 56

Reciprocity Explained. — Leaflet No. XXV

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Reciprocity Explained.

Leaflet No. XXV.

Cobden Club Motto

Terms, like coins, wear out by use and misuse.

Protection is one of these terms. It was a bright, well-gilt piece of currency, bearing the lineaments of an unduly fat farmer on one side and a plethoric landlord on the other, and was largely circulated at Election and Agricultural Dinners. But during the Anti-Corn Law Agitation the gilt was rubbed off, when there were discovered on one side groups of hungry families and on the other a workhouse. The coin became defaced, broken and battered, and it had to be returned to the mint of worn-out words.

A few years ago it re-appeared stamped with the plausible name of "Fair Trade." Though very well coined, it was mere bronze metal; it never got well taken up. Lately it has been "called back," and another piece, supposed to have a better ring about it, entitled "Reciprocity," is now offered for circulation.

As Reciprocity is an old acquaintance under a new face, the present generation of readers hardly know it again. Their fathers knew it well. As everybody is destined to hear a good deal of it, it will be useful to many to explain it.

The Governments of some Foreign Countries, finding traders complaining of lack of customers and workmen complaining of low wages, say—

"We know an excellent way of relieving you. All articles which you need, and which English merchants sell in your markets at forty shillings, we will make dearer by putting a duty of ten shillings upon each. The merchants will then charge you fifty shillings for each article. He will pay us ten shillings for permission to sell to you, and you will pay him ten shillings extra for each thing you buy. We shall be all those ten shillings richer, and you will be all those ten shillings poorer."

This is Protection.

The Conservative party and others in England, learn- page break ing that distress largely prevails, advise the English Government to take up the same parable and say to the people—

"We will soon put that distress all right. In America, Canada, and other countries, they levy a heavy duty upon all our goods exported to them, which makes them dearer to the buyers. This is considered a great boon to poor people, and a form of relief in their distress, since it obliges them to pay a much higher price than they need do for what they want. We will therefore put an import duty on all articles, wheat or goods, which other countries send into our markets, so that every article they now sell the English people at forty shillings shall pay a duty of ten shillings, which wall raise the price to fifty shillings here. We shall have ten shillings collected at the Custom House upon each article, and the half-employed, half-starved people will have to pay it."

This is Reciprocity.

"This," they say, "will soon relieve the distress. All that is wanted is that the people should ask for this themselves. If they do they shall surely have it."

Protection means the Government plundering the people. Reciprocity means the people plundering themselves.

Those who propose it do not speak in this plain manner, but this is what they would say if they did speak plainly.

There are several kinds of Reciprocity—good, bad, and foolish.

When we say one good turn deserves another, that is good Reciprocity.

When men propose to meet one evil turn by another of the same kind, that is bad Reciprocity.

But when another nation taxes our commodities brought into its markets, and makes them dearer to all inhabitants who buy them there, and we propose to tax their commodities sent to our markets, making them dearer to all our own people who purchase them here, that is mad Reciprocity.

If it were not advocated as a political remedy by respectable politicians, the proposal would be brought under the notice of the Lunacy Commissioners.

George Jacob Holyoake.

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