This section is from the "The Science Of Wealth" book, by Amasa Walker.
We leave now the illustrations of the principles of protection, as exhibited in the manufacture of iron. We believe we have shown the unsoundness of all that political philosophy which proposes to substitute artificial for natural laws, in production. But there still remains some popular arguments, which we will notice.
1st, It is claimed as good policy to protect " an infant manufacture" until it is well established, because it will then take care of itself, and ultimately confer great wealth on the country. Of this it may be said: —
(a) There is no assurance, under a system which removes the sole test of usefulness and self-support from the production of a people, that enterprises will not spring up which never will come to maturity, which have no vital force of themselves, which exist solely by reason of the protection, and will never become remunerative. If good enterprises, why not bad, since the test of bad or good has been withdrawn? In such a rankness of unnatural growth, it is far more likely that weeds will be produced than useful plants. Thus the whole industry of a country may become perverted and falsified by removing the principle of competition. There will be no reason for healthful industries to spring up, which will not also give life to such as are weak, tardy, ephemeral; to such as are parasitic and exhausting.
(b) Other things aside, the desirableness of raising the " infant" will depend very much on the length of time and total cost required to bring it to full age and size. There have been nations that exposed sickly and unpromising children, holding it to be for the advantage of the state to rear none but such as promised to become vigorous and useful members of society. Religion and humanity have changed this, out of respect for the image of God found in every human creature; and now the cripple and the idiot are reared tenderly and patiently. But the protective policy extends the same kindness and forbearance to industry. No matter how plainly palsy, scrofula, or fatuity may appear in the form or features, the infant is sure of an affectionate solicitude, that only changes to become more anxious as the infant gets punier and weaker.
France protected one of these industrial infants; i.e., the beet-sugar culture. Dr. Wayland said of it, in 1887, " The present protection costs one million and four hundred thousand pounds per annum. Suppose this to continue for twenty years, it will amount to no less than twenty-eight million pounds sterling; the interest of which, at five per cent, will bring, at two and a half pence per pound, one hundred and twenty-six million pounds of sugar, or nearly the whole annual amount of sugar now consumed in France." In 1865, we can say that this child, born in the early part of the great Napoleon's career, has not yet become strong enough to walk alone, or hardy enough to take the air. Supposing an equable annual consumption of any article, it requires but common school arithmetic to show that a protection to the extent of fifty per cent, continuing for eighteen years, would amount to a sum, which, at six per cent interest, would furnish the nation in that article to the end of time, without ever paying any thing more for it. A child that is so costly to bring up ought to make a very useful man; whereas it is generally true that such children have to be brought up three or four times over, and then live on the poor-rates. If such a protection, however, were to be continued only eighteen years, and the necessity for it then cease, the industry having become self-supporting, it would yet be true that every pound would have two prices, added to each other: one, the present cost of making; the other, interest on old protection equal to the present cost.
In fact, iron and sugar have been protected in this country since 1816, and the duties still continue. And all for what? Where is the advantage of making a great annual sacrifice, for a long time, to establish an industry that will grow up of itself as soon as it will pay, as was growing up slowly, but successfully, before there was any protection?
(c) Finally, no sound and healthful manufacture needs protection at all. The phrase " infancy " is entirely sophistical, as applied to any branch of legitimate industry. Each one comes full-grown and full-armed into life. We do not mean that it has no growth, as far as extension is concerned. It certainly does go on from town to town, from State to State, out of small beginnings. But there is no infancy, so far as completeness or robustness of life is concerned. Suppose, for example, that there was but one manufacturer of iron in the country, and he produced only to the amount of five thousand dollars a year. Yet, if he could bring to the market as good and cheap an article as the foreigner, he would be none the worse for being a solitary producer on some mountain in Pennsylvania. The security of any manufacture docs not reside in the number of those engaged, but in its power to meet the public wants. However few may be employed, however humble their beginnings, they stand simply in their ability to sell a good article at a reasonable price, and are as strong in this as ever was the proudest guild of London.
Of course, there is a period in every enterprise when all is experiment and outlay. But capital is always ready and able to meet the necessity. It belongs to capital to do this;, for it gets the remuneration of it when the yield begins.
There is a remarkable confirmation of the truth of these remarks in the history of the boot and shoe manufactures of the United States. They never asked for protection; never received any notice in all the conflicts for increased tariffs. The trade grew up naturally, steadily, and profitably, from the first; increasing gradually, with the growth of the country, until, at the present time, it is not only the largest, but one of the most profitable branches of manufacturing industry. In Massachusetts alone, this manufacture extends to over fifty millions of dollars annually, and is by far the most advantageous branch of industry in the State.
There is another popular argument for protection.
2d, It is claimed that we ought to protect our labor against the pauper labor of Europe.
Does a restrictive tariff do this? Does it prevent the laborers of Europe from entering into competition with ours? Does it not, in fact, bring them to our very doors?
For fifty years prior to the date of the first important tariff, viz. 1816, there was no immigration of any consequence. Soon after this, we began to attract skilled workmen. Some were expressly hired to come over to teach us how to spin, weave, &c. As we raised the tariff and increased manufactures, the current increased, until it has inundated the country. All Europe pours in its starved labor upon us.
What kind of labor naturally emigrates? The poorest, because the better by character and capacity can protect itself longer at home. An employer does not turn his good men off first.
Why so large a proportion of Irish? Because theirs is
the cheapest labor; the first thrown out in any reduction.
The tide, once turned upon us, kept swelling, till our nationality is almost in dispute. This immense immigration never came here in obedience to natural laws, but to the legislation of Congress. Instead of protecting American labor against the pauper labor of Europe, we have brought that labor here to meet the American citizen face to face, on a perfect level, with equal civil rights, and have given to him the advantage of our immense landed capital. Whether this is good state policy; whether a forced immigration, in such vast numbers as to prevent an easy and natural assimilation with the native population, is desirable or not, — it is not our province to discuss. That is a political question. It only belongs to us to show that no protection has been given to American labor.
3d, It has been gravely said, that the general average of all profits is raised by a protective policy.
If true, this is a valuable discovery. It affords the easiest known method of making everybody rich at once, and with out effort. Government has only to place sufficient restrictions on trade to carry up profits to one hundred per cent; and, when all trade has ceased, everybody's profits will be immense!
The folly of such assertions is too apparent to justify any considerable notice.
Where are the enhanced profits to come from? Out of the diminished production? Is the whole lessened, and every part increased? So far as protection creates a monopoly at the expense of the public, it may, for a while, add to the profits of an individual or a class, but only by taxing other industries for the purpose.
4th, But it is urged, leaving mere argument, do we not know that protection especially develops manufactures? and are not manufacturing countries found to be, in fact, richer than those which are more exclusively agricultural? Both propositions are true in an isolated form.
Other things equal, in a normal state of things, manufacturing communities are older than agricultural, and, of course, have much greater accumulated wealth. England is older and richer than the United States; Massachusetts than Ohio. Manufactures arise because a people have a dense population, abundant capital, and great industrial activity. Under such circumstances, great wealth will be created, because these are the fit conditions of creating wealth. Such creations are natural.
It is, without question, true, that in an equal manufacturing population will be found a greater accumulation of wealth. One important reason of this is, that a larger share of the population are engaged in production, and a larger amount of capital is employed. Women and children, who could earn but little in agricultural labors, can earn much in manufacturing. This is one of the most striking results of a division of labor, as we have already shown. As we carry on agriculture, women and children do little, though in Continental Europe they do much. Agriculture, too, can be performed only in certain portions of the year. Manufacturing need never stop, summer or winter, cold or hot, fair or foul. This makes a wonderful difference.
All these, however, are economical advantages, which manufacturing communities have, when properly constituted and employed. These are reasons which may induce such industry; never reasons why it should be compelled. If, with so great a superiority, manufactures do not arise freely and support themselves fully, it becomes a double argument for not forcing them. If such advantage will not secure free manufacturing, it is certain that compulsory manufacturing will not secure these advantages, without the sacrifice of other interests.
But all this argument in favor of manufactures, and these anticipations of agricultural glut, come out of a false idea of what are the natural relations of these two great branches of labor. Granted, that manufactures are a desirable form of national industry, give a good market for the produce of the farm and the mine, and help build up the common wealth; yet it is not necessary to bring them on by a forcing process, for they come of themselves as soon as profitable. We have already shown (page 86) that certain large classes of manufactured products receive such a natural or local protection as insures their home growth. But there are other classes which have an encouragement even more liberal. There is a principle always operating to bring manufactures out, on every part of the. earth's surface. It is the impossibility of carrying on certain branches anywhere but at the place where the article is wanted. The survey, grading, and construction of railroads and canals, forming as they do an immense portion of the public industry, cannot be brought within the purview of the custom-house. They are necessarily confined to the field in which these means of transport are to be used. These may stand as examples of a vast class of industry, which arises indifferently to protection. So all tinkering, patching, and repairing, great or small, must be done on the spot. A glance at any village, no matter how intimate its connection with some centre of trade, will show how large a share of its labor, other than agricultural, is employed in its local work; so that, one way and another, these classes of manufacturing interests, which inevitably come to the community without help of law, form a very considerable part of the whole.
The value of manufactured articles imported, for the four years preceding the war of the Rebellion, ranged from one hundred and fifty to two hundred millions a year; while the authorities of the treasury and of the census estimate the value of home manufactures at not less than one thousand millions a year, for the same period. Such comparisons are necessarily crude; but it would be far within bounds to say that four-fifths of all the present consumption of manufactures would be supplied by our national industry, irrespective of protection. All the matter, then, comes to this: Shall we impose heavy duties to force labor and capital into such channels as shall provide, at great expense, the remaining fifth of the manufactures we consume?
5th, Perhaps the most popular plea of all for protection looks to " the development of our natural resources." This does not propose to increase the gross or net product of national industry, does not assume or assert that the labor and capital of the country are not well employed at present; but it remembers the great mineral and metallic wealth we have yet hidden in the Middle States and the West, and it sighs for the thought of their uselessness. It regards as of no consequence the fact that digging or working the ores will not pay. It can only exclaim, " What a pity that such great advantage should be unimproved!" These reasoners would call labor off from the rich fields of agriculture, from no other motive than a desire to see our wonderful mineral treasures developed.
The answer to this species of patriotism may be very short. Since Nature has taken thousands of years to form these ores and store these mines, man can at least take time enough to wait till it will pay to dig them. It may seem to some a pity they should remain underground; but the true cause of the misfortune resides in the fact that we have not population enough to settle densely one-tenth of our territory. It is a misfortune that will cure itself as our numbers increase. We can certainly afford to leave for future generations what we cannot afford to take for ourselves.