This section is from the "The Science Of Wealth" book, by Amasa Walker.
The importance of this element will be seen in the following remarks from Dr. Allen's excellent work on "India, Ancient and Modern: " —
" India has valuable iron mines (the writer once heard a distinguished geologist, who had been inspecting them, say they contained iron enough to supply the world); and yet nearly all the iron used in the country is procured from Europe, because the iron mines are in one province, and the coal is in another."
4th, Not that the manufacture here lacks a good natural protection. America has been put at a great distance from Europe. The effects of such a protection we have already seen. The foreign product is, in this case, charged with freight and insurance for a voyage of three thousand miles. This, with articles having little bulk or weight for the value, might not serve as a great encouragement to the home product; but, with iron, it is a very considerable item.
Why, then, with all these facilities, do we not produce all our iron without governmental protection? There is but one reason.
We can do better. We can obtain our iron with less labor than by making it.
How can this be? Because, though we have facilities for making iron, greater perhaps than any other people, we have still greater facilities for raising agricultural products.
We can raise forty bushels of wheat with, say, twenty days' labor that will purchase a ton of iron, to produce which would cost twenty-five days' labor: net saving, five days, or twenty per cent on all our iron.
What is the explanation of this state of things?
Land is an instrument, and the greatest of all, in producing agricultural values. Good arable land, on which wheat is raised in England, is worth, say, two hundred dollars an acre.
In this country, the same is worth, say, twenty dollars.*
* Often not a fourth part of that sum. The government holds the best wheat land at one dollar and twenty-five cents, and gives it away to actual settlers.
Then, with our price of land, we have the advantage, so far, over the European, in the production of crops, of nine-tenths, or ninety per cent. Our capital in land is ten times as productive as that of England. On the other hand, we have not an equal advantage over the European in making iron; for, although it costs him more labor (and labor is, as we have said, the chief item in making iron), that labor costs him much less per day than it costs us; say, at least, fifty per cent less. So that, if it is estimated to cost him twice as much labor to make iron, still labor costs him no more in money than ours costs us. In respect of labor, then, we are on a level.
So far as money, as capital is concerned, the European again has the advantage of us by fifty per cent, since money is as well worth eight per cent here as four per cent there.
Now, these facilities which the European has, from the cheapness of labor and capital, counterbalance to a great extent, if not fully, the advantages which we have from the ease with which we can get the materials of which iron is made.
If so, in getting our iron by raising wheat, we have the net advantage over the European of ninety per cent in the land, which is the great item of expense in such products; so much so, indeed, that the pure rent of farms in England is estimated to equal the entire wages of the agricultural laborers.
Thus it is that our unequalled natural advantages, arising from cheap virgin lands, render it unprofitable for us to make iron, or engage in many other kinds of manufactures.
Such is the situation. We will now apply protection". Government, in 1816, laid a duty of thirty dollars per ton on bar iron; equal to about fifty per cent on the cost of the foreign article. Let us inquire into the effect of this policy, 1st, Iron was produced. Labor and capital were at once withdrawn from other occupations, and invested in furnaces and iron-making. We undertook to make iron ourselves, under the belief, that, with a protection of thirty dollars per ton, the manufacture would be found very profitable. So far, the object of the duty was accomplished.