This section is from the "The Science Of Wealth" book, by Amasa Walker.
Economically, it will ever remain true, that the govern ment is best which governs least. The wants of a people are the sole proper, the sole possible, motives for production. Nothing can be substituted for them. Any thing that seems to take their place is merely a debasement of them. The interests of producers, whether laborers or capitalists, secure, better than any other possible means, the gratification of such wants. Their intelligence is always superior on such points to that of any foreign body. These we believe to be absolute affirmations of universal experience, not dependent on reasoning, not condescending to argument.
General proposition: There is no sense so subtile as that with which a man detects his own wants. There is no spur so sharp as that which urges him to satisfy them.
This is all the defence it seems necessary to make against the direct attack of the protection theory. It will be more troublesome when we meet it in alliance with other interests, on ground not its own, and displaying uncertain colors.
If, then, protection is founded on false economical principles, we should expect to find it working mischief in its application to national industry, perverting the desires, crippling the efforts, and plundering the satisfactions of society.
Since the subject is of great practical importance and of great popular interest, we will take an illustration at length from the history of American industry, exhibiting the principles thus far attained.
We choose the manufacture of iron, for six reasons: —
1st, Because it may be produced in great amount in our own country, and is found in almost all others. There is, therefore, nothing of the nature of a monopoly about it.
3d, Because it is one of the most simple of all manufactures.
4th, Because it has been tried on a large scale, affording material for great inductions, and freeing the results from any imputation of accident.
5th, Because the public attention has been turned to it for a long time, and it is better understood than any other we could name.
6th, Because a stronger argument can be made in favor of its receiving governmental protection than any other.
What is the fact in regard to the manufacture so described? At present, iron cannot be so cheaply and extensively produced in the United States as to exclude the foreign article. Why is this? We answer negatively: —
1st, Not that we do not know how to make it. Being, as has been said, the most simple of all manufactures, we have had, from the earliest settlement of the colonies, the necessary knowledge, and have produced it from our colonial days.
2d, Not that we have not sufficient capital. No branch of business is more accessible than iron-making, or requires less capital proportionally. As a matter of fact, the business was commenced with little difficulty, and we succeeded up to a certain point. Had it been as profitable as other branches of industry, it would, like the manufacture of boots and shoes, have been extended to the full demands of the country. Yet the latter industry has been carried nearly to the full demand. The former has stopped far short of it.
It is to be observed, in this connection, that a successful business, once started, creates its own capital. Labor no more seeks assistance from capital, than capital employment by labor. Every year of profitable enterprise affords a surplus, which can be applied to the increase of business more efficiently than twice the amount of raw capital, coming in the lump. The daily or monthly increments are applied with an aptness and a promptness that make them far more useful than wholesale, occasional accessions of capital from abroad.
3d, Not that we have not the best natural facilities for the manufacture.
Five great conditions of success are found most remarkably in the United States, — (a) Our ore is not only of excellent quality and most abundant, but (b) is found very generally on the surface and (c) in proximity to the best river navigation, and almost always in close juxtaposition to (d) coal for smelting, and (e) limestone for flux. Perhaps in no other country of the world are these requisites so fully secured. The absence of a single one of them might be sufficient to destroy the prospect of production.