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|Protection or Free Trade; George, Henry|
4 paragraphs found.
In new countries the industries that yield the largest comparative returns are the primary or extractive industries which obtain food and the raw materials of manufacture from nature. The reason of this is that in these primary industries there are not required such costly tools and appliances, nor the co-operation of so many other industries, nor the co-operation of so many other industries, nor yet is production in large quantities so many other industries, nor yet is production in large quantities so important. The people of new countries can therefore get the largest return for their labor by applying it to the primary or extractive industries, and exchanging their products for those of the more elaborate industries that can best be carried on where population is denser.
That protective tariffs have injured instead of helped American manufactures is shown by the fact that our manufactures are much less they ought to be, considering our population and development—much less relatively than they were in the beginning of the century. Had we continued the policy of free trade our manufactures would have grown up in natural hardihood and vigor, and we should now not only be exporting manufactured goods to Mexico and the West Indies, South America and Australia, as Ohio is exporting manufactured goods to Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and Dakota, but we should be exporting manufactured goods to Great Britain, just as Ohio is to-day exporting manufactured goods to Pennsylvania and New York, where manufactures began before Ohio was settled. But so heavily are our manufactures weighted by a tariff which increases the cost of all their materials and appliances, that, in spite of our natural advantages and the inventiveness of our people, our sales are confined to our protected market, and we can nowhere compete with the manufactures of other countries. In spite of the increase of duties with which we have attempted to keep out foreign importations and build up our own manufacturing industries, the great bulk of our importations to-day are of manufactured gods, while all but a trivial percentage of our exports consist of raw materials. Even where we import largely from such countries as Brazil, which have almost no manufactures of their own, we cannot send
them in the manufactured goods they want, but to pay for what we buy of them must send our raw materials to Europe.
And here is the typical comment which the New York
Tribune, shocked for a moment out of its attempt to convince working-men that the tariff has improved their condition, makes upon this item:
"STARVED TO DEATH.
Tribune, Tuesday, laid before its readers a very sad story of death by literal starvation, at Dayton, O. The details of this case must have struck many thoughtful persons as more resembling the catastrophes we are accustomed to regard as appertaining to European life than those indigenous here. The story is old enough in general outline. First, a merchant, prospering; then decline of business, bankruptcy, and by degrees destitution, until pride and shame together brought on the culminating disaster. A few years ago it would have been said that such a fact was impossible in America, and certainly there was a time when no one with power and will to work need have starved in any part of this county. During that period, too, the strong elasticity and recuperative power of Americans were the world's wonder. No man thought much of failure in business. The demand for enterprise of all
kinds was such that no man of ordinary pluck and energy could be kept down. Perhaps this ability to recover was not so much a national peculiarity as an effect of the existing state of society. Certainly, as things settle more and more into regular grooves in the older States, the parallel between American and European civilization becomes closer, and the social problems which perplex those societies are beginning to overshadow this one also. Competition in our centres of population narrows more and more the field of unmoneyed enterprise. It is no longer so easy for those who fall to rise again. And social conventions fetter men more and tend to hold them within narrower bounds.
"The poor fellow who starved to death at Dayton the other day suffered on Old World fate. He was down and could not get up. He was deprived of his old resources and could not invent new ones. His large family increased his difficulties. He could not compete successfully with younger and less handicapped contemporaries, and so he sank, as thousands have done in the great capitals of Europe, but as hitherto very few, it is to be hoped, have sunk in an American community. Yet this is the tendency of a rapid increase of population and wealth. The struggle becomes fiercer all the time; and while the exactions of society enslave and hamper the ambitious increasingly, the average fertility of resource and swift adaptability decline, just as the average skill of workmen declines with the perfection of mechanical appliances. Commerce and the artificial requirements of social tyranny have already educated among us a class of people whose lives are a perpetual struggle and as perpetual an hypocrisy. They could live comfortably if they could give up display, but they cannot do it, and so they make themselves wretched and demoralize themselves at the same time. The sound, healthy American characteristics are being eliminated in this way, and we are rearing up instead a generation of feeble folks who may in turn become the parents of such hewers of wood and drawers of water as the Old World city masses have long been. And here, as there, our remedy and regeneration must come from the more vigorous and better-trained products of the country life."
Yet patient students of those times—such men as Professor Thorold Rogers, who has devoted himself to the history of prices, and has deciphered the records of colleges, manors and public offices—tell us that the condition of the English laborer was not only relatively, but absolutely better in those rude times that it is in England to-day, after five centuries of advance in the productive arts. They tell us that the working-man did not work so hard as he does now, and lived better; that he was exempt from the harassing dread of being forced by loss of employment to want and beggary, or of leaving a family that must apply to charity to avoid starvation. Pauperism as it prevails in the rich England of the nineteenth century was in the far poorer England of the fourteenth century, absolutely unknown. Medicine was empirical and superstitious, sanitary regulations and precautions were all but unknown. There was frequently plague and occasionally famine, for, owing to the difficulties of transportation, the
scarcity of one district could not be relieved by the plenty of another. But men did not, as they do now, starve in the midst of abundance; and what is perhaps the most significant fact of all is that not only were women and children not worked as they are to-day, but the eight-hour system, which even the working-classes of the United States, with all the profusion of labor-saving machinery and appliances have not yet attained, was then the common system!