The Fruits of American Protection

The Fruits of American Protection

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Excerpt from The Fruits of American Protection: The Effects of the Dingley Tariff Upon the Industries of the Country, and Especially, Upon the Well Being of the People

The favorite argument of those who oppose any reduction in the present tariff of this country is that the country is prosperous, and that this prosperity is due to the tariff. This belief is a superstition with many. There are fetish worshippers in New York and Philadelphia as well as in Dahomey.

This argument is really an insult to the American people. It ignores entirely the essential elements of American energy, enterprise, and inventive skill. The opportunities afforded by our free institutions have stimulated every mans activity and ability to the utmost. Moreover the argument overlooks entirely the unequalled natural advantages of this country, its vast forests, its fertile prairies, its mines of coal, iron, copper, gold, and silver. All these gifts of God are entirely ignored by the standpatters as it has become the custom to call our American fetish worshippers.

The fact is really this: A high protective tariff is a bonus to the capitalist. It has enormously increased the profits of the owners of mines and forests, and of the manufacturers of iron, steel, copper and clothing. By this bonus it has aided to build up the great fortunes which are far more numerous and far larger in this country than in any other in the world. The pretense originally was that it was necessary to have a protective tariff in order to encourage infant industries. The original tariffs that were adopted with this end in view, and in support of which the great name of Henry Clay is often invoked, were moderate in comparison with the present Dingley tariff. And now that these industries have ceased to be infants and become the greatest in the world, this argument has lost any force that it might once have had.

The next pretense was that a high protective tariff was necessary to increase the wages of the workingman, and to maintain what is called the American standard of living. But there are two well recognized facts that entirely contradict this argument. One is that the protected industries have become so powerful that they export great quantities of manufactured goods to foreign countries, and sell them there in the open market at a profit, in competition with the goods manufactured in those countries. If they can do this and maintain the wages of their workingmen as they do, they certainly could do it in this country without any tariff at all, for in this foreign competition they get no benefit from the American tariff. It is indeed an injury in some respects, because it does undoubtedly raise the cost of the raw material employed in the American manufactures. The other fact which equally demonstrates the unsoundness of this American standard of living argument is that the cost of living, and particularly the cost of rent have increased in greater ratio than wages.

Nothing remains then but the assertion of the proposition that because we are prosperous fe ought not to reform the tariff.

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