Page:Economic Sophisms.djvu/53

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should have asked the protectionists why they direct their tariffs chiefly against England and Belgium, the most heavily taxed countries in the world? Am I not warranted in regarding their argument only as a pretext? But I am not one of those who believe that men are prohibitionists from self-interest, and not from conviction. The doctrine of protection is too popular not to be sincere. If the majority had faith in liberty, we should be free. Undoubtedly it is self-interest which makes our tariffs so heavy; but conviction is at the root of it. "The will," says Pascal, "is one of the principal organs of belief." But the belief exists nevertheless, although it has its root in the will, and in the insidious suggestions of egotism.

Let us revert to the sophism founded on taxation.

The State may make a good or a bad use of the taxes which it levies. When it renders to the public services which are equivalent to the value it receives, it makes a good use of them. And when it dissipates its revenues without giving any service in return, it makes a bad use of them.

In the first case, to affirm that the taxes place the country which pays them under conditions of production more unfavourable than those of a country which is exempt from them, is a sophism. We pay twenty millions of francs for justice and police; but then we have them, with the security they afford us, and the time which they save us; and it is very probable that production is neither more easy nor more active in those countries, if there are any such, where the people take the business of justice and police into their own hands. We pay many hundreds of millions (of francs) for roads, bridges, harbours, and railways. Granted; but then we have the benefit of these roads, bridges, harbours, and railways; and whether we make a good or a bad bargain in constructing them, it cannot be said that they render us inferior to other nations, who do not indeed support a budget of public works, but who have no public works. And this explains why, whilst accusing taxation of being a cause of industrial inferiority, we direct our tariffs especially against those countries which are the most heavily taxed. Their taxes, well employed, far from deteriorating, have ameliorated, the conditions of production in these countries. Thus we are continually arriving at the conclusion that pro-