Page:Economic Sophisms.djvu/55

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43
OUR PRODUCTS ARE BURDENED WITH TAXES.

the public, and give the proceeds as a premium to the ironmaster. The protective effect would be the same. Foreign iron would in this case be equally excluded; for our ironmaster can now sell his iron at seven francs, which, with the five francs premium, would make up to him the remunerative price of twelve francs. But with home iron at seven francs, the foreigner could not sell his for eight, which, by the supposition is his lowest remunerative price.

Between these two modes of going to work, I can see only one difference. The principle is the same; the effect is the same; but in the one, certain individuals pay the price of protection; in the other, it is paid for by the nation at large.

I frankly avow my predilection for the second mode. It appears to me more just, more economical, and more honourable; more just, because if society desires to give largesses to some of its members, all should contribute; more economical, because it would save much expense in collecting, and get us rid of many restrictions; more honourable, because the public would then see clearly the nature of the operation, and act accordingly.

But if the protectionist system had taken this form, it would have been laughable to hear men say, "We pay heavy taxes for the army, for the navy, for the administration of justice, for public works, for the university, the public debt, etc.—in all exceeding a milliard [£40,000,000 sterling]. For this reason, the State should take another milliard from us, to relieve these poor ironmasters, these poor shareholders in the coal-mines of Anzin, these unfortunate proprietors of forests, these useful men who supply us with cod-fish."

Look at the subject closely, and you will be satisfied that this is the true meaning and effect of the sophism we are combating. It is all in vain; you cannot give money to some members of the community but by taking it from others. If you desire to ruin the tax-payer, you may do so. But at least do not banter him by saying, "In order to compensate your losses, I take from you again as much as I have taken from you already."

To expose fully all that is false in this sophism would be an endless work. I shall confine myself to three observations.

You assert that the country is overburdened with taxes,