Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/447

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443
TARIFF REVISION

creases, just as it increases his, by adding to the price of the article sold. Thus the same agency that helps him at one end hinders him at the other, and the hindering is usually greater than the helping. Why? Not because the tariff rates are proportionately greater on the material he buys than on the wares he sells, for they are in most cases less; but because an}i:hing that forces him to charge a higher price for his products in order to get the same profit from the manufacture and sale of each, must at the same time diminish the number he can sell. The wise manufacturer, like other sellers, looks for "small profits and quick returns," but returns are not quick when even a small profit necessitates a high price.

There are additional reasons, worthy of consideration, why the tariff is no such aid to manufacturers in general as it was designed and is claimed to be. It is not possible to depend for success on the favor of any government, autocratic or popular, and at the same time lead as vigorous and normal a career as when independent. One eye must be kept all the time on the business, and the other eye on the seat of authority—St. Petersburg or Washington. Part of the savings must be spent in keeping friends at court, or a lobby in the national capitol; or a subsidized press. Every congressional election must bring a fresh expense—a "frying of fat," as one United States senator termed it. But besides this waste of power, the cause in which it is incurred must suffer to an incalculable extent from the corruption which often attends (and is always suspected, whether discovered or not) the enactment of legislation from which individuals may derive a profit. Any deterioration of political morality tends to lower the self-respect of every citizen, and hurts business by lowering the public credit on which it is based. There is no proof that revisions of the tariff have been undertaken for the sake of the rewards that might be secured by those in charge of them, from the "favored industries" whose fortunes they are so powerful to make or mar; and probably there have been no such strokes of legislative enterprise in our history. But it is interesting to observe that the "friends" of the tariff, in whose hands we are so often exhorted to leave the entire office of amending it, have actually made a great many more revisions, generally upward—done many times more "tariff tinkering"—than ever have the friends of the mass of the people who bear the tariff's cost. The next revision will also be of the same character—by the friends of the system.

It is dangerous to invade the citizen's natural rights. The privilege enjoyed by some producers, of having all others taxed for their profit, delightful though this privilege may be to the possessor, is not a natural right, nor can years of undisturbed possession make it so. But the right to buy wherever one wishes to buy at the least attainable cost is one of the natural rights. The question of liberty of purchase is the same as of liberty of any other kind. There are the same excuses for restricting it, the same motives for maintaining it. To be