Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/468

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some schedule on which reduction of duty would profit "the ultimate consumer."

In showing up the folly of the consumer in supposing that he had an interest in the tariff revision, Mr. Boutell had an able assistant in Representative Gaines, of West Virginia. Mr. Gaines delighted in attempting to show that the duty, if it were all added to the selling price, would add very little to the cost of any particular article. For example, the duty on hides and leather meant only a few cents on a pair of shoes or a carriage top; and the duty on iron and steel meant only a trifle for each wagon. Plainly, it was his opinion that the consumer who would object to this small increase of cost was a very penurious fellow, one chronically disposed to find fault. As a rule, the committee members were careful to include in their reckoning only the added manufacturer's cost traceable to the duty. For example, they pointed to the fact that the duty on the leather in a pair of shoes is only about ten cents on the average, ignoring the profits that the wholesale and retail dealers must make on this ten cents, by which the added cost to the wearer of the shoes is made much greater.

There is at least one member of the committee who would not dignify the consumer's standpoint by the merest mention, Representative Fordney, of Michigan. The word consumer does not appear to be in his dictionary. He knows only the producer and regards as a blessing any duty whatever which prevents the importation of goods and compels their production in this country, no matter what may be the cost of producing them here. Here and there, among the majority members, there appeared a few indications of an appreciation of the rights and interests of the consumer. This was most noticeable in Representative Crumpacker, of Indiana, and Representative McCall, of Massachusetts, with an occasional gleam of light from Representative Hill, of Connecticut.

This general disparagement of the consumer's point of view did not seem to be the result of the old claim that the consumer does not pay tariff duties; but rather upon the consideration (1) that these taxes are small, (2) that the consumer derives great benefits from the tariff system, and (3) that if the taxes were removed, monopoly would prevent the consumer from getting the benefit. It seems to be generally admitted now that the consumer, and not the foreigner, pays the duty. One frank manufacturer said to the committee: "The consumer pays it and I am glad that he does."

If we were to inquire into the reasons why the representatives of the people at Washington are disposed largely to ignore the interest of the people as consumers, more than one answer might be made. To a certain extent, of course, this attitude is due to a peculiar economic belief, the acceptance of the protective theory, by which undue emphasis is placed upon the function of production at the expense of the corre-