Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/469

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465
TARIFF REVISION

lative function of consumption. But protection, as a theory, certainly is not directly responsible for all the indifference to the consumer. Honest and consistent protection, assuming that there may be such, would not in every case forbid the consumer to purchase cheaply abroad; but would, before levying a tax on the importation of an article, give some consideration to the question whether it can be produced in this country with reasonable advantage. In like manner, honest protection would give to producing interests only such a duty as would enable them fairly to compete with foreign producers, not an excessive duty which will exclude the foreign article and enable manufacturers in this country to exact, by combination or otherwise, unreasonable or monopoly prices from consumers.

It can not be doubted that congress has departed very widely from honest or consistent protection. That this is the inevitable result of the system of protecting private industries is my own belief; but that it is a necessary consequence of that system conjoined with our unrepresentative scheme of government, I think no observer at Washington can fail to see. Not only do selfish private interests nominate and elect congressmen and control their course in regard to legislation, but congressmen themselves do not blush to have it known that they are personally and pecuniarily interested in the levying of certain tariff duties for which they vote as public legislators and for which they work and lobby with all the skill at their command. If we had a high and honest standard of public morals in congress, it would be much easier to get an honest tariff, and the consumer would not be plundered as he is now. Whatever may be said of the personal character of congressmen as compared with the personal character of city councilmen, I venture to say that the publicly established moral code in congress is lower than in most city councils. In nearly all city councils a member is not allowed to vote upon any contract or other question in which he is known to have a pecuniary interest; and in many cities all members of the council are absolutely forbidden to have any pecuniary interest in any contract awarded by that body. In Washington it is common gossip, that, out of the nineteen members of the ways and means committee which will frame a new tariff, various ones are pecuniarily interested in this or that schedule; that one is interested in tobacco, another in olives, a third in lumber, and so on. Some of these personal interests cropped out at the hearings. Representative Fordney stated that he was engaged in the manufacturing of lumber, and he bitterly opposed all proposals to remove the duty from that necessity in the interest of 80,000,000 consumers and the conservation of the country's forests. Ex-Representative Rhodes, of Missouri, told how he had introduced a bill in a former congress, increasing the duty on barytes, while he was personally engaged in producing this mineral. A considerable number of congressmen appeared before the com-