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BASTIAT'S “SOPHISMS OF PROTECTION,"
PROFESSOR SUMNER’S ARGUMENT AGAINST
PROFESSOR PERRY'S “FARMERS AND THE TARIFF,”
PROFESSOR SUMNER’S SPEECH BEFORE THE
GEORGE BASIL DIXWELL.
THE PREMISES OF FREE TRADE EXAMINED.
As the text-books from which political economy is taught in most of our colleges are generally by English authors, or by Americans who have adopted the English views, it is not surprising that we should meet with a great many highly educated men who believe the trans-Atlantic ideas to be invulnerable. They have been taught that economical phenomena are too complex to be investigated by the a posteriori method, and that nothing can be relied on but reasoning from assumptions; and they have accepted with delight certain most attractive argumentations, in which the wasteful futility of protection appears to be demonstrated, just as the mathematician demonstrates that the three angles of a triangle are in all cases equal to two right angles. But deductive reasoning has its own liability to error. Very eminent authors may change the subject or change the premises or reason from an apparent axiom, which upon careful examination is found little better than a blunder, or an identical proposition. The writer believes that all these logical faults are to be found in the supposed demonstrations above alluded to ; and he proposes in this paper to point out a few of them, in the hope that some able minds may be led to review their conclusions, and to read or read again, with a candid spirit, what has been urged by Rae, Phillips, Carey, List, Bowen, Seaman, Thompson, Greeley, E. P. Smith, Kelly, Elder, and many others who have written in favor of protection.
Let us first examine Mr. J. R. McCulloch's apparent demonstration that absenteeism is not financially injurious to a country. He argued in this way:
1st. “We get nothing from abroad except as an equivalent for something else ; and the individual who uses only Polish wheat, Saxon cloth, and French silks and wine, gives, by occasioning the exportation of an equal amount of British produce, precisely the same encouragement to industry here as he would give were he to consume nothing not directly produced among us. The Portuguese do not send us a single bottle of port, without our sending to them, or to those to whom they are indebted, its worth in cottons, hardware, or some sort of produce; so that whether we use the wine or its equivalent is, except as a matter of taste, of no importance whatever.”
But if it be indifferent whether an Irish landlord residing in Dublin consumes an Irish or a foreign product, it is evidently indifferent whether he consumes the one or the other in Dublin or in Paris. Therefore, absenteeism, as far as its financial effects are considered, is a matter of entire indifference to the Irish people.
If the premises be correct, the conclusion appears to be inevitable; but in this, as in other cases, where the result of reasoning contradicts the almost universal opinion of mankind, it is well to look again very closely at the premises. Let us do this, and, in order not to perplex ourselves by interposing money, let us suppose that the annual produce of the land of Ireland is equivalent to 30,000,000 bushels of wheat, and that the landlord's portion for rent is ten per cent, or 3,000,000 bushels of wheat. If this ten per cent of the rude product of the land be sent off in the form in which it is raised, it is evident that it might as well be burned, as far as the people of Ireland are concerned. The people will have raw products to consume equivalent to 27,000,000 bushels of wheat. This we will call case first.
Now, alter the supposition, and let the 3,000,000 bushels of wheat be exchanged for Irish manufactured products, and these last be exported. Then, clearly, the people of Ireland will have available for consumption one-ninth part more of the products of the land than they had under the first supposition. This is case second.
Now, vary the supposition yet again. Bring home the landlords, and confine them and their dependents to the use
of Irish manufactures. The people of Ireland will then have for consumption the same quantity of wheat as in the last case, and also the manufactured products which are exported under case second. This we will call case third.
In the first case, the raw produce constituting rent is sent abroad. It might as well have been burned. In the second case, it is given to productive laborers, who give in exchange manufactured products, which are exported. Here the Irish people get 3,000,000 bushels of wheat to consume in addition to what they had under case first. In the third case, the Irish people, altogether, have for consumption the additional 3,000,000 bushels of wheat (the same as in case second), and also an equal value of other products, subject only to a deduction of what the landlords and their wives and children actually use themselves; and, if we go through the expenditures of a wealthy family, we shall find this deduction to be very trivial. A very large part of their incomes are exchanged for professional and personal and commercial services. Those who render such services constitute, according to the census of the United States, more than one hundred and thirty distinct classes, and are over one-fourth part of the whole working population.
Mr. McCulloch saw very clearly that the landlords living in Paris would only obtain services and commodities by exchanging for them their rents or other Irish products into which their rents were converted: what he appears to have overlooked is that the landlords, when living in Dublin, would obtain Irish commodities and services only in exchange for their rents or other Irish products into which those rents were converted. The producer of Dublin stout will not give a single bottle of it, except in exchange for other commodities, any more than will the Portuguese producer of port. It would appear, then, that the premises of Mr. McCulloch were quite inaccurate, and that the conclusion drawn from them must be abandoned. Mr. J. S. Mill, in his “ Logic,” in book v. chapter iv., end of paragraph 4, has a similar error. He says it is indifferent whether an Englishman buys British or French silks, because British commodities must be produced and ex