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into the public treasury. This is the maxim of economy. Thus, a tax ought not to be imposed if it would require a great many officers to collect it, and thus waste much of what is collected, or if it disturbs trade and makes things dearer than they would otherwise be. Again, the government ought not to cause people to lose time and money in paying the taxes, because this is just as bad for them as if they paid so much more taxes. In this respect the stamp-duties are very bad taxes, because in many cases it is requisite for a person to take his deeds and other documents to the stamp-office and lose his time, or else employ lawyers and agents to do it for him, who charge considerable fees. So troublesome are some of the stamp-duties that in many cases people neglect to have their agreements stamped, and prefer to trust to the honesty of those they deal with. Such agreements are thus often rendered of no legal value, and the government, for the sake of sixpence or a shilling, practically denies law to the people.
98. Protection and Free Trade. Almost every government has employed taxation at one time or another, for the purpose of encouraging industry within the country. It is often supposed that if purchasers are prevented from buying foreign goods, they will have to buy home-made goods, and thus manufacturers at home will be kept busy, and there will be plenty of employment. This is altogether a fallacy, which we may call the fallacy of Protection, but it is one which readily takes hold of people's minds. No tradesman or manufacturer likes to see himself underbid by those who offer better goods at lower prices. When foreign goods, then, are preferred by purchasers, the home manufacturers of such goods complain bitterly, and join together to persuade people that they are being injured by foreign trade. There is still so much national pride and animosity, that a nation does not like to be told that it is being beaten by foreigners.
The manufacturers, misled by their own self-interest, use all kinds of bad arguments to show that if foreign products were kept out of the country, they could make as good ones in a little time, and then they could employ many people, and add to the wealth of the country. They fall, in fact, into the fallacy of making work before described (section 55), and argue as if the purpose of work was to work, and not to enjoy abundant supplies of the necessaries and comforts of life.
Now it is impossible to deny that certain owners of lands and mines and works may be benefited by putting duties upon foreign goods of the kind which they want to produce. Those who are already enjoying the advantage of such improper duties may, of course, be injured when they are removed.
But what we have in political economy to look to, is not the selfish interests of any particular class of people, but the good of the whole population. Protectionists overlook two facts-(1) that the object of industry is to make goods abundant and cheap; (2) that it is impossible to import cheap foreign goods without exporting home-made goods of some sort to pay for them.
We have already learnt the obvious truth that wealth is to be increased by producing it in the place most suitable for its production. Now the only sure proof that a place is suitable is the fact that the commodities there produced are cheap and good. If foreign manufacturers can underbid home-producers, this is the best, and in fact the only conclusive proof that the things cait be made more cheaply and successfully abroad. But then it may be objected, what is to become of workmen at home, if all our supplies be got from another country. The reply is, that such a state of things could not exist. Foreigners would never think of sending us goods unless we paid for them, either in other goods, or in money. Now, if we pay in goods, workmen will of course be needed to make
those goods; and the more we buy from abroad, the more we shall need of home produce to send in exchange. Thus, the purchase of foreign goods encourages home manufactures in the best possible way, because it encourages just those branches of industry for which the country is most suited, and by which wealth is most abundantly created.
99. The Mercantile Theory. Perhaps, however, it will be objected that our foreign imports will be paid for not in goods but in money ; thus the country will be gradually drained of its wealth. This is the old fallacy of the Mercantile Theory, which was to the effect that a country becomes rich by bringing gold and silver into it. It is an absurd fallacy, because we can get no benefit by accumulating stocks of gold and silver. In fact, to keep precious metals causes a loss of interest upon their value; people who are rich may afford to have costly plate, and the pleasures they derive from it may be worth the interest. But to have more gold, or silver money than is just sufficient to make the ordinary payments of trade causes dead loss of interest. Nor is there any fear that the country will be drained of money entirely. For, if money became scarce, its value would rise according to the laws of supply and demand, and prices of goods would fall; then imports would decrease, and exports increase. It is only a country like Australia or North America, possessing gold or silver mines, which could go on paying money for its imports, and then it is quite right it should do so, the metal being a commodity which can be cheaply produced in the country. Gold and silver must be got out of mines, and therefore a country which buys goods with money must either have such mines, or else get the metal from other countries which possess mines. In no case, then, can we import foreign commodities without producing at home goods of equivalent value to pay for them, and thus we see beyond all doubt that foreign trade is
a means of increasing, not decreasing, the activity of industry at home.
100. Is Political Economy a Dismal Science? This is only a Primer, a very brief and elementary account of some parts of political economy, and it is evidently impossible to argue out the subjects of such a science in so small a compass.
But the purpose of this little treatise will be fulfilled if those who begin with the primer can be persuaded to go on and study larger works on the science. But even he who has read only thus far must know that political economy is no cold-blooded or dismal science, as people say. Is it a dismal thing to relieve the labourer of his load, or to spread his table with the most nutritious food? No doubt the science is dismal enough so far as it leads us to reflect upon the needless misery existing on every side. It is dismal to think of the hundreds of thousands who lengthen out a weary, life in workhouses and prisons and infirmaries. Strikes are dismal ; lock-outs are dismal; want of employment, bankruptcy, dear bread, famine, are all dismal things. But is it political economy which causes them? Is not our science more truly described as that beneficent one, which, if sufficiently studied, would banish such dismal things, by teaching us to use our powers wisely in relieving the labours and misery of mankind.