… Excerpted from pages 13-14 of William Gladstone’s January 1890 debate with James G. Blaine of Maine on free trade and protectionism.; These comments in CCCXCVIII of North American Review:
If the proper object of the legislature is to deposit and employ the greatest amount of capital in the country, the Parliament of England (Ed.example gratiâ) not only wheat but pineapple should be protected. Pineapples now sell for eight shillings and sixpence in London, while that glorious fruit used to sell for two pounds before we imported it from the tropics. Why not protect the pineapple grower with two pounds of 400 percent duty? Don’t tell me this is funny. It is funny on my principles; But it is allowed on your principles, it is wise, it is obligatory – as wise, shall I say? As it is to protect cotton fabrics with 50 percent duty. No ; Not only as wise, but more wise, and therefore more obligatory. Because according to this argument, we should aim at producing within our own limits those products that require the greatest expenditure of capital and labor to develop the product; And no product can adequately meet this condition.
Conservation, as its champions (or victims) hold it, is in its own economic interest, then in the realm of production it occupies the place of truth in the philosophical realm or virtue in the moral sphere. In this case, you can’t have too many; Thus, although protectionism is economically beneficial in its embryo, such a good can achieve its full development only through the prohibition of foreign trade. I don’t think the argument would be fair. Against high wages (as you believe) in America, and protection against low wages (as you believe), it is a logical expression of all your talk of England, when our free trade is now independently enforced in every round. But I will refrain from pressing the point, because I do not wish to be liable to an argument which would plunge the honest defender into the mire (what shall we call it) rather than into the mire.
Conservation is an intellectual equality of flat-Earthism and a moral equivalent of education that not only justifies, but glorifies, theft.
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