Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter V.: SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION. - Protectionism: the -ism which teaches that waste makes wealth
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Chapter V.: SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION. - William Graham Sumner, Protectionism: the -ism which teaches that waste makes wealth 
Protectionism: the -ism which teaches that waste makes wealth (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1888).
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SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION.
147. I have now examined protectionism impartially on its own grounds, assuming them to be true, and adversely from ground taken against it, and have reviewed a series of the commonest arguments put forward in its favor. If now we return, with all the light we have obtained, to test the assumptions which we found in protectionism, that the people would not organize their industry wisely under liberty, and that protective taxes are the correct device for bringing about a better organization, we find that those two assumptions are totally false and have no semblance of claim upon our confidence. At every step the dogmas of protectionism, its claims, its apparatus, have proved fallacious, absurd, and impracticable. We can now group together some general criticisms of protectionism which our investigation suggests.
148. We have taken the protectionist's own definition of a protective duty, and have found that such a duty, instead of increasing national wealth, must, at every step, and by every incident of its operation, waste labor and capital, lower the efficiency of the national industry, weaken the country in trade, and consequently lower the standard of comfort of the whole population. We have found that protected industries, according to the statement of the protectionists, do not produce, but consume. If then these industries are the ones which make us rich, consumption is production and destruction produces. The object of a protective duty is “to effect the diversion of a part of the capital and labor of the people out of the channels in which it would run otherwise, into channels favored or created by law” (§ 13). We have seen that the channels into which the labor and capital of the people are to be diverted are offered by the industries which do not pay. Hence protectionism is found to mean that national prosperity is to be produced by forcing labor and capital into employments where the capital can not be reproduced with the same increase which could be won by it elsewhere. If that is so, then capital in those employments will be wasted, and the final outcome of our investigation, which must be made the primary maxim of the art of national prosperity under protectionism, is that Waste makes Wealth. Such is its outcome when regarded as an economic philosophy.
149. As regards the social and jural relations which are established between citizen and citizen, protectionism is proved by a half-dozen independent analyses of it to be simply a device for forcing us to levy tribute on each other. If the law brings a cent to A it must have taken it from B, or else it must have produced it out of nothing, that is, it must be magic. Every soul pays protective taxes. If then any body gets any thing from them, he needs to remember what they cost him, and he should insist on casting up both sides of the account. If any body gets nothing from them, then he pays the taxes and gets no equivalent.
150. During the anti-corn-law campaign in England, a writer in the Westminster Review illustrated protectionism by the story of the monkeys in a cage, each of whom received for his dinner a piece of bread. Each monkey dropped his own piece of bread and grabbed his neighbor's. The consequence was that soon the floor of the cage was strewn with fragments, and each monkey had to make the best dinner he could from these. It is a good and fair illustration. I saw a story recently in a protectionist newspaper about the peasants in the Soudan. Each owns pigeons, and at evening, when the pigeons come home, each tries to entice as many of his neighbor's pigeons as he can into his own pigeon-house. “All of them do the same thing, and therefore each gets caught in his turn. They know this perfectly well, but no Egyptian fellah could resist the temptation of cheating his neighbor.” They ought to tax each other's pigeons all around. Then they would put themselves at once on the level of free and enlightened Americans. The protectionist assures me that it is for the good of the community and for my good that he should tax me. I reply that, in his language, “these are fine theories,” but that whether it is good for the community or not, and whether it is good for me or not, that he should tax me, I can see that it is for his good that he should tax me. Then he says: “Now you are abusive.”
151. If Protectionism is any thing else than mutual tribute, then it is magic. The whole philosophy of it comes down to questions like this: How much can I afford to pay a man for hiring me? How much can I afford to pay a man for trading with me? How much can I afford to pay a man to cease to compete with me in my production? How much can I afford to pay a man to go and compete with those who supply me my consumption? It is only an expensive way to get what we could get for nothing if it was worth having (§ 89). It is admitted that one man can not lift himself by his boot-straps. Suppose that a thousand men stand in a ring and each takes hold of the other's boot-straps reciprocally and they all lift, can the whole group lift itself as a group? That is what protection comes to just as soon as we have drawn out into light the other side, the cost side of it. Whatever we win on one side, we must pay for by at least equal cost on another. The losses will all be distributed as net pure injury to the community. The harm of protection lies here. It is not measured by the tax. It is measured by the total crippling of the national industry. We might as well say that it would be a good thing to put snags in the rivers, to fell trees across the roads, to dull all our tools, as to say that unnecessary taxation could work a blessing. Men have argued that to destroy machines was to do a beneficial thing, and I have recently read an article in a Boston paper, quoting a Massachusetts man who thinks that what we need is another war in the United States. Such men may believe that protective taxes work a blessing, but to those who will see the truth, it is plain that, when the whole effect of the protective system is distributed, it benefits nobody. It is a dead weight and loss upon every body, and those who think that they win by it would be far better off in a community where no such system existed, but where each man earned what he could and kept what he earned.
152. There is a school of political science in this country in whose deed of foundation it is provided that the professors shall teach how “by suitable tariff legislation, a nation may keep its productive industry alive, cheapen the cost of commodities, and oblige foreigners to sell to it at low prices, while contributing largely toward defraying the expenses of the government.”* Is not that a fine thing? Those professors ought to likewise provide us a panacea, the philosopher's stone, a formula for squaring the circle, and all the other desiderata of universal happiness. It would be only a trifle for them. The only fear is that they may write the secret which they are to teach in books, and that other nations to whom we are “foreigners,” may learn it. Then while Englishmen, Frenchmen, and Germans work for us at low prices and pay our taxes, we shall be forced to work for them at low prices and pay their taxes, and the old somber misery will settle down upon the world again the same as ever.
153. Some years ago we were told that protection was necessary because we had a big debt to pay. Well, we have paid the debt until we have reduced it from $78.25 per head to $28.41 per head. We, the people, have also raised our credit until the annual debt charge has been reduced from $4.29 per head to 95 cents per head. Now it is necessary to keep up the debt in order to keep up the taxes, and protectionism is now most efficient in forcing wasteful and corrupting expenditures to get rid of revenue, lest a surplus should furnish an argument for reducing taxation. This is right on the doctrine that waste makes wealth.
154. They tell us that protection has produced prosperity, and when we ask them to account for hard times in spite of the tariff, they say that hard times are caused by the free traders who will not keep still. Therefore the prosperity produced by protection is so precarious that it can be overthrown by only talking about free trade. They denounce laissez faire, or “let alone,” but the only question is when to let alone, when to keep still. They do not let the tariff alone if they want to revise it to suit them, or want to make it “equitable.” When they get it “equitable” they will let it alone, but that insures agitation, and makes sure that they will cause it, for an indefinite time to come. On the other hand the victims of the tariff will not keep still. Their time to “let alone” is when it is repealed. If the tariff did not hurt somebody somewhere it would not do any good to any body any where, and the victims will resist.* Mr. Lincoln used to tell a story about hearing a noise in the next room. He looked in and found Bob and Tad scuffling. “What is the matter, boys?” said he. “It is Tad,” replied Bob, “who is trying to get my knife.” “Oh, let him have it, Bob,” said Mr. Lincoln, “just to keep him quiet.” “No!” said Bob, “it is my knife and I need it to keep me quiet.” Mr. Lincoln used the story to prove that there is no foundation for peace save truth and justice. Now, in this case, the man whose earnings are being taken from him needs them to keep him quiet. Our fathers fought for free soil, and if we are worthy to be their sons we shall fight for free trade, which is the necessary complement of free soil. If a man goes to Kansas to-day and raises corn on “free soil,” how does he get the good of it, unless he can exchange that corn for any product of the earth that he chooses on the best terms that the arts and commerce of to-day can give him?
155. The history of civil liberty is made up of campaigns against abuses of taxation. protectionism is the great modern abuse of taxation; the abuse of taxation which is adapted to a republican form of government. Protectionism is now corrupting our political institutions just as slavery used to do, viz., it allies itself with every other abuse which comes up. Most recently it has allied itself with the silver coinage, and it is now responsible, in a great measure, for that calamity. The silver coinage law would have been repealed three years ago. if the silver mining interest had not served notice on the protectionists that that was their share of protection, and the price of their coöperation. The silver coinage is the chief cause of the “hard times” of the last two or three years. In a well ordered state it is the function of government to repress every selfish interest which arises and endeavors to encroach upon the rights of others. The state thus maintains justice. Under protectionism the government gives a license to certain interests to go out and encroach on others. It is an iniquity as to the victims of it, a delusion as to its supposed beneficiaries, and a waste of the public wealth. There is only one reasonable question now to be raised about it, and that is, How can we most easily get rid of it?
[*]Quoted by Taussig: History of the Existing Tariff, 73.
[*]Illustrations of this are presented without number. Here is the most recent one. “The [silk] masters [of Lyons, France], look to the government for relief by a reduction of the duty on cotton yarn, or the right to import all numbers duty free for export after manufacture. With the present tariffs, they maintained, which is no doubt true, that they cannot compete with the Swiss and German makers. But the Rouen cotton spinners oppose the demand of the Lyons silk manufacturers, and protest that they will be ruined if the latter are allowed to procure their material from abroad. The Lyons weavers assert that they are being ruined because they cannot.”—(Economist, 1885, p. 815.) The cotton men won in the Chamber of Deputies, July 23, 1885.