Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XXV: REACTION AND THE PROTECTIONIST FEVER - The Comedy of Protection
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CHAPTER XXV: REACTION AND THE PROTECTIONIST FEVER - Yves Guyot, The Comedy of Protection 
The Comedy of Protection, trans. M.A. Hamilton (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1906).
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REACTION AND THE PROTECTIONIST FEVER
Revenge of the émigrés—War policy of the Protectionists—Property in tariffs—Tyranny of protected interests over the Government—The 1860 treaty—An economic policy worse than Colbert’s—Universal suffrage hoodwinked.
The experience of the commercial treaty of 1860 entitles one to repeat with even greater force the arguments used by the early members of the Free Trade League and to ask, How does the majority in France come to be Protectionist? How do statesmen in a Republic based upon universal suffrage come to have exchanged a really Liberal fiscal system for one more thoroughly reactionary than that of Colbert or even of Napoleon? From the middle of the seventeenth century down to 1791 duties on food were very moderate; there was no duty on corn and only one of 3s. per head on live stock. Between 1791-1816 wheat and cattle were altogether exempt. It was left for the great capitalist landowners, whose influence was predominant at the Restoration, to establish the sliding scale in order to maintain wheat at the famine prices of 1819 and cattle with a duty of 44s. per head.
The Revolution abolished the privileges of the nobility. At the Restoration the survivors and descendants of the nobility acquired the privilege of enriching themselves at the expense of the bread and meat of their poorer fellow-citizens.
Colbert, indeed, expounded and applied the theory which bears his name, but he applied it with moderation. Even in the tariff of 1667, which cost France a war with the Low Countries, there were no prohibitions, and the duty on iron and other necessaries was only 1s. the thousand pounds. The tariff of 1791 was very liberal, with the exception of certain prohibitive clauses—for example, that applying to foreign-built vessels hitherto admitted free, and even encouraged by bounties.
The prohibitions of 18 Vendemiare year II., completed by the Act of 10 Brumaire year V., were mere war measures specially aimed at England; Napoleon maintained them as a temporary sacrifice demanded by the safety of the country, and while he established the Continental Blockade he at the same time established Free Trade in Western Europe.
After the Restoration the political necessity for prohibition against England had gone; nevertheless, most of the prohibitions were retained or replaced by prohibitive tariffs. In order to get the duties of 1822 and 1827 passed they were declared to be temporary; in 1828, however, when a Governmental Commission of Inquiry was nominated, they were loudly proclaimed to be vested interests; any modification was denounced as a violation of property granted by the law. A coalition of the industrial and agricultural interests asserted the same claims under the Government of Louis Philippe, in spite of the attempt made by the Ministry, and especially by Count Duchâtel, to reduce the excessive duties and abolish prohibitions.
Napoleon III. only succeeded in defeating the insolent Protectionist coalitions by using his constitutional right of making commercial treaties to conclude an international agreement against them. But after an experience of twenty years of complete success, the democratic Republic, based on manhood suffrage, returned to a Customs system more rigid than that of Colbert—a system which placed heavy duties on food. This was the policy of the great landowners with their cumulative vote and the 200,000 copyholders—and the democratic Republic took it over as the inheritance of the revenge of the émigrés and the feudatories of the July Government, with their traditional privileges. A majority of the eleven million French voters enthusiastically returned candidates who, if they were courageous enough to express, and intelligent enough to understand what they were doing, ought to have said to them, “We promise to increase your burdens by making you pay taxes on necessaries and private imposts which are to go into the pockets of the Restoration Legitimists, the descendants of the great manufacturers of the time of Louis Philippe, these political adversaries whom you would not dream of electing—and rightly not. But give us seats in the Palais Bourbon or in the Luxembourg, and we promise to put in force a fiscal system which will give them the biggest revenue and the largest profit at your expense.” If hardly this language, yet the policy which it represented was acclaimed by peasants, whether proprietors or not, by workmen, even in the great cities, even by the most impassioned assailants of every form of property among the socialists; this was the policy which they sent a majority to the Senate and Chamber to execute. And yet, taken individually, these men were ready enough to look after their own interests; they knew how to measure their own advantage when immediately presented to them; they like to buy cheap; they were passionately devoted to freedom. How, then, did they come to support a fiscal policy opposed to these interests, opinions, and ideals? It was because, being full of prejudices, the outcome of their ignorance of economics, they were skilfully exploited by people whose interest was to deceive them.
PROTECTED AND RESTRICTED INDUSTRIES