We have just seen that all which renders transportation difficult, acts
in the same manner as protection; or, if the expression be preferred,
that protection tends towards the same result as obstacles to
A tariff may then be truly spoken of, as a swamp, a rut, a steep hill;
in a word, an obstacle, whose effect is to augment the difference
between the price of consumption and that of produc
ion. It is equally
incontestable that a swamp, a bog, etc., are veritable protective
There are people (few in number, it is true, but such there are) who
begin to understand that obstacles are not the less obstacles, because
they are artificially created, and that our well-being is more advanced
by freedom of trade than by protection; precisely as a canal is more
desirable than a sandy, hilly, and difficult road.
But they still say, this liberty ought to be reciprocal. If we take off
our taxes in favor of Spain, while Spain does not do the same towards
us, it is evident that we are duped. Let us then make treaties of
commerce upon the basis of a just reciprocity; let us yield where we
are yielded to; let us make the sacrifice of buying that we may
obtain the advantage of selling.
Persons who reason thus, are (I am sorry to say), whether they know it
or not, governed by the protectionist principle. They are only a little
more inconsistent than the pure protectionists, as these are more
inconsistent than the absolute prohibitionists.
I will illustrate this by a fable.
STULTA AND PUERA (FOOL-TOWN AND BOY-TOWN).
There were, it matters not where, two towns, Stulta and Puera, which
at great expense had a road built which connected them with each other.
Some time after this was done, the inhabitants of Stulta became
uneasy, and said: Puera is overwhelming us with its productions; this
must be attended to. They established therefore a corps of
Obstructors, so called because their business was to place obstacles
in the way of the wagon trains which arrived from Puera. Soon after,
Puera also established a corps of Obstructors.
After some centuries, people having become more enlightened, the
inhabitants of Puera began to discover that these reciprocal obstacles
might possibly be reciprocal injuries. They sent therefore an ambassador
to Stulta, who (passing over the official phraseology) spoke much to
this effect: We have built a road, and now we put obstacles in the way
of this road. This is absurd. It would have been far better to have left
things in their original position, for then we would not have been put
to the expense of building our road, and afterwards of creating
difficulties. In the name of Puera, I come to propose to you, not to
renounce at once our system of mutual obstacles, for this would be
acting according to a theory, and we despise theories as much as you do;
but to lighten somewhat these obstacles, weighing at the same time
carefully our respective sacrifices. The ambassador having thus
spoken, the town of Stulta asked time to reflect; manufacturers,
agriculturists were consulted; and at last, after some years'
deliberation, it was declared that the negotiations were broken off.
At this news, the inhabitants of Puera held a council. An old man (who
it has always been supposed had been secretly bribed by Stulta) rose
and said: The obstacles raised by Stulta are injurious to our sales;
this is a misfortune. Those which we ourselves create, injure our
purchases; this is a second misfortune. We have no power over the first,
but the second is entirely dependent upon ourselves. Let us then at
least get rid of one, since we cannot be delivered from both. Let us
suppress our corps of Obstructors, without waiting for Stulta to do
the same. Some day or other she will learn to understand better her own
A second counselor, a man of practice and of facts, uncontrolled by
theories and wise in ancestral experience, replied: We must not listen
to this dreamer, this theorist, this innovator, this utopian, this
political economist, this friend to Stulta. We would be entirely
ruined if the embarrassments of the road were not carefully weighed and
exactly equalized, between Stulta and Peura. There would be more
difficulty in going than in coming; in exportation than in importation.
We would be, with regard to Stulta, in the inferior condition in which
Havre, Nantes, Bordeaux, Lisbon, London, Hamburg, and New Orleans, are,
in relation to cities placed higher up the rivers Seine, Loire, Garonne,
Tagus, Thames, the Elbe, and the Mississippi; for the difficulties of
ascending must always be greater than those of descending rivers. (A
voice exclaims: 'But the cities near the mouths of rivers have always
prospered more than those higher up the stream.') This is not possible.
(The same voice: 'But it is a fact.') Well, they have then prospered
contrary to rule. Such conclusive reasoning staggered the assembly.
The orator went on to convince them thoroughly and conclusively by
speaking of national independence, national honor, national dignity,
national labor, overwhelming importation, tributes, ruinous competition.
In short, he succeeded in determining the assembly to continue their
system of obstacles, and I can now point out a certain country where you
may see road-builders and Obstructors working with the best possible
understanding, by the decree of the same legislative assembly, paid by
the same citizens; the first to improve the road, the last to embarrass