ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED | MARCH 5, 1921 | THE CANADIAN COUNTRYMAN
Of late, the papers have been full of most heart rendering appeals for aid to the poor-famine stricken people of China. It seems to me that our protectionist politicians ought to take this situation to heart. Why should not the food growers in China be protected against outside competition? Anyone who happens to have a supply of food in the drought stricken area can make a fortune out of it and he might fairly reasonably say, according to protectionist philosophy, “Patronize home industry. Protect your own producer against the foreign producer.” So, too, of those areas in our Canadian North-West, where there have been crop failures. Protectionist doctrine would defend the isolation of those areas in order to protect the producers therein. I am quite aware that many will hold up their hands in horror and in protest against what may seem to be blasphemy; but the difference is one of degree only. The people in China may be starving, but we are all in need of some things, and the philosophy of scarcity is just as foolish and painful when applied to our own situation in Canada as it would be applied to the famine area in China as above mentioned. To protect the producer means to enable him to exact a higher price from the consumer by reason of the artificial scarcity which tariff walls bring about. Should we have a wide-spread rot of potatoes in Canada, and at the same time protect our own potato producers against competition from the United States, we should be making it that much more difficult to get a desirable food product, and although we might well live without potatoes, the same argument would apply also to those of us who desire potatoes and could not get them, except with great difficulty. The purpose of trade is to enable the plenty in one place to meet the scarcity in another. This is beneficial to both parties, for unless the producers can find a market for their surplus they cannot keep producing. Like mercy, trade blesses him who gives and him who takes, but the protectionist heresy denies the benefits of trade, and, if logically followed out, would bring the world back to barbarism. Why, even now, Europe is prostrate through the dislocation of trade, and the world stands confronted with the most striking object lesson that we have yet seen; and yet in the face of this, we wind well-meaning but foolish men calling out “Protect home industry.” Nature makes no allowance for ignorance. Fire will burn and it is high time that our people had a clearer insight into the most elementary principles of economics.