Protection, Privation and Public Health

Protection, Privation and Public Health


I venture to draw your attention to an article in the May number of the English Review, entitled “Protection and Public Health,” being the text of a lecture delivered in London (Eng.) last marsh, by Sir Alfred Mond, Bart., M. P.

Among much very interesting matter he quotes an instance of the casual connection between protection and disease furnished at the present moment by Italy. Italy has a very considerable duty on wheat. The Italians, it is said, cannot substitute rye or potatoes, and are driven to resort to Indian corn. The result of the substitutes of Indian corn, which is a very poor food for a human being, is said to be a terrible skin disease called pellagra, which leads to paralysis, insanity and suicide, and accounts for about 10 to 12 per cent of the total mortality of the country. It is suggested that if the Government took off the wheat duty, and so allowed the population to buy imported wheat, the public health would be at once improved, for there is found a very close parallel between the rise and fall of the number of deaths and cases of insanity from pellagra with the rise and fall in the price of wheat.

Sir Alfred Mond says the Americans are the most patient people he has ever met. No others, he says, would support such a system as exemplified in their tariff on raw wool and all woollen goods, running to 50 and 60 per cent. One of the results of their woollen duty is that in a very cold and inclement country the great mass of the population is obliged to wear cotton goods, which are quite unsuited to the climate, simply because they cannot afford to buy wool. He goes on to say that there appears to be very little doubt that considerable amount of tuberculosis and pneumonia in the United States to-day is to be traced directly to these duties on wool, which compel a large part of the population to wear cotton goods.

Sir Alfrend Mond points out one remarkable and significant fact, which is that the death-rate is lowest in free-trade countries-- England, Denmark and Holland, and highest in the most highly protected countries. He adds that that it is not altogether surprising that in England, Denmark and and Holland, which are all free-trade countries, and have practically no food taxes, the bulk of the population are better fed, better clothed and better housed than in protected countries. “Statistically,” he claims, “that fact stands; of course, we can interpret it as we like ; but that the introduction of a protective system must in the future, as it has in the past, in this or any other country, have a deleterious effect in all directions on the health of the nation, seems to me to be practically axiomatic.”

I refrain from further quotations, but knowing the interest you have in this topic, as evidenced by the frequent reference to it in your columns, I felt impelled to bring to your notice an article dealing with some of the historical results of protection, looked at from the broad standpoint of the life of the nation as a whole.

Glasgow, Scotland


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