Protection vs Free Trade

Protection vs Free Trade


Two correspondents this week discuss the editorial position of “The Farmer’s Advocate” with relation to the tariff question. One asks why we do not go the length of advocating absolute free trade as being in the highest interests of the farming community of Canada; the other maintains that a high protective tariff system is the boot-strap by which a nation may lift itself into a state of prosperity and affluence.

The position of “The Farmer’s Advocate” on this question is a moderate one. We recognize that tariff policies, while they may influence, do not so sweepingly affect the prosperity of a country as a good many people believe. The larger a country, and the more diversified its climatic, soil and other conditions, the less severely it is hampered by adverse or unwise tariff policy. The smaller the country and the more restricted its range of natural productions, the more seriously is it inconvenienced by artificial obstructions of trade. To carry this principle to its ultimate conclusion, we must imagine an individual deprived of the privilege of trading with anyone but himself.

There is no doubt the principle of free trade is fundamentally and logically sound, though there are certain considerations that professional free-traders have overlooked, which lend weight to the argument of those who advocate a moderate measure of protection as a judicious expedient for a young nation to employ, temporarily, in order to build up diversified occupations and to enable manufacturing and mercantile industries particularly to develop to a point where they can compete successfully with the strong established industries of other countries. The ever-present danger is of paying more for the whistle than it is worth, or hampering the basic industries to a degree out of proportion to the advantage obtained through the development of the bonused industry. Another danger is that the favored industry, grown lusty and strong by local feeding on the nursing bottle, may tenaciously refuse to relinquish the pap, even after it is no longer required.

We feel tempted to discuss a number of points raised in the letters referred to, but have concluded to leave them with these few thoughts by way of a leader for other correspondents to tackle.


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