30 MAY 1925, Page 14


[To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.] SIR,—The muddle in which Mr. Churchill has entangled himself in respect to his incursion into the fantastic realms of Protection, under the specious description of " The Safe- Guarding of Industries Act " is an excellent example of the unforeseen difficulties which beset the path of the Tariff Reformer. That wisest and most dispassionate of our latter day statesmen—I should almost be inclined to call him " the last "—the great Duke of Devonshire, thus prophesied on what has come to pass :—" I should like," he said in his speech at the Guildhall, February 8th, 1904, " not now, . but at some future stage, to be allowed to assist at some of their deliberations. Everything for the present goes smoothly enough. The various groups of which this Commission is composed will have little difficulty in arranging the tariffs which they think will be adequate to protect their own interests. But when they come to put their tariffs together, and when each group discovers what it is expected to pay in return for what it hopes to receive, then, I think, the trouble may begin." The italics are • mine.

I wonder, by the way, that no economist has ever inquired into the curious fact of the failure of Protectionist countries in the War to withstand the terrific' financial drain on their resources, and to formulate, at • least, a theory as to the reason. This was my conclusion before the War, namely, .. that through Protective duties the people- were paying -in France in indirect taxation an amcunt equivalent to at least 2s. in the pound over and above the total of indirect taxation and. Income Tax here.. .

" If," I thought, " my estimate is correct, then, if there - ever is a war, this- drain upon the thrift and saving capacity of the Nation is bound to tell•:" But I did not anticipate

that the financial sheet anchor of some of the belligerent nations would grapple in the rock of Free Trade Britain.—I am, Sir,