15 JULY 1905, Page 23


Free Trade versus Protection: Some Considerations on the Case. By T. G. P. Hollet, M.A., Barrister-at-Law, Member of Council of the Unionist Free Trade Club, he. (Cassell and Co. 6d.) —One feels that it is a pity that this little volume did not appear at an earlier stage in the Fiscal controversy. It contains one of the most masterly defences of the principles of Free-trade which we have yet seen. Throughout the whole of the con- troversy, there has been a lamentable confusion of statement and idea as regards the facts in issue. The Protectionist finds it easy to forget that trado is an exchange, that foreign trade is a form of mutual co-operation by which each side may profit, that the sale of imports in our free markets is conditioned by the purchase of our exports, and, above all, that market—" the place or system of exchange "—is best when it is allowed to grow and develop according to its own free laws of individual demand and supply. Mr. Hallet, therefore, very wisely devotes an interesting introductory chapter to what he calls the "confusions of the controversy." He avoids as far as possible the discussion of the relative desirability of Free-trade and Protection in the abstraet ; and, consequently, he enhances the practical value of his book. The main consideration for him has been to show that it would be suicidal for us to go back to the Protectionist system of sixty years ago. Such a policy would falsify market value itself (and, by the way, the chapter on market value is excellent), and would convert the market "into a scheme of plunder." To make good this statement, Mr. Hallet enters into the abstract, but never loses his characteristic clear- ness. Tariff walls—be their purpose Imperial or moral—do not increase the utility supply, or economise the difficulty of obtaining it, and are, therefore, contrary to the great object of political economy. Mr. Hallet does well to emphasise the fact that, could the Protectionist foreign walls be destroyed, no one would rejoice more than the Free-trader ; for be abhors selfish particularism, and his great desire is universal Free-trade. He sees that no system but the free exchange system can enable every nation to produce those things which it can produce most profitably. Thus is the labourer benefited, as his labour is made more productive. The whole Protectionist argument, which is essentially a pro- ducer's argument, has carefully overlooked this. In short, even Retaliation at its best would but destroy "the fighting force of the home market," and the true policy of international trade must be "to fight foreign tariffs by free imports." But the worst feature of the whole Fiscal "Reform" scheme is that the change which it desires would mean a mixed policy of taxation and exemption. The chapter on "Imperial Thinking" is enjoyable reading. Mr. Mallet calls it "reactionary thinking." The Colonies, though a "monopoly monster" seeks to make them the Imperial figurehead for its operations, "maintain a dignified attitude of reserve." The term " monster " is not without justification, for does not this monopolist Combine propose to make a property out of necessity ? It calls this Imperialism.