Economic Sophisms/68

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<pagequality level="4" user="Zoeannl" />style="background: #ececec; text-align: left; padding-left: 0.5em; font-weight: bold;" class="table-rh"Now, among these obstacles there is one which we have ourselves set up, and at no little cost, too, between Brussels and Paris. There are men who lie in ambuscade along the frontier, armed to the teeth, and whose business it is to throw difficulties in the way of transporting merchandise from the one country to the other. They are called Customhouse officers, and they act in precisely the same way as ruts and bad roads. They retard, they trammel commerce, they augment the difference we have remarked between the price paid by the consumer and the price received by the producer—that very difference, the reduction of which, as far as possible, forms the subject of our problem.

That problem is resolved in three words: Reduce your tariff.

You will then have done what is equivalent to constructing the Northern Railway without cost, and will immediately begin to put money in your pocket.

In truth, I often seriously ask myself how anything so whimsical could ever have entered into the human brain, as first of all to lay out many millions for the purpose of removing the natural obstacles which lie between France and other countries, and then to lay out many more millions for the purpose of substituting artificial obstacles, which have exactly the same effect; so much so, indeed, that the obstacle created and the obstacle removed neutralize each other, and leave things as they were before, the residue of the operation being a double expense.

A Belgian product is worth at Brussels 20 francs, and the cost of carriage would raise the price at Paris to 30 francs. The same article made in Paris costs 40 francs. And how do we proceed?

In the first place, we impose a duty of 10 francs on the Belgian product, in order to raise its cost price at Paris to 40 francs; and we pay numerous officials to see the duty stringently levied, so that, on the road, the commodity is charged 10 francs for the carriage, and 10 francs for the tax.

Having done this, we reason thus: The carriage from Brussels to Paris, which costs 10 francs, is very dear. Let us expend two or three hundred millions [of francs] in railways, and we shall reduce it by one half. Evidently, all that we gain by this is that the Belgian product would sell in Paris for 35 francs, viz.