Engels on Free Trade

He’s pretty sensible:

Protection is at best an endless screw, and you never know when you have done with it. By protecting one industry, you directly or indirectly hurt all others, and have therefore to protect them too. By so doing you again damage the industry that you first protected, and have to compensate it; but this compensation reacts, as before, on all other trades, and entitles them to redress, and so on ad infinitum. America, in this respect, offers us a striking example of the best way to kill an important industry by protectionism. In 1856, the total imports and exports by sea of the United State amounted to $641,604,850. Of this amount, 75.2 per cent were carried in American, and only 24.8 per cent in foreign vessels. British ocean steamers were already then encroaching upon American sailing vessels; yet, in 1860, of a total seagoing trade of $762,288,550, American vessels still carried 66.5 per cent.

The Civil War came on, and protection to American shipbuilding; and the latter plan was so successful that it has nearly completely driven the American flag from the high seas. In 1887, the total seagoing trade of the United States amounted to $1,408,502,979, but of this total only 13.8 per cent were carried in American, and 86.2 per cent in foreign bottoms. The goods carried by American ships amounted, in 1856, to $482,268,274; in 1860 to $507,247,757. In 1887, they had sunk to $194,356,746. Forty years ago, the American flag was the most dangerous rival of the British flag, and bade fair to outstrip it on the ocean; now it is nowhere. Protection to shipbuilding has killed both shipping and shipbuilding.

Throughout the piece, he makes many witty observations such as this.

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1888/free-trade/

Author: pithom

An atheist with an interest in the history of the ancient Near East. Author of the Against Jebel al-Lawz Wordpress blog.

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