<pagequality level="3" user="Zoeannl" />style="background: #ececec; text-align: left; padding-left: 0.5em; font-weight: bold;" class="table-rh"'the bitter enemies of laissez faire. At all hazards they want the law to interfere, without knowing or caring in what direction. And yet it lies with those who desire to create by legal intervention an artificial dearness or an unnatural cheapness, to explain the grounds of their preference. The onus probandi rests upon them exclusively. Liberty is always esteemed good, till the contrary is proved; and to allow prices to settle and adjust themselves naturally, is liberty.
But the parties to this dispute have changed positions. The advocates of dearness have secured the triumph of their system, and it lies with the defenders of natural prices to prove the goodness of their cause. On both sides, the argument turns on two words; and it is therefore very essential to ascertain what these two words really mean.
But we must first of all notice a series of facts which are fitted to disconcert the champions of both camps.
To engender dearness, the restrictionists have obtained protective duties, and a cheapness, which is to them inexplicable, has come to deceive their hopes.
To create cheapness, the free-traders have occasionally succeeded in securing liberty, and, to their astonishment, an elevation of prices has been the consequence.
For example, in France, in order to favour agriculture, a duty of 22 per cent, has been imposed on foreign wool, and it has turned out that French wool has been sold at a lower price after the measure than before it.
In England, to satisfy the consumer, they lowered, and ultimately removed, the duty on foreign wool; and it has come to pass that in that country the price of wool is higher than ever.
And these are not isolated facts; for the price of wool is governed by precisely the same laws which govern the price of everything else. The same result is produced in all analogous cases. Contrary to expectation, protection has, to some extent, brought about a fall, and competition, to some extent, a rise of prices.
When the confusion of ideas thence arising had reached its height, the protectionists began saying to their adversaries, "It
is our system which brings about the cheapness of which you