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It can hardly be said that men are most interested in those things wherein their real interests lie. A treatise on physiology, even one which treats the subject in a general way, and contains only the most fundamental deductions, is not very interesting to most, and yet no one will question the value of a knowledge of physiology. Fiction, on the other hand, which, qua fiction, is of hardly any value, is eagerly read. The Tariff bill before Congress, in interest occupies a position just now somewhere between physiology and fiction, and though not a great many have read the text of the bill, nearly all have read comments upon it. This bill, if it passes, will probably make a difference in the income of the majority of persons living in the United States next year, and so may be said to have an interest for them.
Three articles dealing with the tariff have appeared in the monthly magazines for June, articles which will be widely read, one by Mr. Mills, in the Forum; one by Mr. McKinley, in the North American; and one by Mr. Atkinson, in the Century. A greater contrast than that between the eminent statistician and the two prominent politicians could hardly be imagined. It would be too much like a political statement to say that the former appeals to the intelligence of his readers and the latter to ignorance and prejudice; but there would be a basis of truth for the assertion. Mr. Mills is contradictory: he says in one place that the duties upon farm products will increase their cost, and in another that the operation of the bill, by decreasing our importations from Europe, will make it impossible for the people there to buy of us, and that therefore our farmers will have to throw their surplus upon the home market, and thus the prices of the whole agricultural production will be reduced. Mr. McKinley is misleading and fallacious. He says: "Free trade will not increase the exportation of our products." Then one of two things follows, either there would be no in
crease of our imports, and there is no need of a tariff except for revenue; or, if the imports should increase, we should get the increased amount for the same amount of exports. It may be said that the increased imports would be paid for in gold and silver. But, in the first place, gold and silver are products of this country; in the second place, if we export gold and silver it is because we can spare them better than we can other commodities. There is no more danger of our selling ourselves short of gold and silver than there is of selling ourselves short of food, and starving in consequence.
Mr. McKinley tries to dissipate the popular impression that the pending bill largely increased duties. He points out that the free list is increased by $109,232,080, reckoning upon the basis of last year's importations: thus about half of our imports will be free and half dutiable; the average duty upon all importations will be twenty-seven per cent. From this it follows that the average rate upon dutiable articles will be about fifty-four per cent; the present rate is about forty-five per cent. It is pointed out with pride in other connections that our iron and steel industry is the largest in the world. Mr. Atkinson has computed that it has cost us over $700,000,000 in increased prices to develop this industry; if it cannot get along now without help from the Government, when will it be able to sustain itself?
The title of Mr. Atkinson's article is "Comparative Taxation," and it deals with the tariff only as a mode of raising revenue. He lays down three principles in discussing the subject: 1. Very few taxes will stay where they are first put; but nearly all are ultimately paid by the consumers of the articles taxed. 2. Taxation must be regarded as a "method of distributing a part of the annual product of food, fuel, and materials for clothing and shelter." 3. Since the annual product is the result of work, "taxation and work are practically synonymous terms."
As a mode of taxation, a tariff is obviously objectionable. It is costly to col
lect, necessitating a system of guards and inspectors along the whole frontier and coasts of a country, and even then it is largely evaded. When placed on articles of general consumption, like food or clothing, for instance, it bears much more heavily upon the poor than upon the rich, since the former send a larger share of their income for these articles than the latter. It is the most objectionable, however, when placed upon an article, part of which is produced within the country and part imported; because in this case it raises the price of the article, and the people are obliged to pay more than the government receives, a part going to the domestic producers.
"The revenue of less than $4,000,000, which we derive from iron ore and pig-iron, is not required; but let it be assumed that it were necessary to get a corresponding sum, and that it might be readily had by increasing the tax on beer from $1.00 to $1.25 a barrel, it requires very little consideration to appreciate the difference. If the tax is put upon the metal, the domestic product of the farmer, the mechanic, and the manufacturer is taxed at its source many fold the amount of revenue; the home market for every kind of goods is restricted; the cost of every fabric is increased; while if a tax of twenty-five cents were added on a barrel of beer, it would fall on an article of voluntary use of which each consumer might readily spare a part if he were obliged to do so; and being collected by stamps at an insignificant cost, it would yield a revenue to the Government in almost the exact measure of what the people paid."
In his letter deprecating the defeat of the International Copyright bill, Mr. James Russell Lowell calls to our attention a much-neglected illustration of the unforeseen effects of legislative acts. The suggestion was originally made by Washington Irving.
It is notorious that successive Congresses, obeying the supposed will or desire of their constituents, have indulged in the attempt (unhappily successful) to rob foreign authors of their property. It is true that the robbery is perpetrated by the individual Americans who "purchase" the reprinted books, and that the part of Congress consists in inaction. But the inactivity of Congress has a definite purpose: to provide Americans with cheap books; and the point to which Mr. Lowell directs attention is that, along with this end, imperfectly attained, an unforeseen result has been produced. He quotes from Irving this passage, written fifty years ago:
How much the growing literature may be retarded by the present state of our copyright law, I had recently an instance in the cavalier treatment of a work of merit written by an American who had not established a commanding name in the literary market. I undertook, as a friend, to dispose of it for him, but found it impossible to get an offer from one of our principal publishers. They even declined to publish it at the author's cost, alleging that it was not worth their while to trouble themselves about native works of doubtful success, while they could pick up and choose among the successful works daily poured out by the British press, for which they had nothing to pay for copyright.
While the larger part of these fifty years has been spent in the endeavor to "protect" all other kinds of American industry against foreign competition,— in acknowledgment, apparently, of the superiority of foreign work,- Congress has persisted throughout the whole period in placing this handicap on American authors. They have been subjected to competition with English authors, on unequal terms. Yet, even with a fair field for publishing, how unequal the contest would still have been, seeing the advantages for culture the authors of the older country undoubtedly have. To this natural inequality has been added the artificial disadvantage of having to compete in the market with stolen goods. What would be the effect on the sale of
American manufactures if there were annually wrecked on our shores thousands of cargoes of English-made goods of superior quality, and sufficient in variety and quantity to supply the whole American market? The effect would be substantially the same as that actually produced by a stupid Congress, aiming at a quite different result, on the market for books.
it touches the public conscience more faintly. In ordinary cases it is the thief, but in this case, the thing stolen, that is invisible. To steal is no doubt more immediately profitable than acqusition by the more tedious methods of honesty, but is apt to prove more costly in the long run.
Of the several views suggested in these paragraphs, hardly any two are consistent
Unfortunately very unfortunately-for-hardly any two can both be true. The Mr. Lowell's reputation for perspicacity, he has not contented himself with recalling to our attention Irving's pointed argument. He has proceeded to discuss the general question of copyright-and, indeed, of property. With reckless confidence he plunges at once into a sea of trouble and confusion.
assertion is plainly made that every species of property is the "artificial creature of law." But if this is the origin of every species of property, how in the world can foreign authors have any right in their books in this country, unless the law of this country confers the right? And if property is the creature of law, of what value are the tacit admissions of the founders of this Republic? And if property is the creature of law, why, in the name of propriety and moderation, should our taking the books of foreign authors be alluded to as "stealing"? Our laws have not given them property in their books - and
The founders of our Republic tacitly admitted this right when they classed the law of copyright with that of patents. I have known very honest men who denied the public expediency of such a right in both cases, but I cannot understand either the logic or the probity of those who admit the one and deny the other. This right is visible and
pable in a book, and for this very reason the law should be more assiduous to protect it in the latter case as being the weaker.
But, after all, every species of property is the artificial creature of law, and the true question is whether, if such property in books did not exist, it would be wise, in our own interest, to create it. The inventions of Whitney, of Fulton, and of Morse added enormously to the wealth of the nation. Have not those of Edwards and Irving, and Cooper and Emerson, and Hawthorne and Longfellow (to speak only of the dead) added also to that wealth, and in a nobler kind? Or is not moral credit worth something, too? Is it not, indeed, the foundation on which financial credit is built, and most securely rests? The foreign right to property of this description stands on precisely the same footing with the domestic right, and the moral wrong of stealing either is equally great.
palpable in a machine, invisible and impal- surely we may not be held responsible for the vagaries of English laws. If law is the artificial progenitor of property, and if stealing is the act of taking another's property, it is very difficult to see how we can be guilty of theft in taking a foreigner's books seeing that these are not property, as our laws have not created them such. The simple truth is, that Mr. Lowell has given his whole case away, and, by the authority which his name exercises, he has perhaps given a greater set-back to the cause of copyright than any other man in this country possibly could have done.
True, our politicians are not afflicted with an excess of fiery intelligence that threatens to burn their bodily frames away; but, as Mr. Lowell remarks, "the sutures of the political cranium are so loosely knit as to leave a crevice through which considerations of ephemeral expediency find a too easy entrance." And I venture the prediction that Mr. Lowell will be quoted in opposition to the very next copyright bill, to the effect
But literary property is at a disadvantage, because it is not open, gross, and palpable, and, therefore, the wrongful appropriation of
that English authors have no rights to their books in this country until Congress shall have "created" these their property.
Property is the creature of law! Then why should we trouble ourselves with creating property for English authorswill ooze from the crevices in the political crania of Congressmen. Or suppose reasons for creating this property can be found in the expediency-code: we may at least expect to be free from imputations on our honesty till the creative Act has been passed.
Property is not the creature of law, but, on the contrary, antedates, in all probability, all law, and is, in fact, pre-governmental. If the intention is to convey the idea that respect for property-rights is a matter of custom, and varies with different people the same as do other customs, it were well to express the idea in language more nearly accurate. Law, whenever it is worth the name, springs from custom; and the respect for property, and the protection of property through law, has sprung from custom; but to say that two social institutions have sprung from the same social cause is not quite equivalent to saying that one of the institutions is the creature of the other. The word "law" has a certain definite meaning, which makes it quite distinct from the word "custom." Whether or not property was created by law, we can only infer from the habits and customs of people living in a simpler social condition than that in which we live. Whether our ancestors created property by law can only be inferred from the state of law and property which exists among people whose customs of this kind are so much simpler than ours that they may be assumed to represent approximately an earlier condition of our own. In other words, we can guess what our prehistoric ancestors did only from what the so-called savages of the present day do. And here the evidence is all against the assumption that property is the creature of law. Among North American Indians, as the Snakes,
the Chippewayans, or among the Ahts, the Esquimaux, and the Brazilian Indians, who were all entirely without government, private property existed at the time of the discovery. discovery. But the respect for private property probably did not extend to the property of other tribes. So it may be said of the present white Indians of North America. Respect for property in books exists, but does not extend to the property of Englishmen in books. And just as the property of the individual Snakes, Chippewayans, Ahts, Esquimaux, and Brazilians, in their horses, game, huts, utensils, and personal ornaments, was not created by law, so neither was the property of American authors and inventors created by the "tacit admission of the founders of our Republic," nor has it been subsequently created by the laws of their descendants. As to the registering of patents and copyrights, spoken of, very wrongly, as grants, it is merely a measure of convenience for protecting these somewhat peculiar forms of property.
It was to be expected that the fundamental confusion should be accompanied by other confusions. Having asserted that the right of property in a patent is identical with the right of property in a copyright, Mr. Lowell procceds to intimate that there is nevertheless a difference between them. He says, "This right is visible and palpable in a machine, invisible and impalpable in a book." I confess, without shame, my inability to discover any such difference. Permitting a literary man to use words after his own fashion to speak of rights being visible and palpable
- should not involve us in his confusions. The material aggregate of written or printed words is as visible and palpable as a machine; and, to quote Mr. Lowell himself, "it is in the form given to an idea by a man of genius, and in this only, that we assert a right of property to have been created." In conclusion, compare the words here italicized with those quoted above, but which follow in Mr. Lowell's
letter. In one case, we have the assertion that the writing of a book creates a right of property; and before these words are cold on his lips we are told that every species of property is the artificial creature of law. Inconsistency could not well go further. If the right of property is created when form is given to an idea, either in a machine, or in a book, and if the thing possessed is created by the mechanic or by the printer, where does the agency of the law come in? Evidently, not in the creation. That is an extremely violent metaphor indeed which represents this property as the creature of law, when the law has created neither the thing, nor the right to the thing. The right of property is a right which may be termed, by contrast with some others, superlatively a natural right; and of all rights of property, surely those which attach to ideas, whether embodied in machines or in books, are preeminently natural rights of property.
No; if patents have been protected, while copyrights have been neglected, the reason is not that suggested by Mr. Lowell. The reason is, plainly, because our attention for this hundred years has been wholly absorbed with the endeavor to add to our material wealth, and because our attention has drifted farther and farther away from those uses and products of the intellect which do not add to material wealth. When the attention is once turned to the consideration of the right of property in books, the right becomes as "" gross and palpable" as that in patents, or in anything else whatsoever. But the truth is, that property in patents has received our recognition, not because the right is any plainer, but because the profit is of the kind we covet. We have not studied rights, we have studied markets. Those rights which are still respected by us are so respected merely because the time is yet too short to have forgotten everything our fathers taught us. If copyright finally prevails, rest assured that success will have been due to the discovery that it is profitable in dollars and cents.
REMEDIES FOR POLITICAL ILLS.
Civil-service reform, the Australian ballot, the restriction of the liquor traffic, and the regulation of immigration, with modifi cation of our naturalization laws, these four measures Mr. Henry Charles Lea advocates as measures calculated to diminish some of our political evils. The first two are directly aimed at bribery, the last two indirectly. If, as Montesquieu thought, virtue is necessary to the salvation of a republic, then one is almost tempted to think that this republic has not long to endure. And it is not enough that citizens possess virtue negatively,- refrain from doing evil,- they must be ready to oppose evil and overcome it.
"Habitually, if we trace party feeling to its sources, we find on the one side maintenance of, and on the other opposition to, some form of inequity. Wrong is habitually alleged by this side against that, and there must be injustice in the thing done or in the allegation concerning it." The one question of this sort between our two political parties at present is the question of restriction or free trade. It is asserted on the one side, and denied on the other, that our policy of protection is an unjust policy -that it takes away from one man and gives to another. It is not for lack of other questions of justice and injustice that this is the only one at issue; in every instance where the State exceeds its true functions injustice is done. But there is no issue between the parties as to the true functions of the State; there seems to be hardly any consciousness that there is a limit to these functions, consequently one party is as ready to transgress them as the other. How and by whom they shall be transgressed constitutes the greater number of issues.
There are some effects produced by the State's exceeding its proper functions in this country which attract attention just now. One of these is the corruption in distributing offices, and another the corruption in elections. It is recognized that the