… is from page 10 of William Gladstone’s January 1890 contribution to a debate, with James G. Blaine of Maine, on free trade versus protectionism; these remarks are published in volume CCCXCVIII of the North American Review:
The argument of the Free-Trader is that the legislator ought never to interfere, or only to interfere so far as imperative fiscal necessity may require it, with this natural law of distribution.
All interference with it by a government in order to encourage some dearer method of production at home, in preference to a cheaper method of production abroad, may fairly be termed artificial. And every such interference means simply a diminution of the national wealth. If region A grows corn at home for fifty shillings with which region B can supply it at forty, and region B manufactures cloth at twenty shillings with which region A can supply it at fifteen, the national wealth of each is diminished by the ten and the five shillings respectively.
And the capitalists and laborers in each of these countries have so much the less to divide into their respective shares, in that competition between capital and labor which determines the distribution between them of the price brought in the market by commodities.
In my view, and I may say for my countrymen in our view, protection, however dignified by the source from which it proceeds, is essentially an invitation to waste, promulgated with the authority of law.
DBx: Indeed. Protectionism, were it to wear a more accurate name, would be called “wasteism.”