My object in this little volume has been to refute some of the arguments usually advanced against Free Trade.
I am not seeking a combat with the protectionists. I merely advance a principle which I am anxious to present clearly to the minds of sincere men, who hesitate because they doubt.
I am not of the number of those who maintain that protection is supported by interests. I believe that it is founded upon errors, or, if you will, upon incomplete truths. Too many fear free trade, for this apprehension to be other than sincere.
My aspirations are perhaps high; but I confess that it would give me pleasure to hope that this little work might become, as it were, a manual for such men as may be called upon to decide between the two principles. When one has not made oneself perfectly familiar with the doctrines of free trade, the sophisms of protection perpetually return to the mind under one form or another; and, on each occasion, in order to counteract their effect, it is necessary to enter into a long and laborious analysis. Few, and least of all legislators, have leisure for this labor, which I would, on this account, wish to present clearly drawn up to their hand.
But it may be said, are then the benefits of free trade so hidden as to be perceptible only to economists by profession?
Yes; we confess it; our adversaries in the discussion have a signal advantage over us. They can, in a few words, present an incomplete truth; which, for us to show that it is incomplete, renders necessary long and uninteresting dissertations.
This results from the fact that protection accumulates upon a single point the good which it effects, while the evil inflicted is infused throughout the mass. The one strikes the eye at a first glance, while the other becomes perceptible only to close investigation. With regard to free trade, precisely the reverse is the case.