Henry C. Carey - The Early Nationalist

Henry C. Carey, The Early Nationalist

Though in many respects a follower of Smith, Carey was also a critic of the Classical political economy. He was a protectionist and a Nationalist. Indeed, his prefer­ences for intuition, and his suggestion that individuals are "molecules" in society, show some tendency toward a social philosophy akin to that of Adam Muller, although he was far from being a Romanticist.

Carey's arguments in favor of protection are somewhat dif­ferent from those advanced by List. He brings points other than those made by List into special prominence. He lays weight, as does-List, upon the civilizing influence of manu­factures and commerce, holding that America would be a stupid, uninteresting, and barbarous country, if all Americans devoted themselves to agriculture. Indeed, he states that with­out well-developed manufactures, agriculture itself would be in a poor way, as the products of the land would then find no convenient market. The cost of transportation to distant countries would consume the greater share of the farmer's profits. (While it might be possible to prove Carey's statement that "the first and heaviest tax to be paid by land and labor is that of transportation," it is surprising to read the sentence following, in which the ratio between the distance goods are transported and the cost of transportation, is defined with mathematical accuracy. The cost of transportation, says Carey, "increases in geometrical proportion as the distance from market increases arithmetically." This is far from being true.)

However, Carey's arguments in favor of protection by no means depend upon the accuracy of this formula. His two chief points are (1) the benefit of association, and (2) the neces­sity of returning to the earth what is taken from it.

Association develops individuality, "which has ever been in the ratio of the power of man to combine with his fellow-men." Now if protection favors the growth of association, it ought to be encouraged. This follows from the very definition of social science given by Carey; for it is defined as "'the science of the laws which govern man in his efforts to secure for himself the highest individuality and the greatest power of association with his fellow-men." Association cannot take place to any great extent among those who pursue the same employment. Diversity is needed. Unlikes unite and supplement each other. The farmer combines with the blacksmith, and the miller with the baker. The diversity of pursuit promotes and requires in­tellectual development. America does not wish to become a great farm for a city called England; but this is what would result from following British policy. " It is selfish and repulsive," says Carey, "its essential object being the separation of the consumers and the producers of the world. In that direction lie poverty and slavery." It has impoverished every land which has followed it, as Ireland, India, Portugal, Turkey, and the West Indies. It is even ruining England herself. She is con­stantly exhausting the countries with which she deals, and is obliged to seek continually new markets. She thus becomes more and more dependent upon the rest of the world. Any change in the policy of other countries or interruption of trade by war or natural calamity, must bring misery to the English people. All efforts are put forth for the one end of cheap pro­duction. Wages are reduced, and man is regarded as but a machine. A few become wealthy, but the people as a whole remain poor and wretched.

Carey's second leading argument is the necessity of returning to the soil what has been taken from it. He lays down this law: "The consumer must take his place beside the producer in order to enable man to comply with the condition on which he obtains loans from the great bank of mother earth — the simple con­dition that when he shall have done with the capital furnished to him, he shall return it to the place whence it has been taken." If this is not done, Carey holds that the soil becomes exhausted, and the land less productive. Accordingly, if a nation begins by exporting raw material, it will end by exporting men, as in the case of Ireland. If, however, produce is carried only to neighboring cities, they return it to the land in the shape of fertilizers.

This argument concerning the exhaustion of the soil is un­doubtedly quite specious. It implies a denial of the fact that by foreign trade the wealth of a nation may be increased; for if it be admitted that exchange with other countries is profitable, it must follow that by such exchange a nation may gain in­creased power to refresh its soil. Other and possibly cheaper ways exist by which produce may be returned to the soil than by retaining a portion for direct application, as, for example, by the use of chemical fertilizers or the growth of certain crops; and to restrict foreign trade may limit a nation's power to ac­quire or use these means of restoring any lost fertility.

It should be remembered that the American, Daniel Ray­mond, had held views similar to those of Carey. As a follower of Carey, E. Duhring, a German economist, is worthy of brief mention.