by Viv Forbes, 16/8/1992, from his private archive
To the Honourable President and Members of Parliament assembled, we the members of the Candle and Lamp Makers Guild present our petition:
We in the lighting industry are suffering from ruinous competition from a foreign rival whose low production costs allow him to flood our markets with lighting at an incredibly low price. This unfair competitor, the sun, is dumping his products so shamelessly that, from the moment his light appears, our sales cease and our important industry is reduced to stagnation.
We therefore beseech you to pass a law to prevent this unfair competition. This law should require the closing of all windows, shutters, curtains and doors from sunrise to sunset.
This bold action will greatly stimulate the lighting industry, with increased demand for candles, lamp oil and coal. Glass making and transport will revive and there will be a great increase in employment in these important industries.
The first version of the above petition was written in 1844 by that brilliant French essayist and politician, Frederic Bastiat. It has become famous as “The Candlemakers’ Petition”. I acknowledge my debt to this great economic teacher and recommend his book Economic Sophisms.
Nonsensical though it sounds, not a week goes by without someone proposing another version of the Candlemakers’ Petition.
Sunlight is a gift of nature which arrives free. Only a fool (or a Professor of Social Science) would reject such a boon.
However there is a gift element in every import, be it from the neighbouring farm, the next town, interstate or overseas.
For example, imagine the banana industry before federation. Because of its unfair access to the supply of cheap sunlight, Queensland was able to produce more bananas than they needed.
Bananas could be grown in all colonies. In Victoria, they grew slowly and then only in hot-houses, whereas in Queensland they flourished under natural conditions. As a result, bananas from Moreton Bay were landed on the Victorian goldfields by coastal steamers and Cobb & Co at half the cost of producing them in Victoria. The difference in costs represents the free gift of natural sunlight. Had it not been for the guarantee of free interstate trade inserted in the Australian Constitution, the protectionist Victorians would surely have presented petitions to hamper the entry of cheap Queensland bananas. Just like the Candlemakers’ Petition, its effect would have been to shut out from Victoria the benefits of free sunlight in Queensland.
Undoubtedly a stiff tariff on Queensland bananas would have improved employment prospects in Victorian hot-houses, but the costs to the Bendigo miners and all other banana consumers would far outweigh these artificial benefits. And banana smuggling would have soon rivalled bush-ranging in profitability.
Sunlight is not the only free gift of nature whose benefits are not distributed “fairly”.
Not every city, state or country is blessed by good rainfall, fertile soils, artesian water, good harbours, oil riches, cheap coal or abundant minerals. And only a few have low taxes, stable laws and competitive markets — these too are like free gifts to those living in such enlightened environments.
Any society with an abundance of these gifts of nature or politics is able to pass on some of their windfall in lower prices for their products. To erect barriers against these gifts is like shutting out the sun.
But what about “unfair” competition, where the government subsidises exports? Or “dumping”, where goods are sold at below “normal costs”, whatever that is.
When the subsidy is 100%, it is called “charity” or “welfare” or “international aid” and universally lauded.
But charity destroys jobs, just like free sunlight. Should local employment in the rag trade be protected by tariffs on clothing distributed by the Smith Family? Why not stop the disease where it starts by banning the donation of clothes and things to local charities? Maybe the IAC should conduct an anti-dumping enquiry into the St Vincent de Paul Society?
It is also nonsense to believe that tariffs create wealth. Economic wealth is an abundance of goods and services — every trade barrier must thus reduce total community wealth. Protectionism may well increase employment, but not wealth. In the hermit economy, we will all slave from daylight to dark on our subsistence plots, each family trying to produce its own supply of food, clothing, shelter and transport.
There will be no early retirement, no easy life for grandma, no idle kids, no vacations to the coast — just an over-abundance of back-breaking labour in the garden, in the milk shed, at the loom, mending the hot house, or down in the workshop.
Even if job creation were our sole or chief goal, tariffs destroy jobs just as effectively as they create them. For example, if we allow sugar manufacturers to exploit consumers under the protection of a heavy tariff on sugar imports, we immediately threaten the prosperity of local manufacturers who use sugar. Those who make alcohol, breakfast cereals, cakes, canned fruit, chocolate, confectionery, cordials, glaces, ice cream, icing sugar, jams, jellies, soft drinks and tarts are immediately put at a disadvantage compared to competitors able to buy sugar on world markets. Soon we would be importing sugar products, instead of sugar.
So too an artificial price for wool will destroy our exports of woollen goods, a tariff on outboard motors will cripple our boat builders, barriers to cheap food will make our wages un-competitive and a tariff on steel will cause losses to most farms, factories and mines.
There are a couple of general rules here.
Firstly, every tariff will reduce the incentive for value-added industries using that product.
Secondly, the introduction of a tariff will inevitably cause demands for more tariffs in the value adding industries using that product. If this destructive process is allowed to continue, it will result in contraction of that whole industry from farm to factory as export markets disappear. They will all work harder, and become poorer.
Not even the ACTU or the Chamber of Manufacturers would advocate we shut out the sun. But some of their special pleadings are just as silly.
Let’s expose them all to the bright sunlight.
- Lang Hancock's Five Point Plan to Cripple Australia
- Put Windmills in National Parks
- Magnifying National Disasters
- Please Don't Feed the Animals
- Buy Birdsville Made?
- The Economics of Flood Risk
- Touring Bureaucrats
- Our slip-shod laws to blame
- Why Wind Won't Work
- A Profusion of "Prices"
- R.I.P. Ron Kitching - pioneer, explorer, author, family man, entrepreneur, scholar
- The Carbon Pollution Lie
- Closing Down Australia
- The Anti-Industry
- The Pyramid Builders
- Carbon Tax Bribery
- Crown Monopolies
- Carbon Tax Job Losses
- What Next, a Tax on Water?
- Carbon Health Warnings Coming Soon
- Growth Mythology
- The Tax Collection Industry
- Propaganda Puts Paid to Proof
- The Milk of the Welfare Teat is Watered Down
- "Crops for Cars" as Bad as Everlasting Drought
- Poll speech sets record
- The Emissions Trading Casino
- The Contract Society
- A Model Ministry
- The Five Point Plan to kill the economy with High Cost Electricity
- Put a Sunset Clause in the Carbon Tax
- Stuck on Red
- Time to Butcher "Aussie Beef"
- Carbon Tax Lies and Bribes
- The Middle of the Road
- United against taxes
- Call for Govt administrator
- Property & Prosperity
- "The Science is Settled" BUT Durban Climate Summit Not Cancelled
- No End to Fuelish Policies?
- The Right to Discriminate
- Sell the CES
- Free Water Costs Too Dam Much
- Creating Unemployment
- Viv Forbes Wins 1986 Adam Smith Award
- 1985 news item on Tax Payers United, Centre 2000 and the Australian Adam Smith Club
- Having the numbers is not the same as having the truth
- Who's Who in the Workers Party
- David Russell Leads 1975 Workers Party Queensland Senate Team
- Caught in a welfare whirlpool
- Global Warming Season
- Mining in Queensland, Past, Present and Future
- WEATHER IS USUALLY UNUSUAL
- Political branch formed
- Ron Manners on the Workers Party
- Viv Forbes on Libertarian Strategy and the Constant Resources Myth
- The New Brisbane Line?
- Carbon Lies
- We Mine to Live
- Save the taxpayer
- Solving Three Canberra Problems
- Vested Interests in the Climate Debate
- Carbon Tax Retrospective?
- Carbon Price Propaganda Taxes the Truth
- Don't Burn Food for Motor Spirit - Feed People not Cars
- Two Big Climate Taxes
- Greens Rediscover Hydrogen Car
- Atlas of Australia
- Shutting Out The Sun
- Safety Mania
- Coal - Sinking in the Swamps
- Hobbling the Competition
- Cubic Currency Coming
- "Dear Government"
- Viv Forbes mocks Flannery in 1988
- What we have is not a drug problem but a drug law problem
- Smoking, Health and Freedom
- Privatise Now! while they are still worth something
- The Electoral Act should allow voters to choose "none of the above"
- The New Federalism
- Sunset for Solar Subsidies
- The mouse will roar
- The Road to Homelessness
- Planning & Prosperity
- Viv Forbes and Jim Fryar vs Malcolm Fraser in 1979
- Quip, Quote, Rant and Rave: four of Viv Forbes' letters to the editor in The Australian in 1979
- Australia's First Official Political Party Poet Laureate: The Progress Party's Ken Hood in 1979
- Our homeless regulation refugees
- Progress Party and Workers Party lead The Australian
- Viv Forbes in 1978 on loss-making government, the Berlin Wall and misdirected blasts of hot-air