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I HAVE been asked by my friend, Monsieur Yves Guyot, to write a few forewords to the present translation of his brochure, explaining the existing system of Sugar Taxation in France.
I have great pleasure in acceding to his request, and the first thing that occurs to me is to express to Monsieur Yves Guyot my recognition of the very clear manner in which he has explained the intricate details of what is probably at once the most complicated, as well as the most absurd instance of protective fiscal legislation existing in the world.
To those whose business it has been, as mine has been, to keep themselves acquainted with all that goes on in the Sugar World, the facts stated, and so lucidly explained by Monsieur Yves Guyot, are of course well known ; but the ordinary reader, I venture to say, will peruse the following exposé with surprise, and will indeed find it difficult to refrain from feeling that his credulity is being imposed upon.
The story disclosed might well be called a fiscal fairy story, were it not that fairy stories are fictions of a vivid
imagination, whilst this is a story of hard matter of fact.
The brochure might indeed be entitled, “How the French Legislature extracts £4,000,000 annually from the pockets of French taxpayers as a contribution to enrich some 350 Sugar Growers.”
The following pages show, in the words of the conjurors, how the trick is worked.
I have only one word to add, and it can scarcely be said to redound to our credit as a Nation, whether for common sense, or courage. It is this : all this absurd legislation would have been abortive but for the connivance of the Government of this country. It is absolutely certain that if we, who profess to be Free traders, had insisted upon maintaining Free trade in Sugar in our own markets, not only would our own Sugar-producing and Sugar-engineering industries have continued to prosper, but French taxpayers would have been saved the extravagant contribution they have been called upon to make for many years past for the benefit of a few individuals, and the population of France might have also enjoyed the great blessing, which has so long been denied to them, of cheap sugar.
20 August, 1901.
It is not unnecessary, I think, to explain the English publication of this little book.
The original French edition had accomplished its purpose: it converted a great many public men in France to the anti-bounty movement. For this reason, and also in view of the probability of a second Brussels conference, it was decided, on the advice of the late Sir Courtenay Boyle and Sir Nevile Lubbock, to place an English edition before interested circles in Great Britain and its colonies.
The late Under-Secretary of the Board of Trade was of opinion that literature which had caused a number of prominent French politicians to make volte-face on this important subject, would certainly be worth reading by that part of the British public which takes an interest in economic questions of this kind.
In addition to this, a second International Conference on the Sugar Bounties not being improbable in the near future, it was thought of advantage to possess in England