Admitting iron freely when it is meant for construction is a measure that is positive on only one aspect, which is that it is the most offensive satire that can be made against the prohibitive regime.
Complete Works, Volume 1, pages 392 to 405 (in French)
While the government is considering a suppression of tariffs on foreign iron in a restrictive framework (when it is destined to be used in the construction of vessels), Frédéric Bastiat is exposing this half-baked policy that would be added to the absurd conditions set with the preferential tariffs.
One of the consequences of circumscribing tariffs on a product depending on its source was to develop animosity between peoples. Restricting tariffs according to the use of imported products implies to grant unwarranted power to the customs house. How is it possible to verify the use of an exonerated product according to its use indeed? By granting the customs house the power to verify its use. The framework of the customs house would then have to be extended far beyond the surveillance of borders.
Besides, Frédéric Bastiat also shows the extent how absurd these tariffs on iron that are meant to be suppressed because of the lack of competitiveness for certain users but not others, are. He shows also that the declared objective cannot be reached, which turns the legislator admitting being in front of an issue to ridicule when he tries to solve it without taking into account the underlying economic reality. Today’s quote is part of the conclusion in three points of the demonstration and highlights the fact that we are facing a bunch of clowns who are attempting to legislate indiscriminately by suppressing freedom when the solution to the issue is to grant more freedom.