Levelling out through taxes is way more dangerous than levelling out through free-trade.

Frédéric Bastiat
Complete Works, Volume 2, pages 222 to 225 (in French)
April 4th, 1847

I am not familiar with the situation of taxes on sugar in the 19th century but if I understand correctly, while beetroot sugar production (indigenous) had been favoured by Napoléon Bonaparte, the Bourbon Restoration reverted the policy. I can find a 10 francs per quintal tax in 1837 but I am not sure if it was applied on both indigenous sugar and cane sugar from the Antilles. In any case, it seems that taxes were not favourable to beetroot sugar in 1847 but its production had not vanished to the benefit of imported sugar (including from the colonies). Thus, it was not protected and free-trade advocates used sugar as an illustration about the success of the absence of taxes, notwithstanding the outcry from the protectionnists who predicted the death of industry in case the tariffs in their favour would be abolished.

Frédéric Bastiat takes this opportunity to explain how free-trade would be even more favourable to production than the evolution of taxes on sugar had been (the lack of protection had stimulated innovation and the competition of beetroot against cane had encouraged the development of sugar consumption). He shows how levelling out prices through taxes (which is what tariffs do by increasing the price of the most competitive product) is not equivalent to levelling out prices through the absence of taxes (which requires the less competitive product to become more so). He explains how market price formation goes through various steps – the price decrease leads to an increase in demand, which in turns leads to an increase in price. At the same time, free-trade over the board allows to reduce production costs. On the other hand, a tax eliminates all these adjustments and does not allow for an optimisation of production.

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