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A few remarks concerning these figures may be of some avail.

When a sudden fall in the British and Irish exports took place in the years 1882-1886, and the alarmists took advantage of the bad times to raise the never-forgotten war-cry of protection, especially insisting on the damages made to British trade by “German competition,” Mr. Giffen analysed the figures of international trade in his “Finance Essays,” and in a report read in 1888 before the Board of Trade Commission. Subsequently, Mr. A. W. Flux analysed again the same figures, extending them to a later period. He confirmed Mr. Giffen’s conclusions and endeavoured to prove that the famous “German competition” is a fallacy.

Mr. Giffen’s conclusions, quoted by Mr. A. W. Flux (“The Commercial Supremacy of Great Britain,” in Economical Journal, 1894, iv., p. 457), were as follows:-

“On the whole, the figures are not such as to indicate any great and overwhelming advance in German exports, in comparison with those of the United Kingdom. There is greater progress in certain direction, but, taken altogether, no great disproportionate advance, and in many important markets for the United Kingdom Germany hardly appears at all.”

In this subdued form, with regard to German competition alone – and due allowance being made for figures in which no consideration is given to what sort of goods make a given value of exports, and in what quantities – Mr. Giffen’s statement could be accepted. But that was all.

If we take, however, Mr. Giffen’s figures as they are reproduced in extended tables (on pp. 461-467 of the just quoted paper), tabulated with great pains in order to show that Germany’s part in the imports to several European countries, such as Russia, Italy, Servia, etc., had declined, as well as the part of the United Kingdom , all we could conclude from these figures was, that there were other countries besides Germany – namely, the United States and Belgium – which competed very effectively with England, France, and Germany for supplying what manufactured goods were taken by Russia, Italy, Servia, etc., from abroad.

At the same time such figures gave no idea of the fact that where manufactured metal goods were formerly supplied, coal and raw metals were imported for the home manufacture of those same goods; or, where dyed and printed cottons were imported, only yarn was required. The whole subject is infinitely more complicated that it appeared in Mr. Giffen’s calculations; and, valuable as his figures may have been for appeasing exaggerated fears, they contained no answer whatever to the many economic questions involved in the matters treated by Mr. Giffen.

The conclusions which I came to in these lines in the first edition of this book found further confirmation in the subsequent economical development of all nations in that same direction. The result is, that – apart from the extraordinary exports of the years 1910 and 1911 (which I venture to explain by the general prevision of a great European war going to break out) – the exports from this country, apart from their usual periodical fluctuations, continued to remain what they were, in proportion to the increasing population, and many of them became less profitable; while the exports from all other countries increased in a much greater proportion.


In 1885 the superficies given to market gardening in Belgium was 99,600 acres. In 1894 a Belgian professor of agriculture, who has kindly supplied me with notes on this subject, wrote:-

“The area has considerably increased, and I believe it can be taken at 112,000 acres (45,000 hectares), if not more.” And further on: “Rents in the neighbourhood of the big towns, Antwerp, Liege, Ghent, and Brussels, attain as much as £5, 16s. and £8 per acres; the cost of instalment is from £13 to £25 per acre; the yearly cost of manure, which is the chief expense, attains from £8 to £16 per acre the first year, and then from £5 to £8 every year.” The gardens are of the average size of two and a half acres, and in each garden from 200 to 400 frames are used. About the Belgian market-gardeners the same remark must be made as has been made concerning the French maraichers. They work awfully hard, having to pay extravagant rents, and to lay money aside, with the hope of some day being able to buy a piece of land, and to get rid of the blood-sucker who absorbs so much of their money returns; having moreover every year to buy more and more frames in order to obtain their produce earlier and earlier, so as to fetch higher prices for it, they work like slaves. But it must be remembered that in order to obtain the same amount of produce under glass, in greenhouses, the work of three men only, working fifty-five hours a week, is required in Jersey for cultivating one acre of land under glass.

But I must refer my readers to the excellent work of my friend, B. Seebohm Rowntree’s Land and Labour: Lessons from Belgium, London (Macmillan), 1910, a strong volume of more than 600 pages, which is the result of several years of laborious studies. It is full of figures and personal observations, and will be consulted with advantage for all the questions dealing with the economical life of Belgium.


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