"Beneficial Results of Protectionism" (1848)
The German Customs Union [Zollverein] was founded in 1834 under Prussian leadership and aimed at breaking down tariff barriers and encouraging free trade among the member states. At the same time, it also aimed to protect fledgling German industry by agreeing on common tariffs on foreign imports. The caricature, sarcastically entitled “beneficial results of protectionism,” fits into contemporary discussions about the appropriateness of protective duties, the optimal level of taxation, and the social groups that benefited from the whole system. The unknown artist has a clear view of the winners and losers of protectionism: whereas the factory owner in the top row, now protected from foreign competition, literally “expands” in the period from 1848 to 1851, the once robust worker in the middle wastes away, probably due to resulting increases in food and commodity prices, until the birds pick away at his skeletal remains. According to this critic, the system of protectionism also causes the public purse to dwindle, presumably because higher tariffs cannot compensate for the overall reduction of trade and losses in government revenues. Lithograph, 1848.