(iii) After the Suspension of Gold
(A letter to The Times, Sept. 28, 1931)
Until recently I was urging on Liberals and others the importance of accepting a general tariff as a means of mitigating the effects of the obvious disequilibrium between money-costs at home and abroad. But the events of the last week have made a great difference. At the present gold-value of sterling British producers are probably in many directions among the cheapest in the world. In these circumstances we cannot continue as if nothing had happened. It is impossible to have a rational discussion about tariffs so long as the currency question is altogether unsolved. For until we know more about the probable future level of sterling in relation to gold, and, above all, until we know how many other countries are going to follow our example, it is impossible to say what our competitive position is going to be.
May I urge that the immediate question for attention is not a tariff but the currency question? It is the latter which is urgent and important. It is at present a non-party issue on which none of the political parties has taken up a dogmatic attitude. It is suitable, therefore, for non-party handling. It is most certainly unsuitable for a General Election. It offers immense opportunities for leadership by this country. We are probably in a position to carry the whole of the Empire and more than half of the rest of the world with us, and thus rebuild the financial supremacy of London on a firm basis. Meanwhile, proposals for high protection have ceased to be urgent. To throw the country into a turmoil over them to the neglect of this other more urgent and important problem would be a wrong and foolish thing. Let us give our whole attention and our united energies to devising a sound international currency policy for ourselves and the rest of the world. For it is futile to suppose that we can recover our former prosperity without such a policy, or that tariffs can be any substitute for it. When the currency question has been settled, then we can return to protection and to our other domestic issues with a solid basis to go upon; and that will be the time for a General Election.
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