Are We a Self-Sufficient Nation?
Henry H. Hardinge
[Reprinted from the Henry George Fellowship News,
Chicago, IL, November, 1935]
Millions of American citizens harbor the perfectly infantile notion
that the U.S.A. is a self-contained nation and could very readily
survive if we were suddenly isolated from the rest of the world. Let
us see just how independent of the rest of the world we are at the
present time and just how independent will we ever be?
We are the largest consumers of raw rubber in the world and we import
all of it. We are the largest consumers of coffee in the world and we
import every pound of It. We consume the most sugar and import most of
it and always will. We consume enormous quantities of tea and import
every pound of it and always will. We consume more chocolate and cocoa
than any other nation and import every pound of them.
America is the home of the chewing gum industry and we import
millions of pounds of chicle to make it. We do not grow it here. We
are the largest consumers of binder twine in the world and import
nearly all of the sisal from YUCATAN. We use more jute for gunnysacks
than any other nation and get all of the raw material from India --
not a pound is grown in this country. Jute like rubber and many other
Imports, is a hot country product.
We use millions of pounds of copra in our soap industry and get all
of it from foreign lands. Most of our essential oils are from abroad;
also vegetable oils. We consume more bananas than any other nation and
import practically every one of them -- a hot country product. We
import most of our pineapples and we consume millions of them. We are
the greatest users of leather in the world for belting, shoes and a
thousand other uses, and get most of the hides and all of the good
ones from abroad. We are the greatest consumers of "hot dogs"
in the world and nearly all of our sausage casings (all of the best
ones) come from Australia, New Zealand; and the very best from Russia.
As to wood, of which we need and use enormous quantities, the
precious woods such as teak, ebony, mahogany, boxwood, rosewood,
Circassian walnut, balsa and lignum-vitae, all come from the tropics,
as does satinwood. As to metals, we cannot carry on without high speed
steel; molybdennum, tungsten, vanadium, chrome, nickel and cobalt all
come from abroad. We cannot line our blast furnaces without magnesite,
a product of Greece. Scarcely any of these metals are produced here
and those only of low quality.
Russian manganese is the best in the world and we cannot make a good
railway frog without it, nor a good dipper for a dredge. The best
tungsten for Mazda lamps comes from China. We are the greatest
consumers of tins in the world -- America is the home of the tin can;
and not a pound of it is mined in this good old U.S.A. Nature did not
put it here.
It takes three metals to make type: antimony, tin and lead. Of the
three we produce only lead. The antimony comes from Hankow, China.
We cannot vaunt the praises and the virtues of a high protective
tariff and advertise our self-sufficiency for the edification of the
rest of a suffering world without going abroad for two of the metals
with which to convey the necessary misinformation.
We are the largest consumers of raw silk in the world. China and
Japan are the great sources of supply. We have practically no asbestos
mines of high quality. It was first found in Quebec and now China,
Russia and Canada supply us. We are the largest consumers of
industrial alcohol in the world and the cheapest base for it is
molasses, the byproduct of cane sugar, and most of it comes from
We are the largest producers of synthetic lumber such as celotex; the
base material is gypsum and sugar cane stalks, and the island of Cuba
sends us the material. The rare woods, the rare metals, the tropical
fruits, the pitchblende deposits are found only outside the borders of
this country. The Belgian Congo and British North America are the
source of radium ores. Of wool we import immense quantities from
Argentina and Australia to blend with our domestic brands to make
perfect woolen cloth.
Practically all of the newsprint paper for our protectionist
newspapers, as well as the type metal, comes from Canada and Norway.
We cannot make good cutlery without Swedish ores and stainless steel
is impossible without chrome from Rhodesia and Brazil. Who has not
seen and eaten Brazil nuts and almonds? More than half of the contents
of the great American candy box is imported. Did you ever see any
domestic cinnamon or cloves? Most of our spices are imported.
__ All of our cork comes from Spain. Cork trees do not flourish here.
What would we do without cork? Even our "drys" would be up
against it without cork. It is invaluable as an insulator in
refrigeration. There are musical instruments that would be vastly
inferior were they confined to domestic woods, and the xylophone and
all such instruments as clarinets, flutes, etc., would be worthless.
The vanilla bean is a foreign product. Take these two things alone,
vanilla and chocolate, out of our soda fountains, as well as the candy
boxes, and imagine if you can what would happen to the candy business,
the American soda fountain, the American bakery and the average
Yes, we are far from self-sufficient and this is only a partial list.
If our wits were as keen as the razor blades we make from Swedish
steel we would be the keenest and wisest people on earth today. The
terrible commercial depression from which we are now suffering, and
the asinine reasons assigned as to its cause by our organs of public
opinion and the ludicrous suggestions as to its remedy, would indicate
that we have a long up-hill climb ahead of us before we reach the
eminence that Henry George reached when he wrote about Progress
and Poverty so brilliantly half a century ago.