Franklin on Trade

by Don Boudreaux on June 15, 2006

in Trade

Benjamin Franklin, in a July 1778 letter to James Lovell, accurately captured the essence of those who interfere with peaceful trade.  (Note: to find this quotation you must scroll down in the above link to footnote six.)

To lay duties on a commodity exported, which our neighbors want, is a
knavish attempt to get something for nothing. The statesman who first
invented it had the genius of a pickpocket, and would have been a
pickpocket if fortune had suitably placed him. The nations who have
practiced it have suffered fourfold, as pickpockets ought to suffer.

And, perhaps in the same letter, Franklin added:

Most of the statutes or acts, edicts, arrests, and placarts of
parliaments, princes, and states, for regulating, directing, or
restraining trade, have been either political blunders or jobs obtained by artful men for private advantage under pretence of public good.

(I found this quotation in this essay by Thomas Hodgskin.)

(Hat tip to Bob Higgs.)

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{ 2 comments }

Tiberius June 16, 2006 at 2:52 pm

Very interesting. You should send this to every official in Brazil regarding export tariffs on ethanol if America ever stops import tariffs.

mark adams June 18, 2006 at 2:09 am

A shame he did not extend his criticisms to import duties.

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