Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on November 29, 2011

in Civil Society, Competition, Complexity & Emergence, Standard of Living, Trade

… is from David Hume’s essay “Of Commerce” (here from page 264 of the 1985 Liberty Fund collection of Hume’s essays, edited by the late Eugene Miller, Essays: Moral, Political, and Literary):

And this perhaps is the chief advantage which arises from a commerce with strangers.  It rouses men from their indolence; and presenting the gayer and more opulent part of the nation with objects of luxury, which they never before dreamed of, raises in them a desire of a more splendid way of life than what their ancestors enjoyed.  And at the same time, the few merchants, who possess the secret of this importation and exportation, make great profits; and becoming rivals in wealth to the ancient nobility, tempt other adventurers to become their rivals in commerce.  Imitation soon diffuses all those arts; while domestic manufactures emulate the foreign in their improvements, and work up every home commodity to the utmost perfection of which it is susceptible.  Their own steel and iron, in such laborious hands, become equal to the gold and rubies of the Indies.

Query: Would Robert Frank regard the fact that “a commerce with strangers” “rouses men from their indolence” to be an advantage of commerce (as does Hume) or a disadvantage?

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{ 7 comments }

Jon Murphy November 29, 2011 at 8:52 am

Response: Robert Frank may see it as another arms-race. More and more merchants competing to sell these goods, profits become lesser and lesser, and in the end, while more resources have been devoted, no discernible gain has been made (monetarily). At least, that’s the way I understand his argument to go.

Adam Smith November 29, 2011 at 9:54 am

Eventually, Robert Frank will be as well remembered as are the art critics of the Lascaux cave paintings and the architecture reviewers of Stonehenge.

It is interpersonal commerce which gives rise to our very concepts and words. Consider just the commerce of the common flax plant.

The word linen is derived from the Latin for the flax plant, which is linum, and from the Greek for the flax plant, which is linon.

Line is derived from the use of a linen thread to determine a straight line;
Liniment is due to the use of finely ground flax seeds as a mild irritant applied to the skin to ease muscle pain
Lining is from the use of linen to create a lining for wool and leather clothing
Lingerie is from French, originally denoting underwear made of linen
Linseed oil, an oil derived from flax seed
Linoleum, a floor covering made from linseed oil and other materials
In English, the term flaxen-haired denotes a very light, bright blonde, coming from a comparison of hair color to the color of raw flax fiber.

Dan J November 29, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Then we get pole dancing from ‘line dancing’…..

kyle8 November 29, 2011 at 6:26 pm

No, that comes from Poland, the Poles were so stupid the always danced right into that big pole that held up the ceiling.

Jon Murphy November 29, 2011 at 6:32 pm

As a Pole, I find that joke hilarious.

brotio November 29, 2011 at 6:44 pm

A Polack with a Mick last name? Remind me not to go shot-for-shot with you!

Adam Smith November 29, 2011 at 7:42 pm

Vous êtes à proximité. I am 3rd year interneteer from Szeczecin.

C’est en faisant n’importe qui c’est en faisant n’importe quoi qu’on devient n’importe qui mon frere. Acclamations.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_profilepage&v=pIrvpn3k9A4

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