… is from pages 294-295 of the 1982 Liberty Fund re-issue of Frank Knight‘s 1947 collection Freedom and Reform; here, Knight is speaking of some writings on the 17th century by a history professor at Oxford University, one G.N. Clark (original emphasis and ellipses):
His economic reasoning is of a kind which is characteristic of historians and of educated people generally, a fact which is at once the main practical reason for teaching economics, and the despair of those whose profession it is to do it. It would hardly be possible to imagine a “better bad example” than is afforded by a couple of sentences taken from the end of Professor Clark’s second chapter: “Again, technological improvement was most active . . . in those indusries in which there was international competition . . . the export industries, which each state now tried to foster in order that its dependence on imports might be lessened, and its exporting powers increased.” Obviously, the fostering of export industries would increase a country’s dependence on imports – unless exports were given away to foreigners, which is not customary. And importation is the only intelligible motive for fostering exports, as well as its natural consequence. There are other hardly less “flagrant” sins against facts and logic, such as the observation that a labor-saving invention is a “synonym for unemployment”.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.