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Quotation of the Day…

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… is from Treasury secretary Albert Gallatin [2]‘s December 18th, 1807, letter to President Thomas Jefferson warning Jefferson of the likely ill consequences that would be unleashed by Jefferson’s embargo on Americans’ foreign trade; this quotation is found on page 102 of Douglas Irwin’s remarkable new (2017) history of the United States’s trade policy, Clashing Over Commerce [3]:

Government prohibitions do always more mischief than had been calculated and it is not without much hesitation that a statesman should hazard to regulate the concerns of individuals as if he could do it better than themselves.

DBx: In his book, Irwin makes clear that both Jefferson and Madison talked much better about trade than they, as government officials, behaved regarding trade. ¬†Jefferson, regrettably, did not heed Gallatin’s wise advice to go lightly with the embargo. ¬†(By the way, Irwin also makes clear that the standard portrait of Alexander Hamilton as a strong advocate of protectionism is somewhat cartoonish.)

In my most recent column in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review [4] – a column inspired by Doug’s book – I recount that even as great a man as Thomas Jefferson acted and sounded like a banana-republic strongman when he pressed ever-harder to make his embargo ‘work.’

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