Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on December 11, 2017

in Balance of Payments, Crony Capitalism, Myths and Fallacies, Trade

… is from pages 158-159 of the 1971 Augustus M. Kelley reprint of the 1880 Sixth American edition of Jean-Baptiste Say‘s 1803 A Treatise on Political Economy (Traité d’économie politique) (footnotes excluded):

To what good purpose, then, do governments labour to turn the balance of commerce in favour of their respective nations?  To none whatever; unless, perhaps, to exhibit the show of financial advantages, unsupported by fact or experience.  How can maxims so clear, so agreeable to plain common sense, and to facts attested by all who have made commerce their study, have yet been rejected in practice by all the ruling powers of Europe, nay, even have been attacked by a number of writers, that have evinced both genius and information on other subjects?  To speak the truth, it is because the first principles of political economy are as yet but little known; because ingenious systems and reasonings have been built upon hollow foundations, and taken advantage of, on the one hand, by interested rulers, who employ prohibition as a weapon of offence or an instrument of revenue; and, on the other, by the personal avarice of merchants and manufacturers, who have a private interest in exclusive measures, and take but little pains to inquire, whether their profits arise from actual production, or from a simultaneous loss thrown upon other classes of the community.

DBx: We cannot too often say it: no concept is responsible for more misunderstanding and economic mischief than is the absurd concept of the so-called “balance of trade.”


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