… is from Book IV, Chapter 5 – on page 523, Vol. I, of the 1981 Liberty Fund edition – of Adam Smith’s 1776 masterwork, An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations:
But though it can very seldom be reasonable to tax the industry of the great body of the people in order to support that of some particular class of manufacturers, yet in the wantonness of great prosperity, when the publick enjoys a greater revenue than it knows well what to do with, to give such bounties to favourite manufactures may, perhaps, be as natural as to incur any other idle expense. In publick as well as in private expences, great wealth may, perhaps, frequently be admitted as an apology for great folly. But there must surely be something more than ordinary absurdity in continuing such profusion in times of general difficulty and distress.
Adam Smith clearly would be no fan of that great geyser of cronyism, the U.S. Export-Import Bank.