… is from page 463 of the final (2016) volume – Bourgeois Equality – of Deirdre McCloskey’s pioneering trilogy on the essence of bourgeois values, on their transmission, and on their essential role in modern life (footnotes deleted):
In 1600 England … still affixed chains on enterprise, under the theory that trade was zero-sum. Many Englishmen believed, as one of them wrote around 1600, that “to add more persons to be Merchant Adventurers is to put more sheep into one and the same pasture which is to serve them all.” Let us have predictable lives.
It is what is behind the persistent modern revivals of mercantilism against international comparative advantage, as in Lou Dobbs on Fox News, or the books of Robert Reich and John Grey, or the French vintners demanding still more protection, or the Department of Trade and Industry in South Africa requiring hard-to-get licenses for all business, or the antiglobalization rioters at the meetings of the Group of Seven. Oddly, people who would readily agree that attempting to lay down the future would be disastrous in, say, painting or rock music or journalism or most science and all writing of novels or of scholarly books, think that we already know how to organize a mere economy, and that the government knows best in central planning or regulation or nudging.