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Quotation of the Day…

… is from Voltaire’s letter – originally written sometime between 1726 and 1729 – “On Trade”:

As trade enriched the citizens in England, so it contributed to their freedom, and this freedom on the other side extended their commerce, whence arose the grandeur of the State.  Trade raised by insensible degrees the naval power, which gives the English a superiority over the seas, and they now are masters of very near two hundred ships of war.  Posterity will very probably be surprised to hear that an island whose only produce is a little lead, tin, fuller’s-earth, and coarse wool, should become so powerful by its commerce, as to be able to send, in 1723, three fleets at the same time to three different and far distanced parts of the globe.  One before Gibraltar, conquered and still possessed by the English; a second to Porto Bello, to dispossess the King of Spain of the treasures of the West Indies; and a third into the Baltic, to prevent the Northern Powers from coming to an engagement.


However, I need not say which is most useful to a nation; a lord, powdered in the tip of the mode, who knows exactly at what o’clock the king rises and goes to bed, and who gives himself airs of grandeur and state, at the same time that he is acting the slave in the ante-chamber of a prime minister; or a merchant, who enriches his country, despatches orders from his counting-house to Surat and Grand Cairo, and contributes to the felicity of the world.

DBx: It’s unfortunate that governments enriched by the commerce and innovation of their subjects too often misuse the riches that the economic growth of their nations enable them to confiscate from their subjects.  And no misuse is worse than militarism.  But even if you do not share my hostility to militarism – and even if you are an American who truly is worried about Uncle Sam’s ability to provide national defense – you should support free trade.  Free trade does not undermine a government’s ability to supply national defense; it enhances that ability – which we free traders must then hope will not be too terribly abused.