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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 594 of Liberty Fund’s 2006 edition of John Stuart Mill’s 1848 Principles of Political Economy:

But the economical advantages of commerce are surpassed in importance by those of its effects which are intellectual and moral. It is hardly possible to overrate the value, in the present low state of human improvement, of placing human beings in contact with persons dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar. Commerce is now what war once was, the principal source of this contact. Commercial adventurers from more advanced countries have generally been the first civilizers of barbarians. And commerce is the purpose of the far greater part of the communication which takes place between civilized nations. Such communication has always been, and is peculiarly in the present age, one of the primary sources of progress. To human beings, who, as hitherto educated, can scarcely cultivate even a good quality without running it into a fault, it is indispensable to be perpetually comparing their own notions and customs with the experience and example of persons in different circumstances from themselves: and there is no nation which does not need to borrow from others, not merely particular arts or practices, but essential points of character in which its own type is inferior. Finally, commerce first taught nations to see with good will the wealth and prosperity of one another. Before, the patriot, unless sufficiently advanced in culture to feel the world his country, wished all countries weak, poor, and ill-governed, but his own: he now sees in their wealth and progress a direct source of wealth and progress to his own country.

DBx: Trade – peaceful, voluntary commerce between consenting adults – is civilized. Trade is creative. Trade requires intelligence and empathy. Trade enriches.

Protectionism – the violence-backed interference of some with the choices of others – is uncivilized. Protectionism is an expression of humanity’s brutish past. Protectionism is among the most mindless and greedy – and coercive – activities in which humans still regularly indulge.

While striking mutually beneficial bargains requires real intelligence, ingenuity, and empathy, threatening harm on others unless they do your bidding requires no more thought and fellow-feeling than is daily displayed by reptiles. And this amygdala-governed behavior impoverishes all but the most vicious and powerful beasts.


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