How can protection, think you, add to the wealth of a country? Can you, by legislation, add one farthing to the wealth of a country? You may, by legislation, in one evening destroy the fruits and accumulations of a century of labour; but I defy you to show me how, by the legislation of this House, you can add one farthing to the wealth of this country. That springs from the industry and intelligence of the people of the country. You cannot guide that intelligence; you cannot do better than leave industry to its own instincts. If you attempt by legislation to give any direction to trade and industry, it is a thousand to one that you are doing wrong; and if you happen to be right, it is a work of supererogation; for the parties for whom you legislate would go right without you, and better than with you.
DBx: Marco Rubio, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Sherrod Brown, …, you name the politician currently operating in Washington and, with exceptions too rare to matter, you will name someone who is either too venal or too vacuous – and, in many cases, too vile – even to understand, and much less to embrace, the wisdom evident in the words of intellectual and ethical giants such as Cobden.