… is from page 129 of the 1903 3rd edition of Edwin Cannan’s excellent slim volume, Elementary Political Economy:
If we could have a statement of the value of the imports and exports of each county in the United Kingdom put before us every year, we should think less of the imports and exports of the whole country.
DBx: Reports of “county balances of trade” should reveal the policy-making folly of keeping country balances of trade. No one in my county of Fairfax, Virginia, knows or cares if the County of Fairfax this month or this year has a “trade deficit” or a “trade surplus” either with the rest of the world, with all other counties in Virginia or in the U.S., or with any particular county such as Culpeper County, VA, or Montgomery County, MD. And yet we Fairfaxians are none the worse for our ignorance of these irrelevant statistics.
Indeed, we are better off without such pointless information. I fear, however, that, contrary to Cannan’s optimistic prediction of the educational result of keeping county-level trade accounts, the results of gathering such pointless information would in fact be negative. Were county-level trade accounts kept and reported, we Fairfaxians would almost surely suffer the demagoguery of any number of politicians who, if Fairfax this month is discovered to have a “trade deficit” with Albemarle County, would accuse the evil Albemarleans of unfair trade practices and promise to arrange to protect us Fairfaxians from being impoverished by our imports from Albemarle Co.