… is from pages 192-193 of Edwin Cannan’s 1902 address to the British Association (Section F) – an address titled “The Practical Utility of Economic Science” – as this address is reprinted in the 1912 collection of some of Cannan’s essays, The Economic Outlook (E. Cannan, ed.):
In regard to international relations, the first business of the teacher of economic theory is to tear to pieces and trample upon the misleading military metaphors which have been applied by sciolists to the peaceful exchange of commodities. We hear much, for example, in these days of “England’s commercial supremacy,” and of other nations “challenging” it, and how it is our duty to “repel the attack,” and so on. The economist asks “what is commercial supremacy?” and there is no answer. No one knows what it means, least of all those who talk most about it. Is it selling goods dear? Is it selling them cheap? Is it selling a large quantity of goods in proportion to the area of the country? or in proportion to its population? or absolutely, without any reference to its area or population? It seems to be a wonderful muddle of all these various and often contradictory ideas rolled into one. Yet what a pile of international jealousy and ill-feeling rests on that and equally meaningless phrases! The teacher of economic theory analyses or attempts to analyse these phrases, and they disappear, and with them go the jealousies suggested by them.