As explained by James Mill in his Elements of Political Economy (2nd Edition, London: Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 1824, pp. 120 and 122):
“The benefit which is derived from exchanging one commodity for another, arises, in all cases, from the commodity received, not from the commodity given. When one country exchanges, in other words, when one country traffics with another, the whole if its advantage consists in the commodities imported. It benefits by importation, and by nothing else.
“This seems to be so very nearly a self-evident proposition, as to be hardly Continue reading →
“When both countries can produce both commodities, it is not greater absolute, but greater relative, facility, that induces one of them to confine itself to the production of one of the commodities, and to import the other.
“When a country can either import a commodity, or produce it at home, it compares the cost of producing at home with the cost of procuring it from abroad; if the latter cost is less than the first, it imports.
“The cost at which a country can import from abroad depends, not upon the cost Continue reading →
James Mill (1773–1836) was a Scottish economist, philosopher, and journalist. He was the father of an even more famous figure of the 19th century, economist and philosopher John Stuart Mill. Like other classical economists, James was a defender of free trade. His 1808 pamphlet Commerce Defended answers many of today’s arguments for protectionism. Continue reading →
Adam Smith’s famous book The Wealth of Nations (1776) developed economic and moral arguments against “the mercantile system” or protectionism. The relevant chapters are among the best of the book and there is much to be learned from them. Continue reading →
In a couple of weekend tweets, Donald Trump warned American companies against shipping goods to America from foreign countries: “Please be forewarned prior to making a very expensive mistake!” “THE UNITED STATES,” he added in bold letters and with his usual inconsistency, “IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS.” “Open for business” apparently means that the government is open to meddling with businesses. Continue reading →
One can exaggerate the degree of liberty in America before the 20th-century sprint of interventionism. (I have sinned myself.) One form of widespread government intervention in 19th-century America was protectionism –- the imposition of customs tariffs to limit imports. In his 1914 The Tariff History of the United States, F. W. Taussig follows the evolution of American protectionism from the early Republic, and especially the first really protectionist tariff act in 1808, up to 1913. Continue reading →