Why Imports, Not Exports, Matter

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

In 1824, James Mill Explains the Theory of Comparative Advantage

“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’s 1808 Commerce Defended and Today’s Protectionism

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.
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The Wealth of Nations and Free Trade

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.
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