Some Leading Principles of Political Economy Newly Expounded

By J. E. Cairnes | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III.
INTERNATIONAL VALUES.

§ 1. WE have now ascertained the circumstances under which international trade arises, and the nature of the advantages that flow from it. These advantages, as we have seen, are such as result from a more effective distribution of the productive forces of the world. Supposing a universal freedom of trade, it would not indeed follow that every product of industry would be raised precisely in that part of the world in which it could be raised with greatest advantage; for this would require that population and capital should be distributed with no other view than to economical gain. The course of population and capital, however, it is needless to say, is influenced by many other considerations as well; and what international trade, so far as it is allowed free scope, accomplishes for mankind is, that the industry of the world is carried on, not indeed with the utmost possible advantage, but with the utmost advantage practicable, regard being had to the manner in which the world is peopled and to the condition of its inhabitants.

Such is the nature of the gain; but here another question arises: On what principle is the increase of wealth which results shared among the nations which co-operate in producing it? To put the same point in a different form--What causes determine the proportions in which trading nations exchange their products? These proportions may conceivably be such as to give all the advantage to one only of the exchanging parties, or such as to share it among a few to the exclusion of

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