Some Leading Principles of Political Economy Newly Expounded

By J. E. Cairnes | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV. FREE TRADE AND PROTECTION.

§ 1. THE foregoing discussions have exhibited the conditions under which international trade arises, and the nature of the advantages that flow from it. It has been seen that nations only trade with one another when by doing so they can satisfy their desires at smaller sacrifice or cost than by direct production of the commodities which minister to them. The establishment of this position is the justification of the doctrine of free trade; since it is manifest that, if nations only engage in trade when an advantage arises from their doing so, any interference with their free action in trading can only have the effect of debarring them from an advantage. For those, therefore, who accept the economic theory of international trade, no further proof of the essential soundness of this fundamental principle of commercial policy is needed. Nevertheless, I am unwilling to leave the subject of these chapters without some fuller consideration than has yet been given to it of the great controversy, not yet, unfortunately, extinct, of Free Trade versus Protection. I have said, "not yet extinct: perhaps I should rather have said, even now active and glowing with something of its pristine fervor; for we have only to turn our eyes to France, or to the United States, not to speak of our own colonies, to see with what vigor, and I regret to say with what success, the venerable sophism still maintains itself, alike in the public press and in national legislatures. Under such circumstances an examination of the specific doctrine of Protection will even yet, perhaps, not seem altogether out of date; and,

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