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ject)* “it is not a difference in the absolute cost of production, which determines the interchange, but a difference in the comparative cost. It may be to our advantage to procure iron from Sweden in exchange for cottons, even although the mines of England as well as her manufactories should be more productive than those of Sweden; for if we have an advantage of one-half in cottons, and only an advantage of a quarter in iron, and could sell our cottons to Sweden at the price which Sweden must pay for them if she produced them herself, we should obtain our iron with an advantage of one-half, as well as our cottons. <We may often, by trading with foreigners, obtain their commodities at a smaller expense of labour and capital than they cost to the foreigners themselves. The bargain is still advantageous to the foreigner, because the commodity which he receives in exchange, though it has cost us less, would have cost him moro
To illustrate the cases in which interchange of commodities will not, and those in which it will, take place between two countries, Mr. Mill, in his Elements of Political Economy,t makes the supposition, that Poland has an advantage over England in the production both of cloth and of corn. He first supposes the advantage to be of equal amount in both commodities; the cloth and the corn, each of which required 100 days labour in Poland, requiring each 150 days labour in England. “It would follow, that the cloth of 150 days labour in England, if sent to Poland, would be equal to the cloth of 100 days labour in Poland; if exchanged for corn, therefore, it would exchange for the corn of only 100 days labour. But the corn of 100 days labour in Poland, was supposed to be the same quantity with that of 150 days labour in England. With 150 days labour in cloth, therefore, England would only get as much corn in Poland as she could raise with 150 days labour at home; and she would, in importing it, have the cost of carriage besides. In these circumstances no exchange would take : place.” In this case the comparative costs of the two articles in England and in Poland were supposed to be the same, though the absolute costs were different; on which supposition we see that there would be no labour saved to either country by confining its industry to one of the two productions, and importing the other. It is otherwise when the comparative, and not merely the absolute costs of the two articles are different in the two countries. “If,” continues the same author, “while the cloth produced with 100 days labour in Poland was produced with 150 days labour in England, the corn which was produced in Poland with 100 days labour could not be produced in England with less than 200 days labour; an adequate motive to exchange would immediately arise. With a quantity of cloth which England produced with 150 days labour, she would be able to purchase as much corn in Poland as was there produced with 100 days labour; but the quantity which was there produced with 100 days labour, would be as great as the quantity produced in England with 200 days labour.” By importing corn, therefore, from Poland, and paying for it with cloth, England would obtain for 150 days labour what would otherwise cost her 200; being a saving of 50 days labour on each repetition of the transaction: and not merely a saving to England, but a saving absolutely; for it is not obtained at the expense of Poland, who, with corn that costs her 100 days labour, has purchased cloth which, if produced at home, would have cost her the same. Poland, therefore, on this supposition, loses nothing; but also she derives no advantage from the trade, the imported cloth costing her as much as if it were made at home. To enable Poland to gain anything by the interchange, something must be abated from the gain of
* I at one time believed Mr. Ricardo to have been the sole author of the doctrine now universally received by political economists, on the nature and measure of the benefit which a country derives from foreign trade. But Colonel Torrens, by the republication of one of his early writings, “The Economists Refuted,” has established at least a joint claim with Mr. Ricardo to the origination of the doctrine, and an exclusive one to its earliest publication.
# Third ed. p. 120.
England: the corn produced in Poland by 100 days labour, must be able to purchase from England more cloth than Poland could produce by that amount of labour; more therefore than England could produce by 150 days labour, England thus obtaining the corn which would have cost her 200 days, at a cost exceeding 150, though short of 200. England therefore no longer gains the whole of the labour which is saved to the two jointly by trading with one another.
§ 3. From this exposition we perceive in what consists
the benefit of international exchange, or, in other words, Co
foreign commerce. Setting aside its enabling countries to obtain commodities which they could not themselves pro
duce at all; its advantage consists in a more efficient em:
- T_* to ployment of the productive forces of the world. two countries which traded together attempted, as far as was
physically possible, to produce for themselves what they now import from one another, the labour and capital of the two countries would not be so productive, the two together would not obtain from their industry so great a quantity of commodities, as when each employs itself in producing, both for itself and for the other, the things in which its la
bour is relatively most efficient.) The addition thus made A*
to the produce of the two combined, constitutes the advan-"
tage of the trade. It is possible that one of the two countries may be altogether inferior to the other in productive capacities, and that its labour and capital could be employed to greatest advantage by being removed bodily to the other. The labour and capital which have been sunk in rendering Holland habitable, would have produced a much greater
return if transported to America or Ireland. The produce
it is, if everything were produced where there is the greatest absolute facility for its production. But nations do not, at least in modern times, emigrate en masse Aand while the labour and capital of a country remain in the country, they
are most beneficially employed in producing for foreign markets as well as for its own, the things in which it lies under the least disadvantage, if there be none in which it possesses an advantage.
§ 4. Before proceeding further, let us contrast this view of the benefits of international commerce with other theories which have prevailed, and which to a certain extent still prevail, on the same subject. * According to the doctrine now stated, the only direct advantage of foreign commerce consists in the imports. A country obtains things which it either could not have produced at all, or which it must have produced at a greater expense of capital and labour than the cost of the things which it exports to pay for them. It thus obtains a more ample supply of the commodities it wants, for the same labour and capital; or the same supply, for less labour and capital, leaving the surplus disposable to produce other things. (The vulgar theory disregards this benefit and deems the advantage of commerce to reside-in the exports: as if not what a country obtains, but what it parts with, by
its foreign trade, was supposed to constitute the gain to it.)
An extended market for its produce—an abundant consump. tion for its goods—a vent for its surplus—are the phrases by which it has been customary to designate the uses and recommendations of commerce with foreign countries. This notion is intelligible, when we consider that the authors and leaders of opinion on mercantile questions have always hitherto been the selling class. It is in truth a surviving relic of the Mercantile Theory, according to which, money being the only wealth, selling, or in other words, exchanging goods for money was (to countries without mines of their own) the only way of growing rich—and importation of goods, that is to say, parting with money, was so much subtracted from the benefit. The notion that money alone is wealth, has been long defunct, but it has left many of its progeny behind it; and
even its destroyer Adam Smith, retained some opinions which it is impossible to trace to any other origin. Adam Smith's theory of the benefit of foreign trade, was that it afforded an outlet for the surplus produce of a country, and enabled a portion of the capital of the country to replace itself with a profit. These expressions suggest ideas inconsistent with a clear conception of the phenomena. The expression, surplus produce, seems to imply that a country is under some kind of necessity of producing the corn or cloth which it exports; so that the portion which it does not itself consume, if not wanted and consumed elsewhere, would either be produced in sheer waste, or if it were not produced, the corresponding portion of capital would remain idle, and the mass of productions in the country would be diminished by so much, Either of these suppositions would be entirely erroneous. 3.
article in excess of its own wants, from no inherent neces-f' sity, but as the cheapest mode of supplying itself with other )
things. If prevented from exporting this surplus, it would cease to produce it, and would no longer import anything, being unable to give an equivalent; but the labour and capital which had been employed in producing with a view to exportation, would find employment in producing
those desirable objects which were previously brought from
abroad : or, if some of them could not be produced, in producing substitutes for them. These articles would of course be produced at a greater cost than that of the things with which they had previously been purchased from foreign countries. But the value and price of the articles would rise in proportion; and the capital would just as much be replaced, with the ordinary profit, from the returns, as it. was when employed in producing for the foreign market. The only losers (after the temporary inconvenience of the change) would be the consumers of the heretofore imported articles; who would be obliged either to do without them, consuming in lieu of them something which they did not like as well, or to pay a higher price for them than before.
The country produces an o:
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