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There is much misconception in the common notion of what commerce does for a country. When commerce is spoken of as a source of national wealth, the imagination fixes itself upon the large fortunes acquired by merchants, rather than upon the saving of price to consumers. But the gains of merchants, when they enjoy no exclusive privilege, are no greater than the profits obtained by the employment of capital in the country itself. If it be said that the capital now employed in foreign trade could not find employment in supplying the home market, I might reply, that this is the fallacy of general over-production, discussed in a former chapter; but the thing is in this particular case too evident, to require an appeal to any general theory. We not only see that the capital of the merchant would find employment, but we see what employment. There would be employment created, equal to that which would be taken away. Exportation ceasing, importation to an equal value would cease also, and all that part of the income of the country which had been expended in imported commodities, would be ready to expend itself on the same things produced at home, or on others instead of them. KCommerce is virtually a mode of cheapening production ; and in all such cases the consumer is the person ultimately benefited; the dealer, in the end, is sure to get his profit, whether the buyer obtains much or little for his money. This is said without prejudice to the effect (already touched upon, and to be hereafter fully discussed) which the cheapening of commodities may have in raising profits; in the case when the commodity cheapened, being one of those consumed by labourers, enters into the cost of labour, by which the rate of profits is determined.
~ $ 5. Such, then, is the direct economical-advantage of foreign trade. But there are, besides, indirect effects, which must be counted as benefits of a high order. One is, the tendency of every extension of the market to improve the processes of production. A country which produces for
a larger market than its own, can introduce & Inore extended division of labour, can make greater use of machinery, and is more likely to make inventions and improvements in the processes of production. Whatever causes a greater quan-atity of anything to be produced in the same place, tends to the general increase of the productive powers of the world.” There is another consideration, principally applicable to an early stage of industrial advancement. A people may be in a quiescent, indolent, uncultivated state, with all their tastes either fully satisfied or entirely undeveloped, and they may fail to put forth the whole of their productive energies for want of any sufficient object of desire. The opening of a foreign trade, by making them acquainted with new objects, or tempting them by the easier acquisition of things which they had not previously thought attainable, sometimes works a sort of industrial revolution in a country \o whose resources were previously undeveloped for want of energy and ambition in the people: inducing those who were satisfied with scanty comforts and little work, to work harder for the gratification of their new tastes, and even to save, and accumulate capital, for the still more complete satisfaction of those tastes at a future time. * But the economical advantages of commerce are sur-vo passed in importance by those of its effects which are intel- * * 3 lectual and moral. It is hardly possible to overrate the vāsue, in the present low state of human improvement, of placing human beings in contact with persons dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar. Commerce is now, what war once was, the principal source of this contact. Commercial adventirers from more advanced countries have generally been the first civilizers of barbarians. And commerce is the purpose of the far greater part of the communication which takes place between civilized nations. Such communication has always been, and is peculiarly in the present age, one of the primary sources of progress.
* Wide supra, book i. chap. ix. $1.
To human beings, who, as hitherto educated, can scarcely cultivate even a good quality without running it into a fault, it is indispensable to be perpetually comparing their own notions and customs with the experience and example of persons in different circumstances from themselves: and there is no nation which does not need to borrow from others, not merely particular arts or practices, but essential points of character in which its own type is inferior. Finally, commerce first taught nations to see with good will the Y wealth and prosperity of one another. Before, the patriot, unless sufficiently advanced in culture to feel the world his country, wished all countries weak, poor, and ill-governed, but his own: he now sees in their wealth and progress a direct source of wealth and progress to his own country. It is commerce which is rapidly rendering war obsolete, by strengthening and multiplying the personal interests which are in natural opposition to it. And it may be said without exaggeration that the great extent and rapid increase of international trade, in being the principal guarantee of the peace of the world, is the great permanent security for the uninterrupted progress of the ideas, the institutions, and the character of the human race.
OF INTERNATIONAL VALUES.
§ 1. THE values of commodities produced at the same place, or in places sufficiently adjacent for capital to move freely between them—let us say, for simplicity, of commodities produced in the same country—depend (temporary fluctuations apart) upon their cost of production. Bučhe value of a commodity brought from a distant place, especially from a foreign country, does not depend on its cost of production in the o it comeo, On what, then, does it depend? KThe value of a thing in any place, @Hiepends on the cost of its acquisition in that place; which in the case of an imported article, means the cost of production of the thing which is exported to pay for * Since all trade is in reality barter, money being a mere instrument for exchanging things against one another, we will, for simplicity, begin by supposing the international trade to be in form, what it always is in reality, an actual trucking of one’commodity against another. As far as we have hitherto proceeded, we have found all the laws of interchange to be essentially the same, whether money is used or not; money never governing, but always obeying, those general laws. If, then, England imports wine from Spain, giving for every pipe of wine a bale of cloth, the exchange value of a pipe of wine in England will not depend upon what the production of the wine may have cost in Spain, but upon what the production of the cloth has cost in England. Though the wine may have cost in Spain the equivalent of only ten days labour, yet, if the cloth costs in England twenty days labour, the wine, when brought to England, will exchange for the produce of twenty days English labour, plus the cost of carriage; including the usual profit on the importer's capital during the time it is locked up, and withheld from other employment. The value, then, in any country, of a foreign commodity, depends on the quantity of home produce which must be given to the foreign country in exchange for it. In other words, the values of foreign commodities depend on the terms of international exchange. What, then, do these depend upon ? What is it, which, in the case supposed, causes a pipe of wine from Spain to be exchanged with England for exactly that quantity of cloth 2 We have seen that it is not their cost of production. If the cloth and the wine were both made in Spain, they would exchange at their cost of production in Spain; if they were both made in England, they would exchange at their cost of production in England: but all the cloth being made in England, and all the wine in Spain, they are in circumstances to which we have already determined that the law of cost of production is not applicable. We must accordingly, as we have done before in a similar embarrassment, fall back upon an antecedent law, that of supply and demand: and in this we shall again find the solution of our difficulty. I have discussed this question in a separate Essay, already once referred to ; and a quotation of part of the exposition then given, will be the best introduction to my present view of the subject. I must give notice that we are now in the region of the most complicated questions which political economy affords; that the subject is one which cannot possibly be made elementary; and that a more continuous effort of attention than has yet been required, will be neces. sary to follow the series of deductions. The thread, however, which we are about to take in hand, is in itself very simple and manageable; the only difficulty is in following it