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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 51

Chapter III. — Futility of the Attempt to Export much and Import Little

Chapter III.

Futility of the Attempt to Export much and Import Little.

All parties seem to agree as to the great advantage it is to a country to export largely. Each country produces some things that are useful and desirable to other countries, and whether from climate, soil, geological formation, natural aptitude or practice and education, it has some speciality in which it excels. It benefits itself by exchanging its surplus productions for the productions of other countries, and the latter are also benefited by the process. The more largely that country exports, the greater the benefit to itself and others. To put it more concisely—foreign trade is a universal benefit. Up to this point the unanimity of opinions is wonderful; and what we have said appears a mere enunciation of a string of truisms. But how are these truths acted on practically? By a persistent attempt on the part of the majority (at present) of nations to export a great deal and to import very little, ignoring the utter incompatibility of the two courses. All are agreed as to the great advantage it is to a country to export largely, only it has been, and should not be, overlooked that those exports must be paid for in goods, since, as we have seen, specie is not used page 17 for that purpose (except sometimes provisionally and to a fractional extent). If, therefore, you import little, you can only export little. If you want to export much, you must import much. You cannot curtail your bête noire, imports, without curtailing to just the same extent your pet, exports. For every hundred pounds' worth of foreign articles which, by prohibition or by prohibitory duties, you prevent coming into your country, you prevent one hundred pounds' worth of your own articles of production from going abroad. It cannot be repeated too often—because it is at the very root of the question—that to restrict imports is (by the inexorable law of logical sequence) to restrict exports to the same extent, and therefore to that extent, to restrict foreign trade. The delusion of wishing to sell without buying is equivalent to the old paradox of a valley without a mountain. In vain do the prophets of protection preach—" Let us have an extensive foreign trade to consist wholly of exports." It is simply an impossibility. As well say let us have shadows without light, or a square without corners. The doctrine that foreign trade is an evil would be, though a questionable, at all events an intelligible, one; but to maintain that foreign trade is a good while the influx of foreign commodities is an evil, is a palpable contradiction. Practically, all interchange of commodities is barter, and money is merely a common standard by which to measure their relative values.