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Par of Exchange.
38. Another specious doctrine, much labored by theorists, in consequence of that relating to the par, is, that the exchange between any particular country being above or below par, always shows whether their reciprocal trade be advantageous or disadvantageous. It is, and must be allowed, that in trade nothing is given without adequate returns or compensations ; but these are so various and fluctuating between countries, as often indirectly as directly, that there is no possibility of fixing a point from whence to argue; so that, should there happen a greater variation than of two or three or more in the hundred, at any certain period in the exchange, above or below what is called the par or equality of the money of one country to that of another, influenced by the fluctuations and circulations in trade, it does not follow, that a trade is advantageous or disadvantageous, excepting momentarily, if one may so say; which can be of no consequence to the public in general, as the trade from advantageous may become disadvantageous, and vice versa; and, consequently, the deducing of reasons from what in its nature must be fluctuating, can only help to embarrass, if not mislead.
39. To return to trade in general. Our principles, we apprehend, may hold good for all nations, and ought to be attended to by the legislative power of every nation. We will not discuss every particular point; nor is it to our purpose to examine the pretended principles or utility, whereon monopolies are generally established. That the wisdom of government should weigh and nicely consider any proposed regulation on those principles, we humbly judge to be self-evident; whereby may be seen whether it coincides with the general good. Solomon adviseth "not to counsel with
a merchant for gain." This, we presume, relates to the merchant's own particular profit, which, we repeat, must ever be the spring of his actions. Government ought, notwithstanding, to endeavour to procure particular informations from every one; not only from those actually employed, or those who have been concerned, in particular branches of trade, but even from persons who may have considered of it theoretically and speculatively.
Perhaps, in general, it would be better if government meddled no farther with trade, than to protect it, and let it take its course. Most of the statutes, or acts, edicts, arrêts, and placarts of parliaments, princes, and states, for regulating, directing, or restraining of trade, have, we think, been either political blunders, or jobs obtained by artful men for private advantage, under pretence of public good. When Colbert assembled some wise old merchants of France, and desired their advice and opinion, how he could best serve and promote commerce, their answer, after consultation, was, in three words only, Laissez-nous faire; "Let us alone." It is said by a very solid writer of the same nation, that he is well advanced in the science of politics, who knows the full force of that maxim, Pas trop gouverner; "Not to govern too much." Which, perhaps, would be of more use when applied to trade, than in any other public concern. It were therefore to be wished, that commerce was as free between all the nations of the world, as it is between the several counties of England; so would all, by mutual communication, obtain more enjoyments. Those counties do not ruin one another by trade; neither would the nations. No nation was ever ruined by trade, even seemingly the most disadvantageous.
The doctrine of this section is that, which is now universally
Wherever desirable superfluities are imported, industry is excited, and therefore plenty is produced. Were only necessaries permitted to be purchased, men would work no more than was necessary for that purpose.
40. Though we wave a discussion on particular branches of trade, as the field is too large for our present purpose; and that particular laws and regulations may require variation, as the different intercourses and even interests of states, by different fluctuations, may alter; yet, as what relates to bounties or premiums, which the legislature of Great Britain has thought fit to grant, hath been by some deemed, if not ill-judged, unnecessary, we hope our time not ill-bestowed to consider of the fitness and rectitude of the principle, on which we apprehend these bounties or premiums have been granted.
41. It must, we think, on all hands be allowed, that the principle whereon they are founded must be an encouragement tending to a general benefit, though granted on commodities, manufactures, or fisheries, carried on in particular places and countries, which are presumed or found to require aid from the public purse for farther improvement.
Of the bounties, some having had the proposed effect are discontinued; others are continued for the very reason they were first given.
In our opinion, no doubt can arise as to the utility of these grants from the public purse to individuals. The grand principle of trade, which is gain, is the foundation of bounties; for, as every individual makes
received by political economists and legislators, subject of course to modifations and exceptions in peculiar circumstances; and it occupies a conspicuous place in the "Wealth of Nations."- W. PHILLIPS.
a part of the whole public, consequently whatever benefits the individual must benefit the public. Hereby the wisdom of the legislature is most evident; nor should it in any wise be arraigned, though ill success attended any particular commodity, manufacture, or fishery, for the encouragement of which bounties have been established.
We are well aware, that it is not impossible the purpose of bounty may have been perverted with a view to improper gain; but it is the duty of the legislature to use the proper measures for preventing such iniquity. This abuse, however, cannot be adduced as an argument against the benefit arising from allowing bounties.
Bounty on Wheat.
42. These principles in regard to bounties or premiums are applicable to most articles of commerce, except wheat, and other grain, which we shall consider and enlarge on, as being of a complicated nature, and concerning which mankind have at particular times been divided in opinion.
43 It seems to us, that this bounty on grain was intended, not only to encourage the cultivating of land for the raising of it in abundance in this kingdom, for the use of its inhabitants, but also to furnish our neighbours, whenever the kind hand of Providence should be pleased to grant a superfluity.
44. It never can be presumed, that the encouragement by the bounty insures to the community an uninterrupted, constant plenty; yet, when the grower of grain knows he may by such bounty have a chance of a foreign market for any excess he may have, more than the usual home consumption, he the more willingly labors and improves his land upon the presumption of having a vent for his superfluity, by a demand
in foreign countries; so that he will not probably be distressed by abundance, which, strange as it may seem to some, might be the case by his want of sale, and his great charges of gathering in his crop.
45. As there are no public granaries in this kingdom, the legislature could devise no better means than to fix stated prices under which the bounty or encouragement from the public purse should be allowed. Whenever the current prices exceeded those stipulated, then such bounty should cease.
46. Few consider or are affected but by what is present. They see grain, by reason of scanty crops, dear; therefore all the doors for grain, to the cultivators of it, must always be kept shut. The common outcry is, that the exporting our wheat furnishes bread to our neighbours cheaper than it can be afforded to our poor at home, which affects our manufacturers, as they can thereby work cheaper. To this last allegation we must refer to what we have said, section 26; though the former, that wheat is by the bounty afforded to our neighbours cheaper than to us at home must, in general, be without foundation, from the several items of charge attending the exportation of grain, such as carriage, factorage, commission, porterage, &c. The freight paid to our own shipping, to which alone the bounty is restrained, must, when duly considered, very sufficiently counterbalance the bounty; so that more than what is given out of the public purse is put into the pockets of individuals, for the carriage, &c. Therefore, we think, we may well presume, that in general, grain exported comes dearer to the foreigner, than to the consumer in Great Britain.
47. Nothing can be more evident, we apprehend, than that the superfluity of our grain being exported, is a clear profit to the kingdom; as much as any