Suspicious of international trade, balance of trade, and manufacturing? Adam Smith was

It is probably not known as much as it should be that Adam Smith, the supposed ideologue of free market capitalism, was actually suspicious of foreign trade, especially the carrying trade:

The great object of the political oeconomy of every country, is to encrease the riches and power of that country. It ought, therefore, to give no preference nor superior encouragement to the foreign trade of consumption above the home-trade, nor to the carrying trade above either of the other two (Wealth of Nations II.v. 31).

Balance of trade – what a silly idea:

Nothing, however, can be more absurd than this whole doctrine of the balance of trade (IV.iii.c.2).

As for encouraging industry at home, he clearly prefers agriculture to the fleeting fortunes to be gained from commerce and manufacturing: 

The capital, however, that is acquired to any country by commerce and manufactures, is all a very precarious and uncertain possession, till some part of it has been secured and realized in the cultivation and improvement of its lands … That which arises from the more solid improvements of agriculture, is much more durable, and cannot be destroyed (III.iv.24).

And that leads him to celebrate the bucolic bliss of the landed gentry:

The capital of the landlord, on the contrary, which is fixed in the improvement of his land, seems to be as well secured as the nature of human affairs can admit of. The beauty of the country besides, the pleasures of a country life, the tranquillity of mind which it promises, and wherever the injustice of human laws does not disturb it, the independency which it really affords, have charms that more or less attract every body; and as to cultivate the ground was the original destination of man, so in every stage of his existence he seems to retain a predilection for this primitive employment (III.i.3).


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