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The ‘Empire’ of Free Trade : Free trade brings to smaller nations all the advantages of empire without the disadvantages.
The ‘Empire’ of Free Trade

From ‘An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations’ (1776), by Adam Smith (1723-1790).

Adam Smith acknowledged that one advantage of empire was that goods and people could be readily moved internally, wherever they were needed. But he noted that you can get all that by each nation voluntarily adopting a policy of free trade.

WERE all nations to follow the liberal system of free exportation and free importation, the different states into which a great continent was divided would so far resemble the different provinces of a great empire.*

As among the different provinces of a great empire the freedom of the inland trade appears, both from reason and experience, not only the best palliative of a dearth, but the most effectual preventative of a famine; so would the freedom of the exportation and importation trade be among the different states into which a great continent was divided.

The larger the continent, the easier the communication through all the different parts of it, both by land and by water, the less would any one particular part of it ever be exposed to either of these calamities, the scarcity of any one country being more likely to be relieved by the plenty of some other.

* This is one of the earliest occurrences of the word ‘liberal’ being used to mean ‘free from government interference’ rather than simply ‘generous, open-handed’.

From ‘An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations’ (1776), by Adam Smith (1723-1790).

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