The Jealousy of Trade : David Hume encourages politicians to put away their distrust of other countries, and allow free trade to flourish.
The Jealousy of Trade

From ‘Of the Jealousy of Trade’, in ‘Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary’ (1742) II.VI.1, by David Hume (1711-1776). The spelling has been modernised.

Politicians waste years and squander billions thrashing out grudging trade deals in an atmosphere of mutual distrust. But back in the 1740s, Scottish philospher David Hume argued that if we wish to be prosperous ourselves we should welcome prosperity in our neighbours.

NOTHING is more usual, among states which have made some advances in commerce, than to look on the progress of their neighbours with a suspicious eye, to consider all trading states as their rivals, and to suppose that it is impossible for any of them to flourish, but at their expense.

In opposition to this narrow and malignant opinion, I will venture to assert, that the increase of riches and commerce in any one nation, instead of hurting, commonly promotes the riches and commerce of all its neighbours; and that a state can scarcely carry its trade and industry very far, where all the surrounding states are buried in ignorance, sloth, and barbarism.

Compare the situation of Great Britain at present, with what it was two centuries ago. All the arts both of agriculture and manufactures were then extremely rude and imperfect. Every improvement, which we have since made, has arisen from our imitation of foreigners; notwithstanding the advanced state of our manufactures, we daily adopt, in every art, the inventions and improvements of our neighbours.

From ‘Of the Jealousy of Trade’, in ‘Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary’ (1742) II.VI.1, by David Hume (1711-1776). The spelling has been modernised.

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Picture: © Ketounette, Wikimedia Commons. Licence: CC-BY-SA 4.0. View original
In 1769, French engineer Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot built the world’s first steam-powered vehicle, of which this is a replica. Step by step, this led to English engineer Richard Trevithick successfully testing the world’s first steam locomotive at the Pen-y-Darren ironworks in 1803. As Hume says, Britain’s astonishing record of invention and industrial progress is founded on learning from others.
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