An Inquire Into the Wealth of Nations
Of Restraints upon the Importation from Foreign Countries of such Goods as can be
produced at Home
BY restraining, either by high duties or by absolute prohibitions, the importation of such goods
from foreign countries as can be produced at home, the monopoly of the home market is more or
less secured to the domestic industry employed in producing them. Thus the prohibition of
importing either live cattle or salt provisions from foreign countries secures to the graziers of
Great Britain the monopoly of the home market for butcher's meat. The high duties upon the
importation of corn, which in times of moderate plenty amount to a prohibition, give a like
advantage to the growers of that commodity. The prohibition of the importation of foreign
woollens is equally favourable to the woollen manufacturers. The silk manufacture, though
altogether employed upon foreign materials, has lately obtained the same advantage. The linen
manufacture has not yet obtained it, but is making great strides towards it. Many other sorts of
manufacturers have, in the same manner, obtained in Great Britain, either altogether or very
nearly, a monopoly against their countrymen. The variety of goods of which the importation into
Great Britain is prohibited, either absolutely, or under certain circumstances, greatly exceeds
what can easily be suspected by those who are not well acquainted with the laws of the customs.
That this monopoly of the home market frequently gives great encouragement to that particular
species of industry which enjoys it, and frequently turns towards that employment a greater share
of both the labour and stock of the society than would otherwise have gone to it, cannot be
doubted. But whether it tends either to increase the general industry of the society, or to give it
the most advantageous direction, is not, perhaps, altogether so evident.
The general industry of the society never can exceed what the capital of the society can employ.
As the number of workmen that can be kept in employment by any particular person must bear a
certain proportion to his capital, so the number of those that can be continually employed by all
the members of a great society must bear a certain proportion to the whole capital of that society,
and never can exceed that proportion. No regulation of commerce can increase the quantity of
industry in any society beyond what its capital can maintain. It can only divert a part of it into a
direction into which it might not otherwise have gone; and it is by no means certain that this
artificial direction is likely to be more advantageous to the society than that into which it would
have gone of its own accord.
Every individual is continually exerting himself to find out the most advantageous employment