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Our variance consists in this: They contend, that the equality of profits will be brought about by the general rise of profits; and I am of opinion, that the profits of the favoured trade will speedily subside to the general level.
For, first, I deny that less capital will necessarily be devoted to the growth of corn, to the manufacture of cloth, hats, shoes, &c.
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while the demand continues the same, the price of these commodities will be so increased, that the farmer, hatter, clothier, and shoemaker, will have an increase of profits, as well as the foreign merchant.
They who hold this argument agree with me, that the profits of different employments have a tendency to conform to one another; to advance and recede together.
If by the purchase of English goods to the amount of £1,000, a merchant can obtain a quantity of foreign goods, which he can sell in the English market for £1,200, he will obtain 20 per cent profit by such an employment of his capital; but neither his gains, nor the value of the commodities imported, will be increased or diminished by the greater or smaller quantity of foreign goods obtained.
Whether, for example, he imports twenty-five or fifty pipes of wine, his interest can be no way affected, if at one time the twenty-five pipes, and at another the fifty pipes, equally sell for £1,200.
As the value of all foreign goods is measured by the quantity of the produce of our land and labour, which is given in exchange for them, we should have no greater value, if by the discovery of new markets, we obtained double the quantity of foreign goods in exchange for a given quantity of ours.
The merchant who imported wine after profits had been raised from 20 per cent to 40 per cent, instead of purchasing his English goods for £1,000 must purchase them for £857 2s. , still selling the wine which he imports in return for those goods for £1,200; or, if he continued to purchase his English goods for £1,000 must raise the price of his wine to £1,400; he would thus obtain 40 instead of 20 per cent profit on his capital; but if, in consequence of the cheapness of all the commodities on which his revenue was expended, he and all other consumers could save the value of £200 out of every £1,000 they before expended, they would more effectually add to the real wealth of the country; in one case, the savings would be made in consequence of an increase of revenue, in the other, in consequence of diminished expenditure.
If, by the introduction of machinery, the generality of the commodities on which revenue was expended fell 20 per cent in value, I should be enabled to save as effectually as if my revenue had been raised 20 per cent; but in one case the rate of profits is stationary, in the other it is raised 20 per cent.—If, by the introduction of cheap foreign goods, I can save 20 per cent from my expenditure, the effect will be precisely the same as if machinery had lowered the expense of their production, but profits would not be raised.
If my profits are raised from £1,000 to £1,200 while my expenditure continues the same, I accumulate annually £200 more than I did before.
If I save £200 out of my expenditure, while my profits continue the same, the same effect will be produced; £200 per annum will be added to my capital.
there exists also the means of procuring an increased supply, and therefore neither prices nor profits can permanently rise.