Adam Smith's Simplified Wealth of Nations, Book 4, Chapter 8b: Export Bans

Chapter 8b: Export Bans

15The same commodities which we gave bounties on importation from America were subjected to considerable duties when imported from other countries.

16 The exportation of raw materials is sometimes discouraged:

The Ban On Wool Exportation

17 Our woollen manufacturers were more successful in persuading the legislature that the nation's prosperity depended on their business' success. 18 By the 1565 chap. 3, the exporter of sheep, lambs, or rams would be punished:
  • For the second offence:
  • This law was to prevent our sheep from being propagated overseas.
  • By the 1661 and 1662 chap. 18, the exportation of wool was made felony.
  • 19 For the honour of the national humanity, we hope that neither of these statutes were ever executed. 20 The penalties imposed by this milder statute and the former penalties not repealed by this one, are still severe.
  • The law means to ruin him completely.
  • If the person convicted of this offence is unable to pay the penalties within three months after judgment, he is to be transported for seven years.
  • If he returns before seven years, he is liable to the pains of felony, without benefit of clergy. 21 To prevent exportation, the whole inland commerce of wool is laid under very burdensome and oppressive restrictions.

    The penalty is:

    It can only be loaded on any horse or cart or carried by land within five miles of the coast between sunrise and sunset.

  • These regulations are in place in the whole kingdom.
  • 22 But in Kent and Sussex, the restrictions are still more troublesome.
  • Before he removes the fleece, he must give notice of:
  • No person within 15 miles of the sea in Kent and Sussex can buy any wool before he enters into bond to the king that no part of the wool he shall buy shall be sold to anyone within 15 miles of the sea.
  • If any person lays any wool not entered as aforesaid within 15 miles of the sea, it must be seized and forfeited.
  • 23 When such restrictions are imposed on the inland trade, the coasting trade cannot be left very free. 24 To justify their demand of such extraordinary restrictions, our woollen manufactures confidently asserted that English wool was superior to foreign wool.

    This is believed by:

    It is so perfectly false that English wool is necessary for making fine cloth.

    25 It has been shown in this book, that these regulations depressed the price of English wool:

    The price of Scottish wool fell by about half after the union when it became subject to the same regulations.

    26 This price reduction very much reduced the annual wool produce.
  • If it is not, they will soon cease to feed the cattle.
  • "Whatever part of this price is not paid by the wool and the hide must be paid by the carcass."
  • According to this reasoning, this degradation in wool price is unlikely to lessen the annual produce of wool in an improved country.
  • 27 The effect of such regulations on the quantity of the wool produced annually was not very considerable.
  • In some respects, the improvement of the carcass is sufficient for the goodness of the fleece.
  • Despite the degradation of price, English wool has improved much during the present century.
  • 28 The violence of these regulations did not affect the quantity or quality of the annual wool produce as expected. 29 These considerations will not justify the absolute prohibition of wool exportation. 30To hurt the interest of any order of citizens to promote the interest of some other, is contrary to the justice and equality of treatment the sovereign owes to his subjects.31"Every different order of citizens is bound to contribute to the support of the sovereign or commonwealth."32 The ban does not prevent wool exportation. 33Fuller's earth or fuller's clay is supposed to be necessary for preparing and cleansing woollen manufactures. 34 By the 1661 and 1662 chap. 7. the exportation of raw hides and tanned leather was prohibited except as boots, shoes, or slippers. 35 Restraints by prohibitions or by taxes on exports which are not completely manufactured, are not peculiar to leather manufactures. 36 By some old statutes of Edward III., Henry VIII., and Edward VI., the exportation of all metals was banned.
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    Next: Chapter 8c: High Duties and the Consumption Motive