Adam Smith och David Ricardo har blivit lite av frihandelsvännernas Karl Marx och Friedrich Engels. En viktig skillnad mellan dem och många av dagens debattörer som åberopar dem är att Smith och Ricardo utgick ifrån att investeringskapital inte skulle söka sig utomlands, även om avkastningen kunde bli högre där.
Experience, however shows, that the fancied or real insecurity of capital, when not under the immediat control of it´s owner, together with the natural disinclination wich every man has to quit the country of his birth and connections, and entrust himself, with all his habits fixed, to a strange goverment and new laws, check the emigration of capital. These feelings, wich I should se sorry to see weakened, induce most men of property to be satisfied with a low rate of profits in their own country, rather than seek a more advantageous employment for their wealth in foreign nations.
David Ricardo, Principles of Political Economy and Taxation.
Så här skrev Adam Smith:
But the annual revenue of every society is always precisely equal to the exchangeable value of the whole annual produce of its industry, or rather is precisely the same thing with that exchangeable value. As every individual, therefore, endeavours as much as he can both to employ his capital in the support of domestic industry, and so to direct that industry that its produce may be of the greatest value; every individual necessarily labours to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it.
By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.
Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was no part of it. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good. It is an affectation, indeed, not very common among merchants, and very few words need be employed in dissuading them from it.
Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations
Jag summerar. David Ricardo hävdar att naturlig aversion mot utlandet gör att investmentkapitalet inte söker sig utomlands även om avkastningen där är högre. Detta tycker han är bra. Adam Smith använder uttrycket den "osynliga handen" för att förklara varför kapitalet stannar kvar hemma. När Ricardo och Smith talade om positiva fördelar med viss frihandel så fanns det inget som liknade dagens fria kapitalrörelser. Den osynliga handen existerar uppenbart inte längre.