A Note on Protectionists

by Don Boudreaux on February 21, 2018

in Seen and Unseen, Trade

Arguing with a protectionist is like arguing with a man who is almost totally blind but who believes himself to have unusually superior vision.  This sad and unfortunate creature sees only a handful of large, bright images that dance immediately in front of his nose and yet he is convinced to his marrow that he is observing reality in all of its vastness and in vivid detail.  When he is informed by people whose vision is better than his that he, in fact, is blind to most of reality – and, indeed, blind to the most important aspects of reality – he haughtily rejects this information, sometimes even with anger.  He knows what he sees and he sees no reason to believe that there are swathes and details of reality that are beyond the handful of large, bright images that dance immediately in front of in nose.

His blindness-induced ignorance makes him supremely confident.  He knows what he sees, and mistaking the sliver of images that he sees for all of reality, arrogantly accuses those whose vision is in fact superior to his own of seeing, not reality, but mirages.  What else can such images be – images of the greater economic growth and increased widespread prosperity in all trading countries – but mirages?  After all, if the nearly-blind protectionist can’t see these images, they cannot possibly be real, don’t you see?!


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