A Protectionist is Someone Who…

by Don Boudreaux on February 25, 2018

in A Protectionist is..., Competition, Trade

… is unhappy that private firms nearly always fail in their attempts to gain and maintain genuine monopoly power in markets.  The robust competitiveness of markets whose participants receive no special privileges from the state obliges producers to incessantly attempt to better meet the demands of consumers.  One result of this robust competition is a more or less steady increase in the size of the flow of goods and services produced each year and made available to consumers.

The protectionist fears and loathes this on-going achievement of the market to ease scarcity’s bite.  Therefore, greater success at grasping and holding on to monopoly power would please the protectionist, because, after all, the protectionist believes that the higher are the prices that producers are able to fetch from consumers, the more the economy is “winning” and the more prosperous are The People.

Alas, because private markets are so robustly competitive, the protectionist demands that government give to that subset of domestic producers that happen to catch his or her fancy special protection from competition.  The protectionist then points to the higher revenues raked in by protected firms – and to the greater rates of output and higher employment levels of such firms – and declares victoriously to the world that protectionism is a useful means of enriching the nation as a whole.  The protectionist’s philosophy seems to be this: “Because monopoly power cannot be created and sustained by purely private actions in markets, a proper role of government is to create and enforce monopoly privileges.

In short, the protectionist believes that monopoly power is a public good, one that must be supplied by the state.


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