A Protectionist is Someone Who…

by Don Boudreaux on March 18, 2018

in A Protectionist is..., Myths and Fallacies, Trade

… has a very poor – indeed, a downright shamefully low – opinion of his fellow citizens.  The protectionist believes his fellow citizens to be especially inept, incapable, uncreative, and single-dimensional – indeed, pathetic – creatures.  He sees his fellow citizens as sorry drones who, if they lose their current jobs to imports, have no ability to be productive in any other ways.  As the protectionist views his fellow citizens, each can do well only the job that each is currently performing; should a citizen lose that job to imports, that citizen either is incapable of doing anything else other than remaining idle, or can do only extremely low-value tasks.  The protectionist sees in his fellow citizens no scope for entrepreneurial creativity; in the opinion of the protectionist, his fellow citizens possess neither the ability nor the gumption to see in the existence of un- or under-used resources opportunities to profit by launching new firms or by expanding existing firms.

It is the protectionist’s extraordinarily low opinion of his fellow citizens that prompts him to wish to protect them from the competition of foreigners – people who, in the protectionist’s opinion, are far more energetic, able, and entrepreneurial than are his own fellow citizens.

The protectionist might scream, for theatrical or political effect, ‘Make my country great again with tariffs!’  But the protectionist is the last person to believe that his country is or ever can truly be great.  What the protectionist really means when he bellows about ‘making his country great again’ is this: ‘Because my country is so pathetic, fragile, and incapable, protect with tariffs my feeble and pitiable fellow citizens from having to interact commercially with foreigners, who are so much stronger, capable, and productive – just ever so much greater – than we are.’

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