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Dicey Economics

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:

Lobbyist Scott Paul details the bounty that American tire producers now reap from the Obama administration’s tariff on Americans who buy Chinese tires (Letters, Jan. 26).  He then asserts that these gains prove the tariff’s merit.


The argument against tariffs is not that they fail to yield benefits to protected industries; rather, it’s that these benefits come at the greater expense of the public at large.  Mr. Paul’s letter is evidence of the truth of Albert Venn Dicey’s observation that “Every man feels or thinks that protection would benefit his own business, and it is difficult to realize that what may be a benefit for any man taken alone, may be of no benefit to a body of men looked at collectively.”*

Mr. Paul’s false assumption that the gains to tire manufacturers are gains to Americans at large proves not the merit of the tire tariff but, instead, the narrowness of the tunnel vision of a rent-seeking lobbyist and of the rapacious corporations that he serves.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030

* Albert Venn Dicey, Lectures on the Relation Between Law & Public Opinion in England During the Nineteenth Century (London: Macmillan and Co., 1905), p. 24.