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Arguing with Protectionists

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Arguing with protectionists feels, to any good economist, much like the following:

Protectionist: Two plus two equals twenty-two!

Good economist: What?  No.  Two plus two equals four.

Protectionist: Ha!  That’s dumb.  Two and two together obviously make 22.  And two plus three equals twenty-three!  See, what could be more plain?  A 2 next to a 3 makes 23!

Good economist: That’s not how addition works.  In reality, two plus three equals five.

Protectionist: I don’t see a five when I look at a two and a three!  And I see no four when I look at two twos.  Your “theory” shows only that you’re an academic and ivory-tower egghead who doesn’t understand reality.

Good economist: Say what you will, but two plus two equals four, and two plus three equals five.

Protectionist: Uh-uh.  Two plus two equals twenty-two.  And two plus three equals twenty-three.  And ten plus twelve equals one-thousand and twelve.  Nothing you can say will change my mind.

Good economist: Well, you’re correct about my – or anyone’s – prospects of changing your mind.

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