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The essence of protectionism is captured nicely in this headline that just appeared at World Trade Online:

Protectionists are masters at frightening economically uninformed people with far-fetched hypotheticals.  ‘What if all of our farmers go bankrupt and we are then left at the mercy of our military enemies to supply us with food?  Do you want to risk that outcome?!’ – is the sort of absurd ‘argument’ that protectionists mistake for serious argument.  This sort of precautionary-principle argument is prevalent when protectionists are trying to persuade people to allow the government to restrict their – the people’s – access to goods and services.

But the true essence of protectionism is captured nicely by this headline about Argentine lemon imports.  No one with any sense can possibly interpret this demand by the U.S. citrus industry as reflecting anything other than an attempt to pick the pockets of consumers by denying to consumers access to imported lemons.

Protectionism in theory is dubious.  Protectionism in practice is cronyist thuggery costumed as “policy.”