Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on November 30, 2017

in Trade, Virginia Political Economy

… is from page 18 of my late colleague Gordon Tullock’s 1997 essay “Origins of Public Choice,” as this essay is reprinted in volume 4 (The Economics of Politics) of Tullock’s Selected Works (Charles K. Rowley, ed., 2005) (links added):

It should be said here that the problem of protective tariffs had a tendency to drive people from pure economics into different disciplines from the beginning.  Both [William Graham] Sumner and [Vilfredo] Pareto had moved from economics into sociology in an effort to explain protective tariffs.  Frank Knight had gone into philosophy partially for the same reason.

DBx: The public-choice analysis that emerged in the second half of the 20th century goes a very long way toward explaining protective tariffs.  In particular, an understanding of the special-interest-group effect along with an understanding of rational ignorance (and rational irrationality) render the existence of protective tariffs unsurprising.  But it is telling that some of the best minds in economics before the 1950s were so befuddled by the existence of protective tariffs that these minds devoted much effort to trying to explain these tariffs.  Why, after all, does the general public tolerate – and, worse, often demand – policies that create for the general public artificial scarcities of goods and services that member of the general public want to acquire?


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