Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on December 31, 2017

in Myths and Fallacies, Seen and Unseen, Trade

… is from page 146 of Liberty Fund’s 2017 expanded English-language edition, expertly edited by David Hart, of Frédéric Bastiat’s great work Economic Sophisms and “What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen”; specifically, it’s from Bastiat’s essay “The Lower Council of Labor” (“Conseil inférieur du travail”), which first appeared in Sophisms:

For wanting to enrich each industry in turn by creating an economic void around them is as vain an effort as trying to jump over your shadow.

DBx: Protectionists correctly see that protecting any particular industry from foreign competition generally increases the sales volume, the sales revenues, the prospects for long-term survival, and the employment of the protected firms.  Yet this reality is all that protectionists see; protectionists see only the benefits that protectionism bestows upon protected producers.  Protectionists are blind to the many other consequences of protectionism – consequences which include, but aren’t limited to, higher prices for consumers, less incentive for protected firms to innovate, and destroyed firms and jobs elsewhere in the domestic economy.

Protectionists’ blindness to all but one consequence of protectionism leads them to be among history’s most consistent commissioners of the fallacy of composition.  “If output and employment in the steel industry rise when tariffs on steel are raised,” reasons the protectionist, “then output and employment in all industries will rise when tariffs on all goods and services are raised!”  Such reasoning, of course, makes no more sense than does this apology for burglary: “Because Slippery Jones, a successful house burglar, is enriched by his successful burglarizing, everyone in society would be enriched if everyone successfully burgles his or her neighbors’ homes.”

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