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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 223 of Douglas Irwin’s 2017 book, Clashing Over Commerce; Doug here is writing about the immediate post-civil-war United States (footnote deleted):

John Kasson (R-IA) agreed and warned that if Congress shifted from a tariff for revenue to a tariff for protection, special interests would come to have a disproportionate influence on policy: “I know very well that the iron interest, the cotton interest, the glass interest, and many others, can send gentlemen here to advocate their interests, and that they may be heard before the committee and may fill out lobbies; but the great interest of the consumers of the country is not organized into a system of mutual protective associations.  That interest must be heard by members of this floor who seek to protect it.  It must be heard here as much as these organizations of capital.”

DBx: Rep. Kasson obviously understood well the special-interest-group effect – likely because he, as a member of Congress, saw that effect in play each and every day that he spent as a member of Congress.  If individuals organized for political purposes to push their interests as consumers as readily and as successfully as many of them organize as producers to push their interests as producers, far fewer politicians and pundits would be sympathetic to protectionism (that is, sympathetic to what, again, Jon Murphy calls “scarcityism”).  But because for nearly all of us our interests as consumers, unlike our interests as producers, are not concentrated on any one or two items, our attention focuses on our interests as producers while our interests as consumers are largely ignored (save by a handful of economists who insist that that which is not immediately seen is both vast and important).

I say again to populists and “Progressives” who embrace protectionism in the name of ordinary people: you show me a tariff or other trade restriction, and I’ll show you a politically powerful producer group whose members charge prices higher than they would on free markets and are champions of a scheme of restriction that destroys business prospects and jobs in other parts of the domestic economy.
(Pictured above is Rep. John Kasson.)