A Protectionist is Someone Who…

by Don Boudreaux on February 26, 2018

in A Protectionist is..., Myths and Fallacies, Trade

… upon seeing Smith pay to Jones a large sum of money to entice Jones to help Smith satisfy an urgent demand – say, the demand to cure Smith’s child of a life-threatening illness – concludes that people as a group become more prosperous the greater is the number of urgent demands they have.  The protectionist, upon seeing the large sum of money that Smith pays to Jones for Jones’s assistance in saving the life of Smith’s child, advises state officials that the wealth of the nation will rise if these officials artificially arrange for as many as possible of the nation’s citizens to require the scarce services of expensive specialist producers – including those of physicians to save children’s lives.

Protectionists mistake scarcity as being the source of wealth because they see people willingly pay to have the bite of scarcity eased – and because the protectionist sees also that the more vicious is scarcity’s bite, the more people are willing to pay to have it eased.  What the protectionist misses is that prosperity is found, not in scarcity’s bite, but in the easing of scarcity’s bite.  Protectionists are blind to the reality that the less vicious is the bite of scarcity, the wealthier are the people.

While sensible people celebrate having greater access to goods and services, the protectionist laments this greater access.  The protectionist laments this greater access because it means that less human effort and fewer resources must now be devoted to satisfying the consumer demands that are now better satisfied because of people’s greater access to goods and services.

As GMU Econ doctoral candidate Jon Murphy always correctly reminds us, protectionists are really scarcityists.

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