… believes that if we Americans had spent the first six months of 2017 and one-half our national income doing nothing but using teaspoons to dig a giant hole in the middle of the country, and then had spent the final six months of 2017 and the other half of our national income doing nothing but using spoons to refill that giant hole, that we Americans would have been just as wealthy on January 1st, 2018, as we actually were on that date (our having in fact spent 2017 doing all the many productive things that we actually did that year). The protectionist is led to this conclusion because, for the protectionist, all that matters is the performance of jobs for which workers are paid money; protectionists pay no attention to the amount of goods and services available to purchase and consume.
Nay! In fact, as I think about it, the protectionist would reckon that we Americans would have been even wealthier on January 1st, 2018, than we actually were if in fact we’d all spent all of 2017 pointlessly digging and filling-in a giant hole. The reason is that, had we spent all of 2017 doing nothing but digging and refilling a hole, the scarcity of goods and services available to us in 2018 would have been much greater than it actually was – a fact that, according to the ‘logic’ of the protectionist, would have meant greater wealth for us in 2018.