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A Protectionist is Someone Who…

… is so hopelessly – indeed, comically – confused about trade that he assumes that Americans who support free trade do so only out of a willingness to sacrifice the welfare of fellow Americans in order to improve the welfare of people in poorer countries.  The protectionist does not grasp the fact that voluntary trade occurs only when each party to each trade believes that he or she will be made better off by the trade.  The protectionist, unable to escape from the antediluvian superstition that trade is a zero-sum exercise, self-righteously – if ridiculously – accuses free-traders in rich countries of discounting or disregarding the economic well-being of their fellow citizens.  The protectionist is an intellectual prisoner of his silly presumption that if people in poor countries gain from freer trade, people in the rich countries must thereby lose.

In short, a protectionist is someone who denies the reality of gains from trade.