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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 95 of the 1976 Liberty Fund edition of John Chamberlain’s 1959 volume, The Roots of Capitalism:

The protective tariff leaves a manufacturer free to contract for the disposition of his own product, but it also gives him a status of exemption from market forces which infringes the voluntary contractual rights of those who might prefer to buy in a foreign market.

DBx: A typical pose of the protectionist is as a tough guy who sees reality straight on and clear.  No sissy he!  No sirree.  He fancies himself not only as being free of the blinkers that block and distort the vision of those who explicitly use economic theory to analyze trade and trade policies, but free also of the cowardice that leads weaker souls to allow their fellow citizens to trade as they choose without his intrusions.  Yet with this pose the protectionist deludes himself and those who fall for his pretenses.

The protectionist’s ‘toughness’ is manifested only in his willingness to inflict pain and loss on fellow citizens who are too diffuse to notice and too unorganized to retaliate.  The protectionist, in addition to being blind to the all but the most immediate and concentrated consequences of protectionism, is actually a coward.  He fears the future.  He fears change.  He fears allowing his fellow citizens the freedom to spend their money as they wish.  And he – when in possession of political power – fears the displeasure of politically powerful producer groups.  In this fear, the politician-protectionist is much like a child threatened with being horse-whipped by a cruel nanny.  The politician-protectionist does the bidding of his interest-group bosses not because he is courageous, but because he is a cowardly and venal flunky and toady.

In short, the protectionist is either an economically blind fool or a fraud greedy for power and unearned riches.