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A Protectionist is Someone Who…

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… has yet to explain why the labor-saving consequences of imports – consequences that he fears tremendously – are consequences only of imports.

That is, for example, the protectionist is quick to point out that imports of steel reduce the number of jobs in the domestic steel industry. And then the protectionist is quick to leap to the speculation that, therefore, domestic workers, as a group and on net, are not only harmed but also are victims of an injustice.

But a reality utterly ignored by the typical protectionist is that job-destroying activities are an incessant feature of the modern market economy: electrification, refrigeration, pesticides, improved packaging, faster transportation, better tools, computers, enhanced physical infrastructure, more-accurate weather forecasting – indeed, any increase in efficiency – ‘destroys’ some jobs. What the protectionist never explains is why or how the particular jobs destroyed by one specific source of domestic particular-job destruction – imports – differs from the countless other specific sources of domestic particular-job destruction that swirl around us daily.

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