Bonus Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on August 3, 2018

in Adam Smith, Myths and Fallacies, Trade

… is from page 391 of Jacob Viner’s review, in the June 1929 issue of the Journal of Political Economy, of a collection of some of the writings of Friedrich List, as this review is reprinted in the 1958 collection of selected articles by Viner (The Long View and the Short). List is perhaps the 19th-century’s most notable academic proponent of protectionism (although List favored free trade in raw materials and agricultural goods):

Of the case for free trade in terms of the principle of comparative costs, which Ricardo and Torrens had by this time already made the argument for free trade which the intelligent protectionist had to meet, List seems to have had no inkling, and Ricardo is not mentioned by him. His references to the doctrines of the free traders, and especially of Adam Smith, are so unfair as to be caricatures, effective enough perhaps for propaganda purposes, but not deserving of serious consideration as objective scientific analysis.

DBx: What was true of List in the 19th-century remains true of protectionists today. Protectionists are typically masters at misunderstanding and mischaracterizing arguments for free trade and against protectionism. The typical protectionist has encountered much of the jargon used by economists who discuss and analyze trade, but he seldom takes the time to understand the context and the full meaning of the underlying analyses. The typical protectionist grabs phrases that appear to uninformed audiences to support his case; he ignores arguments and quotations that even uninformed audiences would understand to undermine his case for protectionism.


Add a Comment    Share Share    Print    Email

Previous post:

Next post: