… is from page 94 of Razeen Sally’s excellent 1998 volume, Classical Liberalism and International Economic Order:
All the classical economists began their analyses with a theoretical statement on the static and dynamic gains that issued from unimpeded cross-border trade. Nevertheless, their clinching argument against the imposition of trade barriers relied primarily on the ‘political economy’ of empirical and policy observations.
DBx: Protectionists find unjustified comfort in some theoretical curiosa discovered by careful economists – curiosa such as “optimal tariffs” and “strategic trade theory.” But just as the operation of the private economy must be modeled realistically, so too must the operation of the state be modeled realistically. And when the operation of the state is modeled realistically, the prospect of the state acting ‘scientifically’ and apolitically is recognized to be so close to negligible as to be zero. Equally negligible is the prospect of even the most ‘scientific’ and apolitical state ever possessing sufficient knowledge and information to intervene ‘productively.’
The case for unilateral free trade rests no less on the venality and ineptitude of the state as it does on the pro-social incentives and creativity of the market.