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A Protectionist is Someone Who…

… believes that, if consumers this year spend $X buying domestically produced widgets, then consumers thereby commit themselves, as a matter of ethics, not to be enticed, in any future years, by any increased availability of foreign-produced widgets to spend less than $X per year buying domestically produced widgets.

That is, a protectionist is someone who believes that domestic producers gain a conditional property right in $X per year amount of consumers’ incomes the moment consumers choose to spend $X per year on these producers’ outputs. Note that this property right (that protectionists insist is possessed by domestic producers) is a right that protectionists believe is enforceable against fellow citizens, for the legislative creation of this property right for producers necessarily reduces consumers’ property rights in their incomes. (Of course, to improve their policy’s p.r. image, protectionists invariably talk and write about this property right that is legislatively created for domestic producers as if it is enforceable only against foreign producers.)

The world knows few people who are as hypocritical as are the many protectionists who claim to support the kinds of private property rights that have long been understood to be necessary for economic growth and human flourishing.