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A Protectionist is Someone Who…

… if he were intellectually consistent, is upset whenever at work he gets a raise. Indeed, an intellectually consistent protectionist asks his boss, not for a raise, but for a “lower” (that is, he asks his boss to lower the hourly pay that he, the protectionist, receives).

After all, when a worker’s pay rises, each hour of that worker’s labor enables him to acquire more for his and his family’s consumption than he was able to acquire before his pay rose. Or, what is the same thing, when a worker’s pay rises, he can thereby acquire for his and his family’s consumption the same amount of real goods and services that he acquired before he got the raise but now by working fewer hours.

The raise, in short, enables the worker to import more into his household without exporting more (that is, without producing more for someone else’s consumption) – an outcome that (again, if the protectionist were intellectually consistent) the protectionist holds to be impoverishing.


So when you next encounter a protectionist pleading for you to support tariffs and other trade-restricting schemes, ask him if he objects whenever his employer offers to raise his pay – indeed, ask him if he regularly demands from his employer “lowers.” Only if he credibly answers “yes,” should you consent even to hear his argument for why you should object whenever foreigners offer to raise the amounts that they pay to you, in the form of goods and services, in exchange for what you give to them.