… is deeply confused.
The typical protectionist will, with one breath, attempt to justify tariffs by insisting that reducing the flow of imports relative to exports is crucial for maintaining domestic employment, domestic high wages, domestic industrial capacity, and domestic national defense. (That the protectionist is mistaken in his predictions about the effects of protective tariffs is here beside the point.) Yet with the very next breath the same protectionist will attempt to justify tariffs by pointing to the theory of optimal tariffs.
The protectionist is a hoot!
The protectionist apparently is unaware that if the government manages to impose tariffs that are actually optimal according to optimal-tariff theory, then the flow of imports into the domestic economy will increase relative to exports.
The typical protectionist, in other words, is so clueless that he thinks that the theory of optimal tariffs is a theory that justifies protection of domestic producers from foreign competition. If anything, it’s the opposite, for it is a description of how the domestic government can intensify the competition posed on domestic producers by foreign firms.
The protectionist is so uninformed that he doesn’t understand that optimal-tariff theory explains how the government can extract more imports from abroad for each unit exported from the domestic economy.