… is from page 208 of the 1978 collection, edited by Eric Mack, of Auberon Herbert’s essays, The Right and Wrong of Compulsion by the State; specifically, it’s from Herbert’s brilliant May 1894 Contemporary Review essay, “The Ethics of Dynamite”:
Then came the national-life or national-unity argument, and we were told in a rather vague and specious manner that we were all bonded together in one society, and that it was needful that the one society should grow together in the same way and under the same influences, which perhaps it might not do, if we did not freely compel each other. That argument was more flowery than convincing, since in all the other forms of daily society men live together fairly well without establishing a system of compulsion, and no one had yet ventured to get up and propose that, for the sake of improving the general good temper and happiness, we should vote upon the practices and habits which make up the daily life of each of us.
DBx: Indeed so.
Protectionists, of course, often trot out various versions of this national-unity argument. The premise is always that when the government uses trade restrictions that reduce the business, wages, and profits of many of us in order to compel the many of us to artificially to increase the business, wages, and profits of some of us, national unity is being served.
But never is a compelling explanation offered of just how the people of the nation are made more united – of just how some common national cause is being pursued – when one subset of the people convinces the government to reduce the real incomes, options, and freedom of another subset of the people.
Economically uninformed economic nationalists, such as Daniel McCarthy, focus only on the gains that protectionism brings to protected domestic producers. McCarthy and his like, being blind to the losses suffered by all fellow citizens save the relatively small handful of protected interests – or, inexplicably, discounting the reality or severity of these losses – interpret the gains enjoyed by the protected interests as evidence that protectionism is in the national interest.
It’s all (to use an old-fashioned term) poppycock.