… is from page 134 of the 1992 Robert Schalkenbach Foundation edition of Henry George’s 1897 book, The Science of Political Economy :
Yet it is a mistake to liken the absurdities of the mercantile or protective system to the crude fancies of childhood. This has never been their origin or their strength. In the petty commerce in marbles and tops that goes on among school-boys no boy ever imagined that the more he gave and the less he got in such exchange the better off he should be. No primitive people were ever yet so stupid as to suppose that they could increase their wealth by taxing themselves. Any child that could understand the proposition would see that a dollar’s worth of gold could not be more valuable than a dollar’s worth of anything else, as readily as it would see that a pound of lead could not be heavier than a pound of feathers. Such ideas are not the fancies of childhood. Their growth, their strength, their persistence, as we may clearly see in the newer countries of America and Australia, where they have appeared and gathered force since Adam Smith’s time, is due to the growth of special interests in artificial restrictions on trade as a means of increasing individual wealth at the expense of the general wealth.
Protectionism – which is no more logical than the proposition that 5-2=8 – would rightly be dismissed as the delusion of a not-very-bright toddler were it not for special-interest groups whose bank accounts are unjustly swelled if they can fool the general public into believing that, when arithmetic crosses national boundaries, five minus two damn well does equal eight.
If these same interest groups stood to gain from a widespread public delusion that mountain goats can fly, each day would bring the deaths of people who attempt to soar off of high cliffs by riding on the backs of these animals.