… is from chapter 3 of William Graham Sumner’s 1885 book, Protectionism: the -ism Which Teaches that Waste Makes Wealth:
The cities of Japan are built of very combustible material, and when a fire begins it is rarely arrested until the city is destroyed. It was suggested that a steam fire-engine would there reach its maximum of utility. One was imported and proved very useful on several occasions. Thereupon the carpenters got up a petition to the government to send the fire-engine away, because it ruined their business.
The instance is grotesque and exaggerated, but it is strictly true to the principle of protectionism.
DBx: Upon encountering such revelations of the essence of their doctrine, protectionists always cry “Straw man!” But this cry is either false or, more often, a revelation that protectionists’ minds are so closed that they are unable to grasp the logic of their own arguments.
At the very heart of the protectionist dogma is the notion that greater abundance that reduces the sales of some existing domestic producers is really a source of greater privation – and that government-engineered elimination of this abundance is really government-engineered creation of even greater abundance.
Protectionism is the belief that rabbits really are pulled from hats – that destruction is creation – that 5-2=8. Protectionism is crazy nonsense, but – sadly – it sells. And it sells for the same reason that “lose-weight-while-you-sleep” pills and penis-enlargement devices sell: the will to believe very often is stronger than is the desire to understand reality. But people grounded in reality react to the assertions of protectionists in the very same manner in which they react to the assertions of the pitchman who promises that he has available a guaranteed, no-risk way for each member of his audience to get rich quickly by flipping houses.