But the perennial and persistent public-policy fights for free trade, in the end, were with protectionists who cared little about the size of the pie and more about their own slice of it….
The proponents of free trade therefore started from, or at least could always claim, the higher moral ground. But today’s challengers of free trade often fight our general interest with theirs; and the most vociferous among them even claim the higher moral ground. And since our case is more taxing to the mind and theirs is plainer to the view, the public-policy debate has put the proponents of free trade into a battle that is harder than ever to wage.
DBx: You show me a protectionist and I’ll show you one, or a combination, of three things: (1) someone who feels no shame at the prospect of being enriched at the larger expense of others, including at the larger expense of his fellow citizens (that is, someone with the ethics of a thief); (2) someone who either cannot or will not see free trade’s, or protectionism’s, consequences in full; or (3) a pedant lacking the judgment or intellectual maturity to distinguish theoretical curiosa from real-world plausibilities.
The great Richard Cobden and John Bright made plain the economic case for free trade, yet they made even plainer the moral case for free trade.