Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on February 12, 2020

in Crony Capitalism, Trade

… is from pages 222-223 of the original edition of Lee Francis Lybarger’s 1914 book, The Tariff (original emphasis):

The motives back of Protection are personal and selfish, and so can arouse great and powerful influences. The motives back of Free Trade are purely intellectual, moral, and patriotic. That has made an unequal contest. On the one side there were “millions in it” for the beneficiaries of a Protective Tariff – and office, place, and power for the men who could successfully defend it.

On the other side, there was scorn and contempt and ridicule and a complete shutting out from all public office – the only possible reward being the consciousness of being in the right. And while there have been scores of brave and noble men who have preferred this reward to being in the wrong with all its emoluments, yet in a practical age that is not a very powerful motive.

DBx: I largely agree – which, of course, is among the reasons why I choose to use the above as a Quotation of the Day. Protectionism artificially enriches the few at the larger expense of the many, and so protectionism’s chief motive is greed. Corporate owners and managers, and workers in protected firms, seek import tariffs and export subsidies not selflessly to promote the general welfare but, rather, selfishly to promote their own material well-being – again, at the larger expense of their fellow citizens.

Yet these greedy actions would not succeed were it not for widespread economic ignorance. This ignorance is exploited by the greedy. The greedy take advantage of this ignorance to dupe ordinary people into believing that they, the ordinary people, will be enriched if they, the ordinary people, have their economic options reduced at gunpoint.

And this economic ignorance is further spread – and, hence, fortified – by some well-meaning intellectuals who are themselves duped by it.

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