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Quotation of the Day…

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… is from page 54 of Razeen Sally’s excellent 2008 book, New Frontiers in Free Trade: Globalization’s Future and Asia’s Rising Role [2] (footnote deleted; link and emphasis added):

The naysayers, from the hard and soft Left, and the conservative Right, hold that liberalization has not delivered the goods. They argue for various forms of government intervention, at national and international levels, to tame “market fundamentalism” and “neoliberal globalization.” Interventionist ideas on trade (and aid) are not new; they hark back to pre-Adam Smith, “preanalytic” mercantilism (as Schumpeter called it). What they have in common is an age-old distrust of markets and faith in government intervention – what David Henderson calls “New Millennium Collectivism [3].” Such collectivist thinking is on the rise again. But it is still wrong and dangerous. It glosses over the damage done by interventionist policies in the past and misreads the recent and historical evidence.

DBx: Indeed so.

Today’s intellectual proponents of protectionism and of industrial policy – from the likes of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders on the left to Oren Cass and Daniel McCarthy on the right – seem to think of themselves as cutting-edge thinkers courageously exposing weaknesses and flaws that even the best proponents of free trade have until now somehow mysteriously overlooked. But I say again: protectionism has been around so long, and the forces that support it have been so unrelenting, that there is no argument against a policy of free trade – or in favor of protectionism – that competent scholars of trade have not yet heard, and in almost all cases have heard ad nauseam.

The vast majority of these apologists for protectionism – or for what Jon Murphy calls “scarcityism” – know just enough economic jargon to come across to unsuspecting audiences as sufficiently learned in the economics of trade to be worthy of being heard. But while I believe that most of these apologists for protectionism have good intentions – that is, they don’t intend to help special-interest groups seize unearned riches at the greater expense of their fellow citizens – these apologists for protectionism nevertheless peddle destructive nonsense.

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