… is from page 30 of the original edition of Lee Francis Lybarger’s 1914 book, The Tariff (original emphasis):
But the word “protection,” when used in connection with the Tariff, does not have its regular meaning. It has just the opposite meaning. “Plunder would have been a vastly better word.
By the way, I am – and have always been – well aware that my practice of joining with people such as Lybarger and Frederic Bastiat in using such strong language to describe protectionism and protectionists makes me appear in the eyes of many to be unreasonable, even perhaps unserious.
This price is one that I do not relish paying, but that I nevertheless pay willingly.
The world has in it many competent economists who treat protectionist policy as if it is an ethically legitimate enterprise, with only its economic benefits and costs to be weighed against each other. From these scholars I’ve learned, and will continue to learn, much. And I do not doubt that in the short run such scholars gain a larger audience than do I and others who join with me in radical opposition to protectionism pursued for economic purposes.
Among my goals is to contribute what little I might to change people’s ethical attitude toward protectionism – to help people see that protectionism is institutionalized piracy that should win no more approval from ordinary men and women than does piracy practiced by violent thugs sailing stolen ships. In my ideal world, arguments about the possible theoretical benefits of protectionism would be heard with no less horror than would arguments today be heard about the possible theoretical benefits of high-seas piracy. (Note that it would be child’s play for a clever first-year economics graduate student to develop logically coherent theoretical models in which high-seas piracy conducted by thugs who’ve commandeered stolen ships is shown to possibly improve social welfare.)
Describing protectionism and protectionists in language that strips away the polite niceties in which it is normally escorted around the intellectual town is one way – hopefully if not surely – to cause protectionism one day to be seen fully for what it is: violence-backed plunder, pure and simple.
My hope is that one day people will be as embarrassed – indeed, as ashamed – to defend protectionism as people today would be embarrassed and ashamed to defend mafioso protection rackets or high-seas piracy. This day, should it ever come, will come long after I’ve turned to dust and am no more. But it is that day toward which I wish, whenever I have the opportunity, to work.