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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 216 of Virginia Postrel’s marvelous and still-relevant 1998 book, The Future and Its Enemies:

Dynamists too have fear on their side: fear of stagnation, of poverty, of pain. Stasist prescriptions, we can say with conviction, stifle the very processes through which people improve their lives – from the invention of new medical treatments to the creation of art. In their quest for stability, statists make society brittle, vulnerable to all sorts of disasters. They disregard and disrespect important knowledge, the specific knowledge through which we each shape our lives. They scorn pleasures not their own, improvements they did not conceive. They lock individuals into narrow status boundaries, blocking opportunity and self-definition. They are frighteningly intolerant.

DBx: Assemble in a room one hundred ‘sincere’ proponents of protectionism – that is, one hundred people who endorse protection for reasons other than that it will protect from competition their particular firms or jobs. A majority – and likely one that’s sizable – will have among their justifications for tariffs and other trade restrictions the express desire to make the details of the world look like they wish the details of the world to look. “We should have more manufacturing jobs!” “We should have less foreign ownership of our domestic supply base!” “We should enable people to earn higher wages in small towns!” “We should be embarrassed that so many of our flags are imported!” “We should import fewer critical supplies!” “The steel industry [or fill-in-the-blank with whatever industry some protectionist fancies] is too important for our country to let it decline because of cheap imports!” “The trade deficit is too large!” “It’s criminal that we buy goods produced in foreign sweatshops!”

The remaining protectionists are either motivated exclusively by concerns about national security or are simply ignorant of economics, with no belief about protectionism beyond the mistaken notion that it will make the domestic economy more prosperous. Yet while nearly all of the protectionists in the majority also have a poor grasp of economics, again, their chief motivation is to use the state to make the details of the economy look like these protectionists wish these details to look. Their motivation is no less selfish – yet much more arrogant – than is the motivation of the merely greedy protectionists who care only that their firms or jobs not be subject to competition from imports.