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Quotation of the Day…

… is from pages 68-69 of the 2003 Liberty Fund collection, edited by Henry C. Clark, Commerce, Culture, and Liberty: Readings on Capitalism Before Adam Smith; specifically, it’s part of an excerpt from Nicholas Barbon’s 1690 tract, A Discourse of Trade (capitalization modernized):

The reasons why many men have not a true idea of trade, is, because they apply their thoughts to particular parts of trade, wherein they are chiefly concerned in interest; and having found out the best rules and laws for forming that particular part, they govern their thoughts by the same notions in forming the great body of trade, and not reflecting on the different rules of proportions betwixt the body and parts, have a very disagreeable conception….

DBx: So, it seems, it has always been, and so it will likely always be.

So very many people commit the fallacy of composition. When, say, the steel worker observes that his job is saved by protective tariffs on steel – or when the steel executive notes that her salary is enhanced by protective tariffs on steel – this person draws the mistaken conclusion that all domestic jobs will be protected, and all domestic wages enhanced, by protective tariffs imposed generally.

But of course logical fallacies, no matter how often committed and swallowed, remain fallacious. A society can no more grow rich through protectionism than it can grow rich through the legalization and widespread practice of armed robbery.