≡ Menu

Ignoring the Unseen, Example 19,208e209

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:


Attempting to justify the Jones Act, Sen. Roger Wicker (R., Miss.) commits the classic protectionist error when he writes that this statute “facilitates some 650,000 jobs across our vast system of shipyards, ports and waterways and adds $150 billion annually to our economy” (Letters, March 5). Like all protectionists, Sen. Wicker fails to ask “as compared to what?”

No one doubts that protecting particular industries can increase employment and sales in those industries. But because protectionism works only by artificially diverting more workers and other resources into protected industries – and, hence, away from other industries – it unavoidably decreases employment and sales elsewhere in the economy. Sen. Wicker ignores these destroyed jobs and sales. Further, because industries that survive only because of protectionism are less efficient than are industries that thrive without protectionism, the economic activities made possible by the Jones Act and other protectionist measures are worse than are the activities made impossible by these interventions. With protectionism, therefore, wage and economic growth are reduced.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030