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Quotation of the Day…

… is from pages 66-67 of Liberty Fund’s 2017 expanded English-language edition, brilliantly edited by David Hart, of Frédéric Bastiat’s indispensable work Economic Sophisms and “What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen”; specifically, it’s from Bastiat’s undated essay “Does Protection Increase the Rate of Pay?” (“La protection élève-t-elle le taux des salaires?”):

On the national capital available. But has the law that says: “We will no longer receive such and such a product from abroad, we will manufacture it internally,” increased this capital? Not in the slightest. The law has withdrawn the product from one area to place it in another but it has not increased the product by one obole. Therefore the law does not increase the demand for labor.

A factory is shown off with pride. Has it been established and maintained with capital from the moon? No, capital has had to be withdrawn either from agriculture, shipping or the wine producing industry. And this is why while there are more workers in our mineshafts and in the suburbs of our manufacturing towns since protectionist duties became law, there are fewer sailors in our ports and fewer workers and wine producers in our fields and hills.

DBx: Protectionists are forever pointing to these workers employed because of tariffs, those goods rolling out of ‘our’ factories because of import quotas, and that domestic industry that has expanded since trade restrictions were tightened. These phenomena are real, and if they were free they would be net benefits to society. The case for free trade does not deny these phenomena.

But protectionists merely presume that, by pointing to the jobs, industries, and goods that exist only because of protectionism, protectionists thereby prove the economic wisdom of obstructing fellow citizens’ freedom to purchase goods and services offered for sale by foreigners. Protectionists either never ask “As compared to what?” or, on those rare occasions when this question does occur to them, they simply assume that the economic activity made possible by protectionism is more valuable than is the economic activity destroyed by protectionism.

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