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Bonus Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 96 of the 1947 “Crofts Classics” edition of John Stuart Mill’s 1859 On Liberty:

Whoever succeeds in an overcrowded profession, or in a competitive examination; whoever is preferred to another in any contest for an object which both desire, reaps benefit from the loss of others, from their wasted exertion and their disappointment. But it is, by common admission, better for the general interest of mankind, that persons should pursue their objects undeterred by this sort of consequences. In other words, society admits no right, either legal or moral, in the disappointed competitors to immunity from this kind of suffering; and feels called on to interfere, only when means of success have been employed which it is contrary to the general interest to permit – namely, fraud or treachery, and force.

DBx: Protectionism violates this understanding.

Protectionism is the corrupt philosophy that some particular producers have a property right – one to be ‘protected’ by government – in part of the incomes of their fellow citizens.

Smith earns income by producing for Williams and Jackson, and then spends part of her income on goods offered for sale by Garcia rather than on goods offered for sale by Jones. Jones is unhappy. Yet rather than improve his product offering to entice Smith to deal with him instead of with Garcia, Jones hires Sam to extract a penalty payment from Smith each time Smith deals with Garcia. This obstruction by Sam of Smith’s peaceful commerce with Garcia prompts Smith to do less commerce with Garcia and more with Jones. This interference by Sam would be ethically and economically justified only if Jones has a right to a portion of Smith’s income.

Jones, of course, is materially enriched by Sam’s thuggery, and so applauds it, despite these riches coming at the greater expense of his fellow citizens. And to prevent his fellow citizens learning of his stealing what is legitimately their property, Jones supports pundits and politicians who are skilled in portraying this thuggery as a clever and glorious means of enriching not only Jones, but also all of Jones’s fellow citizens, including Smith.

Because exposing these favorable portrayals of ‘protectionism’ as incomplete, illogical, and downright wrong is so very easy to do, Jones and his cronies invariably concoct flimsy excuses that appear to the economically ignorant to justify protectionism. “Garcia doesn’t buy from Smith as much as Smith buys from Garcia! Stop Smith from buying from Garcia!” “Garcia is selling his products to Smith at prices too low! Stop Smith from buying from Garcia!” “Garcia is ‘subsidized’ because Garcia’s government treats him differently than Jones’s government treats Jones! Stop Smith from buying from Garcia!” And of course the most common excuse of all: “Jones’s products, firm, and industry are essential for our national security! Stop Smith from buying from Garcia!

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