Protectionism, as it is misleadingly known, has always been an insider’s game, a political gambit aimed at enriching those to whom the government is especially beholden or seeks to seduce at the expense of other people. Incumbent producers who produce products on which tariffs are imposed succeed in repelling competition by force of the government’s customs officers, which is to say that they succeed in increasing their profits by force, not by offering consumers a better deal.
DBx: What Bob says.
I encounter these days a distressingly large number of people who argue thusly: ‘Look, even if free trade is the best policy, the populace has become populist. Free trade is no longer politically salable. People no longer believe in free trade. Protectionism is now all the rage. So either change the subject or adopt a more moderate tone if you wish to have any influence.’
To my ears and eyes, such advice is no more appealing or persuasive than would be the advice of someone who advises an opponent of arson to tone his objections down on the grounds that large numbers of the general populace have come wrongly to believe that arson is economically enriching and, therefore, that arson should be practiced more widely.