Why do so many people (especially politicians) favor high tariffs, “managed trade,” embargoes and domestic subsidies, all of which — first as “mercantilism” and then as “protectionism” — have been debunked, repeatedly (demonstrated as ineffective economic policy), since Adam Smith’s famous 1776 attack?
Economist Donald Boudreaux, in an excellent defense of economic principles, explains why the Bernie Sanderses and Donald Trumps of this world support anti-free trade nostrums — out of sheer ignorance:
The typical politician opposes free trade because he . . . doesn’t understand that the purpose of trade — any trade — is to enrich people as consumers and not to enrich people as producers. He doesn’t understand that exports are a cost and that imports are a benefit; he thinks that it’s the other way ’round. He doesn’t understand that the specific jobs lost to imports are not the only employment consequences of trade; he doesn’t understand that trade also “creates” jobs in the domestic economy. . . . He, in short, doesn’t understand the first damn thing about the economics of trade.
But what protectionists do understand are direct appeals to “good results” (like more and better high-paying jobs). The fact that their proposals throw a monkey wrench into the diverse mechanisms of trade, yielding worse results?
They just don’t see them.
Why? Because real economies are complex, and protectionists lack the science that would help them trace the consequences of their policies.
The fact that they’ve focused their whole attention on the business of “governing,” and making simplistic, direct appeals to people who are also uneducated in economic principles, doesn’t help.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.