Thursday, September 14, 2017

An Odd Reaction

By Don Boudreaux

 One of oddest tics exhibited by protectionists who otherwise have pro-free-market sympathies is to insist that the government of their country (say, the United States) use punitive tariffs and other trade restrictions in order to countervail the market-distorting effects of the policies of foreign governments.  There are many problems with
this specific argument for protectionism (again, not least that, in practice, it is aimed only at those policies of foreign governments that are believed to artificially lower the prices of those countries’ exports; it is never aimed at those policies of foreign governments that make the prices of those countries’ exports higher).

But here I note only that it is especially odd for people who allegedly understand and celebrate the virtues of free markets to justify protectionist restrictions on the grounds that these restrictions will allegedly countervail or “adjust for” whatever market distortions are (or are asserted to be) unleashed by the economic interventions of foreign governments.  It is odd because these particular protectionists – in the U.S., many conservatives – generally distrust their government to act wisely, prudently, skillfully, knowledgeably, and apolitically when meddling in the economy.  And yet as soon as the stated particular reason for intervention is foreign-government misdeeds that allegedly distort the American market, these free-market types – these free-market conservatives – lose all of their skepticism of their own governments’ abilities to intervene wisely, prudently, skillfully, knowledgeably, and apoloticially.

The above originally appeared at Cafe Hayek.


  1. You know Don I have to roll my eyes tiredly AGAIN when I see no reference to state directed, law dictated, protective monopolies and multinational corporations that ensure there is no such thing as free-market in the mass public world of civilized society.

    I get it you want to point out the fallacy, but please, at least on occasion do so with real insightful nuance so some may become aware of Why. I know you can.

    1. Any such references would only serve to further underscore his point.

      The remedy for existing intervention isn't additional intervention.

    2. Re: Shegottawideload,

      You sound like those black supremacists who argue that they're never going to be truly free until all reparations are paid to all those generational victims of slavery. You want a state of affairs so close to perfection that can only lead one to conclude that you're not serious, that you really don't harbor affinity towards markets at all and only use the complaint on current government interventions as an excuse to attack markets and people's freedom to trade with whoever the f...k they want.

    3. Fransisco, sorry I'm on the opposite end of that spectrum. But by all means lets let the prevalent ogliarchy continue unabated and see what happens to the 90% that are subjected to it.

      Cant wait to see how small businesses survive and thrive and competition is right there ripe for the picking.

    4. So because there exists a "prevalent oligarchy", therefore imposing tariffs actually isn't bad? Is that what you're arguing?