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A Protectionist is Someone Who…

Summary:
… believes that both the theoretical and practical case for a protectionism is firmly and forever established if he can describe at least one hypothetical scenario in which protectionism might, just might, increase, even if only very little, the net economic well-being of the people of a country. Were the protectionist to apply to his daily life the same ‘logic’ that he applies to trade policy, he would live in constant fear of being crushed to death in his bed by a hippopotamus. After all, it’s easy to describe several hypothetical scenarios in which a hippopotamus crushes him in his bed. Here’s just one: “Suppose you’re sleeping and a hippo escapes from the nearby zoo. The hippo breaks through your bedroom window and lands on you while you are asleep in your bed! R.I.P., You.” Let’s

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… believes that both the theoretical and practical case for a protectionism is firmly and forever established if he can describe at least one hypothetical scenario in which protectionism might, just might, increase, even if only very little, the net economic well-being of the people of a country.

Were the protectionist to apply to his daily life the same ‘logic’ that he applies to trade policy, he would live in constant fear of being crushed to death in his bed by a hippopotamus. After all, it’s easy to describe several hypothetical scenarios in which a hippopotamus crushes him in his bed. Here’s just one: “Suppose you’re sleeping and a hippo escapes from the nearby zoo. The hippo breaks through your bedroom window and lands on you while you are asleep in your bed! R.I.P., You.”

Let’s face it, the above scenario is possible. And given that it’s possible, it’s also possible that the protectionist would make himself better off by spending one or more nights at a friend’s house or at a hotel. But being quite sure that no protectionist loses sleep at night out of fear of being crushed by a hippopotamus, I must ask why we should take any protectionist’s wild scenarios in support of protectionism any more seriously than that protectionist takes my scenario of his being crushed to death while in bed by a hippo.

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Don Boudreaux
He is a professor of economics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Previously, he was president of the Foundation for Economic Education.

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