The Protectionist Mantra: “Freedom is Slavery”

It is interesting (and a bit maddening) to be thought a utopian when one merely adopts the most logically consistent and historically confirmed theories regarding economics (or any subject, really).  This is especially so when one  considers that one of the most naive and utopian ideas that one can hold is that there can be such a thing as “good government.”

Mercantilism should have died a quick death after Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations.  It should have become the butt of vaudeville jokes after the brilliant Bastiat’s writings.  And yet, we have Neo-Mercantilists still maintaining the sad belief that high taxes can create wealth, and that freedom of property (which includes the right to dispose of something one owns as readily as one acquires it) sucks, hard.  They’ll bring forth reams of invented, fairy-tale, government acquired economic data to “prove” their point, apparently ignorant that much of the data is flawed not only in its interpretation, but in its acquisition and arrangement.  There is the idea, for example, that consumer spending drives the economy; that consumer spending accounts for 67% of the U.S. economy.  Flapdoodle.  In reality, business spending dwarfs consumer spending, but because the Gov’t decides to collect the data in a certain way, the “Consumer Spending is the main part of the economy” myth continues.

Unfortunately, so does the “government can make us richer by making us pay more for stuff” myth.  It seems that the Neo-Mercantilists hold the (unstated) view that a person has a “right” to a certain level of income, regardless whether he provides the necessary value to earn it.  The Ne0-Mercantilists have also somehow discovered that the market-regulating activity we call competition is a very bad thing.  If there’s competition, then one firm might offer a better value for the product or service it offers, and thus “steal” a second firm’s job.  The Neo-Mercantilists aren’t just opposed to foreign competition, however; their proposed policies also work to eliminate competition in the domestic market (whether they realize it or not).  Even a trivial increase in the cost of, say, steel, through a tariff tax can drive those firms operating “at the margin” that purchase steel out of business.  The tariff not only protects favored firms from overseas producers, it also protects them from competitors at home: the spunky start-ups that might use innovative technology and techniques to threaten the established firm’s position in the marketplace.

As for those who purport that they have discovered an “Austrian Case Against Free Trade”; well, I don’t want to alarm you, but I advise that you seek a Physician immediately.  It seems that someone has switched your brain out for a sticky wad of diseased monkey vomit.

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