Economists: warning about protectionism since Adam Smith, part 2

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This economist wrote about that on January 24. It is, after all, a founding insight behind the discipline of economics.

In US News, Mercatus Center economist Adam Millsap asks “Can Economists Prevent a Trade War?” He cites Smith, Frederic Bastiat, Simon Newcomb, and Paul Samuelson to try to explain why a trade war with tariffs and protectionism would be disastrous — “175 years of economists’ efforts to explain the benefits of foreign trade to a skeptical public and politicians.”

Read it. Take it to heart.

I see the issue as akin to that of the minimum wage, although with much broader implications. Still, that’s another issue on which the rhetoric of the political class and demagogues runs up against mainstream economic consensus.

Millsap asks a question that could easily apply to that as well:

If the case for free trade is as open-and-shut as any in the field of economics, why don’t the political class or the public fully accept it?

I worry that Paul’s insight in his second letter to Timothy applies:

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

I hope not, and I hope resounding the case for free trade will eventually carry the day.

Jon Sanders / Director of Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...

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