As ever, the Cafe Hayek blog does an admirable job of using analogies that make no economic or ethical sense and apply them to ways in which we pursue ill conceived economic policies.
The following is what I deem to be the most important point of the post:
Yet too often when buyers shift some of their patronage from domestic producers to foreign producers, domestic producers – both firm owners and workers – insist that the state is morally obliged to force buyers to continue to purchase their products and their labor without any reduction in the prices and wages charged by sellers. These producers greedily and falsely insist that it’s bad policy for the state to allow buyers to shift their patronage to other sellers. Because those other sellers happen to be located abroad – or in the case of immigrants happen not to have passports issued by the domestic sovereign – such greedy and false insistence by domestic producers and workers is remarkably seen as legitimate, despite the fact that there’s nothing remotely legitimate about such insistence.
Tariffs and other forms of ‘protectionism’ are means of forcing buyers to act and to pay as if they agreed to terms of contracts with sellers that these buyers never agreed to and that the sellers who benefit from the protectionism were unwilling to pay for in their contractual dealings with their customers.
Protectionism is akin to changing the rules of a game in the middle of a game. It’s unfair. It’s unproductive. It’s theft wrapped in flags, and too-often faux-sanctified by specious theorizing.