I always find it interesting that protectionists call us free-traders the fantacists, the theorists, the academic scribblers (etc), and cast themselves as the realists. They claim they are the ones who represent what people want, that we are just too deep in our cloistered academic world to understand that.
That may be true, but it’s strange. If they were really correct, that the supposed costs of mercantilism are really benefits, the supposed benefits are really costs, that people understand this and we do not…
If all that were true, why the need for tariffs? Why the need for government at all? Wouldn’t people just naturally buy domestic and never foreign?
In practice, no one is a mercantilist. If we take their position to its logical conclusion, we can see this: no one, even the most hard-core mercantilist, abstains from trade. Indeed, they personally act as though they agree with the free-market principle that it is better to buy what is more expensive for one to produce. No mercantilist grows his own food, sews his own clothes, brews his own beer, etc. He gladly trades for those items. And yet, paradoxically, he argues that, in theory (but not in practice!) these actions harm people.
It seems to me that we are the realists and the mercantilists are the theorists given they need to force reality to coincide with their theory.