Theory vs Practice

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.

4 thoughts on “Theory vs Practice

  1. Those who are advocating for against international trade are nationalists. Not nationalists in the sense of a love of their country. But, nationalists in the sense of fascism and socialism where the state comes first and the citizens are just the means by which a few control the many to get the most for the people in control.

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  2. From Dictionary.com:

    “nationalism
    [nash-uh-nl-iz-uh m, nash-nuh-liz-]
    1.spirit or aspirations common to the whole of a nation.
    2.devotion and loyalty to one’s own country; patriotism.
    3.excessive patriotism; chauvinism.
    4.the desire for national advancement or political independence.
    5.the policy or doctrine of asserting the interests of one’s own nation viewed as separate from the interests of other nations or the common interests of all nations.
    6.an idiom or trait peculiar to a nation.
    7.a movement, as in the arts, based upon the folk idioms, history, aspirations, etc., of a nation.”

    Most of those advocating statism argue that #5 is the definition of nationalism. But, as we know from economics, erecting trade barriers hurts the nation erecting them. And, we also know that trade is between individuals, not nations. So those advocating trade barriers are not nationalists. They really are just statists who want to control other citizens in the country to the benefit of themselves and their political cronies.

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