In undergrad I studied politics. One of the requirements of my major was that I take an intro to economics course. I had heard so many horror stories of students failing out of Prof. Andersen’s Intro to Microeconomics, that I decided to first take Intro to Macroeconomics to better prepare myself. I fell in love with economics during those two courses. When compared to the meaningless parade of ‘politics’ classes on the EU, globalization, and globalization these economics courses were pure philosophical gold. In retrospect, what I was so keen on must have been that economics only works if you accept that man has a nature, and that what he does can be predicted based on this nature; something none of my politics classes were willing to admit. From that point forward I focused my attention on economics and in so doing salvaged some of my undergraduate education.
In graduate school, as my political views began to deepen I often thought back to my economics courses. For all their virtues I began to detect some practical and philosophical weaknesses. There was one practical question that continued to pop up: why was economics so violently opposed to protectionism? I went back to my econ books for the answer and what I found was merely a definition, which alone was supposed to be damning. The other unforgivable charge, other than being a nation looking out for its national interest and not giving in to the global benefit, was that it impeded free trade which meant that prices of goods were elevated. To this no one has a better response than one of the interviewees for the film “The Corporation” who at one point exclaims in exasperation, ‘The great goal of life is not to make things cheap!’. Surely, he is right; there are more dignified goals in life than everyone being able to afford endless consumerism.
If we had barriers to free trade which maximized what is seemingly our only remaining comparative advantage (our huge consumer market) in a way that ensured manufacturing jobs were available to the American worker, I wonder how many of our social ills would resolve themselves. With fewer, frankly, ineligible kids going to college to learn nothing and be radicalized and with more decently paying physical labor jobs, young people would not be uprooted from their homes and encouraged to urbanize, and we would have stronger and more closely knit communities. With decent work for the uneducated there would be fewer people on the government dole, a morally depraving condition. And these are just the things I can think of here in the span of a minute as I’m typing this! I imagine there are many many more benefits.
I am a protectionist! I’ve outed myself, and luckily I’m no longer in the business of economics, because such a pronouncement would disqualify me from a job anywhere, ever.