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Average People Used To Understand That Protectionism Was Welfare for Special Interests That Hurt Consumers. When Did This Change?

Posted by on | March 2, 2018 | Comments Off

I have been watching the second season of Victoria on PBS (quite good, I think) and much of it has covered the famines of the 1840′s and the debate over the Corn Laws.  At the time, it seems that average people understood that the British tariffs on imported food were in place solely to protect the agricultural profits of aristocratic (and by definition well-connected) landowners while hurting the country as a whole by raising food prices for every consumer and contributing to the famines that were sweeping Ireland and parts of England.

Trump’s proposed tariffs are simply a disaster.  A lot of the media seems to believe the biggest reason they are bad is that they will incite retaliatory tariffs from other countries, which they almost certainly will.  But even if no one retaliated, even if the tariffs were purely unilateral, they would still be bad.  In case after case, they are justified as increasing the welfare of a certain number of workers in targeted industries, but they hurt the welfare of perhaps 100x more people who consume or work for companies that consume the targeted products.  Prices will rise for everyone and choices will be narrowed. This is Bastiat’s classic seen and unseen — the beneficiaries (say in the steel industry) are easy to identify, but the individual consumers who change their purchasing plans or industries that change their investment plans are frequently invisible.  It is the height of childish public policy to pretend those hurt by this don’t exist merely because they can’t easily be interviewed on TV.

Well, not completely invisible:

 A proposed expansion of an Exxon Mobil Corp oil refinery could be impacted by the Trump administration’s plan to place a 25 percent tariff on imported steel, a source familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

Exxon has been considering increasing its North American crude refining capacity since at least 2014, the company has said, but has not disclosed a final decision. An Exxon spokeswoman was not available for immediate comment.

 The nation’s largest oil producer has been weighing adding new processing capacity to its 362,000 barrel-per-day Beaumont, Texas, plant that could make it the nation’s largest. (Reporting by Erwin Seba Editing by James Dalgleish)
 Average People Used To Understand That Protectionism Was Welfare for Special Interests That Hurt Consumers.  When Did This Change?  Average People Used To Understand That Protectionism Was Welfare for Special Interests That Hurt Consumers.  When Did This Change?  Average People Used To Understand That Protectionism Was Welfare for Special Interests That Hurt Consumers.  When Did This Change?

 Average People Used To Understand That Protectionism Was Welfare for Special Interests That Hurt Consumers.  When Did This Change?

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