Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Protectionists in sheep's clothing

None of the presidential candidates are protectionists but they all favor "fair trade". They use this dodge to have it both ways.

I am greatly enjoying Ian Kershaw's Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions that Changed the World, 1940-41. The author stresses that leaders of Germany, Italy and Japan openly linked military conquest with their quest for resources.

These same countries, of course, did gain access to all of the resources they wanted after the war via trade. Has there ever been a lesson learned at a higher cost?

There were imperial dreams and hegemonic ambitions but, Kershaw points out again and again, these were always fortified by the avowed quest for resources, but without any thought to obtaining them via trade. "... the mentalities of the 1940s were light years away ... " from such ideas (p. 128).

It is not enough to remind the protectionists of the gains from trade. On more than one occasion mercantilism has had horrifically lethal outcomes.