Magazine December 31, 2016, Issue

Protection Racket

(Siri Stafford/Getty Images)
Critics of free trade traffic in myths

Advocacy for free trade can sometimes be dogmatic and utopian. It can overstate the contribution that reducing trade barriers makes to the spread of peace and democracy. It can ignore the harm that liberalized trade does to particular workers, industries, and communities. It can assert, dubiously, an absolute right to trade, positing that governments should never interfere in voluntary economic transactions.

People who want to raise trade barriers — by, for example, imposing higher tariffs to discourage the purchase of imports — often deny that they are protectionists and say that they themselves support free trade. They say they are merely

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Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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