I was wondering about protectionism in terms of free trade. So, I did some research.
From what I can tell, the US was founded on and has always been a protectionist country. The reason for this is that the Founding Fathers were fighting against transnationals that were undermining the local industry. There can’t be even a semblance of free trade in a country if the national economy isn’t protected against transnationals monopolizing global markets. Many worshipers of free trade like to point to the Gilded Age of industrialization as an example, but protectionism was going on then as well. Even the great Ronald Reagan was one of the most protectionist presidents.
I don’t understand the complexities of protectionism, but it seems obvious that the American economy grew strong through protectionism. I’m not arguing that protectionism is necessarily good. It seems problematic when combined with the imperial aspirations of the US in the last century (which was the problem early Americans faced with the imperialism of the British protectionist economy). However, like the US, many countries around the world grew strong economies through protectionism.
There are always countries that will use protectionism (that is, until there is a global government to force a single policy on all countries). Any country that doesn’t protect against the protectionist policies of other countries will inevitably be taken advantage of and taken over by foreign entities. Modern economic colonialism is filled with examples of countries economically controlled or manipulated by countries that grew powerful and wealthy through protectionism.
Obviously, there is both good and bad to protectionism. It’s simply a tool that in itself is morally neutral. The reality of our world is that protectionism exists. Fantasizing about a hypothetical free market utopia won’t make it become real. Any country that doesn’t use protectionism is doomed. Protectionism is essentially self-defense. Why wouldn’t a country economically defend itself just as it militarily defends itself? Being economically taken over can be just as bad as being militarily taken over.
One other thing. Many of the pro-capitalist types like to complain about income tax. It’s true there wasn’t always an income tax. Previously, the government relied upon high tariffs on imports.
I don’t know the answer or even fully understand the problem. What I do know is that free trade worshipers are naive. Yes, if you are a person with power and connections seeking personal wealth, free trade is good for you and your associates. However, for most of the rest of the world’s population, free trade will mean getting taken advantage of by people with power and connections.
I’m not saying protectionism is always the answer. I just get tired of the ideologues who righteously put forth simplistic ideals.