Making protectionism unpopular again

BACK in 1906, an insurgent politician called Joseph Chamberlain (once known as Radical Joe, he had switched to the Conservatives over home rule for Ireland) lured the government into a campaign in favour of tariffs. The result was a devastating defeat for the Conservatives. The opposition Liberal party recognised that tariffs were a tax on the goods bought by the poor, in particular food and warned that the policy would lead to a “smaller loaf”. They portrayed tariffs as “stomach taxes”.

A hundred years ago, then, it was easy to make protectionism unpopular. Now it seems, despite the prosperity brought by 70 years under a more open trading system, that opinion may have changed; tariffs are favoured by “populist” politicians.*

The trick for modern populists been to focus on the positive benefits to American workers in terms of jobs, rather than the adverse impact on consumers. In fact, protectionism is highly unlikely to restore american manufacturing jobs, which are under threat from automation as well as globalisation, as our <a…Continue reading

This post was originally published in the Economist.

Advertisements
Making protectionism unpopular again

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s