A Dual Catastrophe of Protectionism

Cho, Sungjoon | January 1, 2005

Suppose that a consortium of wealthy and powerful local industries, acting through lawmakers captured by these industries, managed to pass a statute, damaging to the larger public welfare, purely for a protectionist purpose. Suppose further that this statute victimizes exports from a small, poor country such as Vietnam, to a large, rich country such as the United States, because these imported products are cheaper and thus pose a competitive threat to rival domestic industries. Suppose also that courts in the importing country can do little to stop this chain of events. Rational individuals might find these events objectionable, if not inconceivable. Yet, no matter how irrational such events may appear, they constitute a very real problem in the United States. This Article argues that such parochial protectionism, which might seem to be the normal state of affairs to public choice theorists, yields catastrophic effects in domestic constitutional as well as foreign policy terms. Moreover, these harmful effects extend not only to the United States but also to the rest of the world.