Protectionism without Sugarcoating

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National Review cites CEI’s Iain Murray about protectionism:

Iain Murray of the Competitive Enterprise Institute describes the U.S. sugar quotas as the “platonic form of bad public policy.” Concentrated benefits with dispersed costs that skew an entire industry. Higher prices for all consumers, but especially the poor. Special interests working with politicians to keep it in place.

Progressives want to point to industry consolidation as a cause of higher prices everywhere except where it’s true. Similar to Jones Act shipping, the sugar industry is an actual case of a consolidated industry charging higher prices on Americans, but it is only able to do so because government policy allows it to. Progressives get pretty quiet when the solution to consolidation would be less government, so they make up stories about the supposed misdeeds of greedy companies in meatpackinginternational ocean shippingretailgroceries, or petroleum instead.

Some conservatives who want more protectionism should pay attention to sugar quotas as well. This is how trade policy in the U.S. is actually made. A group of technocrats doesn’t get together and narrowly target trade restrictions in the national interest. Politicians trot out national-security arguments for any industry in their state, no matter how tangential to defense it actually is. Lobbyists come knocking on the doors of every congressional office, seeking their own exemptions and side deals. Trade restrictions work at cross purposes with other trade policies and with domestic policies. And Americans end up paying more for everything from sugar to shoes to shipping to solar panels (just to pick four that start with the letter “s”) to satisfy politicians and bureaucrats who think they know best.

Read the full article on National Review.