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Workers are consumers

The founders of our country knew that prosperity depended on trade. The Constitution included an innovative provision making the country a free trade zone. No state could discourage imports from other states.

Americans became successful traders, interstate and internationally. Around 1930, the U.S. started a new wave of protectionism by enacting the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act. In retaliation, other countries increased their tariffs on U.S. exports.

This decreased trade and caused a depression. Even without a depression, protectionism often hurts workers. For example, according to U.C. Berkley economics professor J. Bradford Delong, when President Bush raised steel tariffs, “the harm done to steel-using companies and their workers (was) greater than the good done for steelmakers and their workers.” But protectionism most hurts consumers who suffer inferior products and increased prices.



American car buyers suffered with inefficient and substandard cars until foreign competition forced American car makers to improve. Inexpensive foreign goods improve the lives of millions of Americans, especially those on low or fixed incomes. Protectionism limits consumer freedom to purchase from the most diligent and talented supplier.

When we are tempted to shield favored workers at the expense of consumers, we should remember that workers are consumers, too.




Doug Donesky

Nevada City


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