Polemics & Exchanges

Pious Tariffs

In “Protectionism as a Path to Piety” (May 2019 issue), John Howting appears to assert that protective tariffs are acts of piety.

Where is the justice in the politically powerful forcing, ultimately under the penalty of death, the politically weak to subsidize them—which is what a protective tariff does? Protective tariffs require politicians to pick winners and losers. When have politicians excelled at this job? They will always side with the politically powerful. 

How is forcing someone, the weak, to support another, the strong—which is what a protective tariff does—piety? Furthermore, isn’t forcing someone to pay more for products protected by tariffs somewhat impious?

How does a protective tariff honor one’s ancestors from 200, 400, or 800 years ago?  How do children honor their deceased parents by paying tribute to the politically powerful?

If protective tariffs promote piety, would not outlawing grocery stores, butcher shops, farmers’ markets, and the like promote piety even more? Would not requiring every family to raise its own food be the ultimate in piety, as Mr. Howting describes it?

Would not the piety that Mr. Howting describes be best achieved when people are convinced to buy locally produced products, even if they cost more and are of poorer quality than imports...

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