|The Humanity of Trade|
reductio ad absurdum is, it is no sillier than the "protectionist" argument that a nation is enriched by the amount of foreign goods it keeps out of its market, or the "balance of trade" argument that a nation prospers by the excess of its exports over imports.
Yet, if we detach ourselves mentally from entrenched myths, we see that acts of internal isolationism such as described in our syllogism are not infrequent. A notorious instance of this is the French octroi, a tax levied on products entering one district from another. Under cover of "quarantine" regulations, Florida and California have mutually excluded citrus fruits grown in the other state. Labor unions are violent advocates of opulence-through-scarcity, as when they restrict, by direct violence or by laws they have had enacted, the importation of materials made outside their jurisdiction. A tax on trucks entering one state from another is of a piece with this line of reasoning. Thus, the "protectionist" theory of fence building is internalized, and in the light of these facts our reductio ad absurdum is not so farfetched. The market place, of course, scoffs at such scarcity-making measures, for it yields no more than it receives; if its offerings are made scarce by trade restrictions, that which remains becomes harder to get, calls for an expenditure of more labor to acquire. The wage level of Society is lowered.
The myth of "protectionism" rests on the notion that the be-all and end-all of human life is laboring, not consumption — and certainly not leisure. If that were so, then the slaves who built pyramids were most ideally situated; they worked much and received little. Likewise, the Russians chained to "five-year plans" have achieved heaven on earth, and so did the workers who, during the depression, were put to moving dirt from one side of the road to the other. Extending this