Patrick Deneen has an important post on protectionism and the dangers of a consumer society, and E.D. Kain ponders the interventionist nature of economic sanctions. The two seem to be concerned with very different things, but there is something that ties them together, which is why I thought it important to answer a question in the comments to Kain’s post:

Trade restrictions have the exact same effect on foreign populations regardless of your preferred political justification. So what’s the substantive difference between vindictiveness and economic nationalism?

Quite clearly, the difference is that economic sanctions imposed on “rogue” regimes are aimed at punishing a foreign population and trying to force changes in another government’s internal policies, which never works, while measures designed to protect against cheap competition are aimed at supporting domestic industries. Critics of protectionism do not deny that these supports are successful, but insist that they should not be implemented for the sake of efficiency and “growth.” Governments impose economic sanctions on the assumption that people in other countries think and act as nothing more than consumers whose loyalties can be manipulated through high prices for imports. Opposition to protectionist measures presupposes treating citizens as if they were consumers whose loyalties should be manipulated with low prices for imports. Protectionist policies take for granted that national sovereignty and citizenship are relevant factors in determing the regulation of international trade. Economic sanctions policies are based on the assumption that concepts of national sovereignty and citizenship mean as little to members of other nations as they do to globalists in the West. Does that about cover it?

P.S. Protectionist has always struck me as a strange epithet, as if it were an insult to say that you protect things. I suppose the opposite of a protectionist would be a despoiler. Now that‘s an epithet!