But sometimes what seems like an obvious solution can exasperate the underlying problem. Imagine that you are stranded in the Atlantic Ocean and dying of dehydration. The “obvious” solution would be to drink the water that is all around you — the water from the ocean. But if you drink the salt water, you’ll merely be increasing the level of salinity in your body, causing you to die even sooner.
The same is true for protectionism. As I wrote on Tuesday, America’s adoption of protectionismmakes us poorer, not richer. But the fallacy of protectionism tends to persist because it is associated with other economic fallacies and misunderstandings.