Probably the most successful conceptual error that is promoted by defenders of tariffs is this one: “Tariffs are good for the nation.”
Tariffs, being sales taxes, are good for the national government, but they are not good for the nation. At best, they are less bad for the nation than a graduated income tax. But since both are collected, tariffs are not a benefit for the nation.
If sales tax defenders came out and said the following, people probably would not believe them: “An extra sales tax is good for the nation.” Certainly, people who regard themselves as Tea Party members do not want to see an increase of taxes. They do not see taxes as a benefit to the nation.
The people who believe that tariffs are good for the nation are literally incapable of deductive economic reasoning. This argument has been used by mercantilists ever since the late 17th century. Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations is a refutation of the mercantilist position. Nevertheless, people who are incapable of following a line of economic argumentation, and who get patriotic when they hear the word “nation,” rush to promote tariffs. Thus, the combination of an ignorant patriotism and an ignorant economic analysis produces the statement: “Protectionism is good for the nation.”
PROTECTING THE INEFFICIENT
Tariffs are good for domestic manufacturers who are not capable of competing with foreign manufacturers. They deeply resent competition of all kinds. But they find it difficult to get the Congress to tax their domestic competitors. So they get what they can: a sales tax on imported goods.
(For the rest of the article on suicidal conservatives, click the link.)