Author’s Introduction to Economic Sophisms

Protection brings together in one single point all the good it does and distributes among the wider mass of people the harm it inflicts.

Frédéric Bastiat
Economic Sophisms First Series.

This is one of the arguments oft-repeated by Milton Friedman when trying to explain the issues with tariffs, subsidies and other nefarious constraints on the economy that are imposed by government. The typical example is the one of the sugar industry in the United States that is subsidised to the extent that the price of sugar is much higher there than the world price.

Sugar producers have all the incentive to “invest” towards government lobbying in order to benefit from a protection that will reach several thousands or dozens of thousands of dollars per sugar producer (the single point on which all the good is brought by protection) while sugar consumers to whom the annual cost of consumption is increased by a few dollars have no incentive whatsoever to dig deeper into the subject matter (the harm that is distributed among the wider mass).

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