It is not quite certain that retaliation is not as dire to those who implement it as to those against whom it is implemented.

François Guizot, quoted by Frédéric Bastiat
Complete Works, Volume 1, pages 334 to 386 (in French)
October 1844

This quote is extracted from a rather long text in which Frédéric Bastiat shows how the turn towards free-trade in which the United Kingdom was engaging itself would be beneficial for the Brits and would leave the French behind if they persisted in implementing protectionist policies. This quote follows a description of absurd policies consisting at complaining about British competitiveness in making cloth and implementing at the same time some tariffs against the import of weaving machines that would allow to fight against the said competitivity. Nowadays, we still observe that sort of absurdities when protectionism appeals to “retaliation” to justify itself for the simple reason that it finds its source in the mercantilist judgment error that consists in believing that export is good and import is bad. Once it is understood that exports are a cost and imports a benefit, one can understand quickly that fighting against imports, be it in the form of retaliation or any other form, will necessarily be counterproductive. This is what François Guizot, then French Minister of Foreign Affairs, is hinting at here, even if he did not really understand why himself.

What I find extraordinary is that this phenomenon, which consists in shooting oneself in the foot, is coming back every now and then. The latest obvious expression of it dates back to winter 2022 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine when, using the excuse of punishing Russia, Europe cut its gaz imports that were absolutely necessary to heat up the homes of some of its inhabitants and to produce the energy necessary to some of its industrialists.

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