Fritz Hollings: US Was Built on Protectionism

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 7/29/2008 12:06:00 AM
Former US Senator Fritz Hollings had some interesting things to say in an interview with Bill Moyers of PBS. One of the things you often hear from heterodox economists sympathetic to Third World concerns is that, oftentimes, countries that are now developed widely used protectionist policies to nurture their own industries in the past. As a matter of historical fairness, then, it is only proper that developed countries not demand LDCs to lower their trade barriers so rapidly a la the Washington Consensus recipe of liberalize, privatize, and deregulate (e.g., the work of Ha-Joon Chang [1, 2]). Of course, the current state of WTO negotiation deadlock attests to the timelessness of this debate. With LDCS still holding out on protections developed countries want curtailed, we are going nowhere rather quickly.

Here, Hollings makes the case that the US should once again adopt protectionist policies [!] because, among other things, the country's founding fathers built the United States on protectionist practice. It's fun stuff to read even if you're not exactly on board:

BILL MOYERS: They would call you protectionist, they would call you--

FRITZ HOLLINGS: Yeah, I am a protectionist. You-- you got Social Security to protect you from the ravages of old age, Medicare to protect you from ill health. You got food and drugs and clean air, the water we drink, the food we eat, antitrust to protect the openness of the market and everything else. Before I open up Moyer Manufactory, you gotta have clean air, clean water, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, plant closing notice, parental leave, safe working place, safe machinery, antitrust. You can go to China for 58 cents an hour. They'd get you the plant, they own the workers, and you don't have any investments so you don't have to worry about it.

BILL MOYERS: You say all we need to do to make the country work, is follow the lead of the forefathers to compete in globalization. To build the country's economy Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, and Madison, made sure the first bill to pass the Congress in its history on July 4th 1789--

FRITZ HOLLINGS: Seventeen eighty nine.


FRITZ HOLLINGS: Protectionist bill, tariff bill on 60 articles. We financed the country's development with tariffs. That's how we--that's the Treasurer's Building is the best building here in Washington. The best building in Charleston is the custom house. The best building in Brooklyn is the custom house. Treasury had the money. Teddy Roosevelt said, "Thank God I am not a free trader." Oh, Lincoln, everybody says, I'm either for Roosevelt, I'm a Lincoln Republican. He was a big protectionist. Oh, he raised tariffs. They were gonna build a transcontinental railroad on the Abraham Lincoln. And they said we could get the steel cheap from England. He said, ah - wait a minute, we're gonna build our own steel mills, and then we'll have not only a steel capacity, but we'll have the railroad. And so he was a builder. Everybody was a builder. Eisenhower, he protected oil. Jack Kennedy, I went to him, and he protected textiles. Ronald Reagan, he protected computers and Harley Davidson. He saved it. I saw George W. the other day about three weeks or a month ago, he was at the Harley Davidson plant, but protectionism saved it. That's why they were making money at Harley Davidson. Oh, he got--

BILL MOYERS: That's because of--

FRITZ HOLLINGS: Voluntarily restraint. Reagan got on steel, computers, machine tools, and automobiles. He got voluntary restraint and that's the only way to do it. Sober up.