The Limits Of Protectionism

Building Coalitions for Free Trade

A tour de force for those who want to understand why many countries, if not the entire world, have embraced free trade. . . . Lusztig never loses sight of a most essential ingredient in this profound sea change: the conversion of business from protectionism to free markets.
Guy Poitras, Trinity University

Conventional wisdom holds that free trade is economically beneficial to nations. But this does not prevent industries and interest groups from lobbying their governments for protection, which creates a fear of electoral backlash among politicians hoping to promote free trade. The Limits of Protectionism demonstrates how governments can attain those economic benefits while avoiding the political costs.
Michael Lusztig’s theoretical model focuses on a process by which protectionists can be pushed to restructure and compete in a global economy. In this process, a small cutback in domestic protection leads to lost market shares at home; producers must then turn to overseas exports, and, as the size of foreign profits grow, former protectionists become active advocates for more and greater free trade opportunities.
In a wide-ranging array of case studies—from nineteenth-century Britain to Depression-era United States to contemporary New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, and Mexico—Lusztig reveals that, if skillfully handled, governments can eliminate the obstacles to free trade and enjoy continued economic growth without fear of protectionist groups seeking revenge at the ballot box.

about the author

Michael Lusztig

Michael Lusztig, associate professor of political science at Southern Methodist University, is the author of Risking Free Trade.

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Michael Lusztig