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Henry George's Protection or Free Trade: A Critical Review

By Charles L. Hooper

Henry George published his spirited defense of free trade, Protection or Free Trade, in 1886. In this classic, George paid special attention to how protectionism affected the working class. Except for the slightly dated writing style and examples from a century ago, Protection or Free Trade could have been written yesterday. With the election of protectionist-leaning Donald Trump and some renewed hostility to free trade, it's helpful to consider the book that the late Milton Friedman said was, "the most rhetorically brilliant work ever written on the subject."1 Protection or Free Trade is two books in one. The first part is a thorough dismantling of protectionist arguments and a defense of free markets, free trade, capitalism, specialization, economic progress, and freedom in general. The second part of the book compares the private ownership of land to slavery, calls for a steep tax on land, and accepts the "socialist" label. This might seem incongruent, but to George, these posi...

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