One Cheer for Kahlon, and A Word on Protectionism

Moshe Kahlon, chairman of some party called “All of Us” and as the Finance Minister for some reason has the power to get rid of certain taxes singlehandedly, will be getting rid of all import taxes on products that are not produced in Israel. I’m pretty sure this means products where a tariff on them does not protect any industry in Israel.

The tagline of the article is this though, and it’s pretty stupid:

היום הוכרז המהלך שיביא להורדת יוקר המחיה על ידי הוזלת מאות מוצרי צריכה שאינם מיוצרים בארץ. שורת המוצרים עליהם בוטל המכס כלל לא מיוצרים בארץ – ולכן אין שום סיבה שהמדינה תטיל עליהם מכס

Today it was announced that a process will begin that will bring down the cost of living by cheapening consumer products that are not produced in Israel. The products that will no longer have tariffs are not produced in Israel at all – therefore there is no reason for the State to place tariffs on them.

The fact that tariffs on these products will be taken down is great, but the reasoning is idiotic. Tariffs are just a cash grab that uses protectionism as an excuse. They are not there to “protect Israeli industry”. They are there to take money away from you and put it in the hands of the government.

First of all, if the government wanted to protect domestic industry, it would just forbid imports from other countries of products that compete with Israeli industry. But it doesn’t do that. It just takes a cut from you if you buy the competition, because what the government really wants is not protected industry, but money, however it can get it and from whoever it can get it, with any excuse it can use to do so.

Second, the whole idea of protectionism is asinine. It’s easy to see if you take the extreme case. Let’s say an Israeli company can only produce widget X at a cost of a billion shekels a widget because the company produces widget X by hand and does not have the know-how to produce it via capital equipment like machines.

A Japanese company, or whatever country, can produce the same widget X for one shekel a widget, because they have a machine that can do it really quickly and cheaply. The problem with “protecting” the Israeli widget X industry by slapping a tariff of 999,999,999 shekels per Japanese widget X becomes obvious.

If any Israeli company can only produce X expensively versus a Japanese company that can produce X cheaply, it means that the Israeli company is bad at doing what it does and it should stop doing it and go out of business, and the people who worked for that bad company should do something else with their time that is more efficient, something that they are better at than the rest of the world.

To protect an Israeli producer by taking money from consumers means harming Israeli consumers.

But yeah, good for Kahlon. Even though he’s not the sharpest butter knife in the drawer, he’s doing something good here.

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