The act of caring for something which you value, or for which you are responsible. Protection is widely supposed to be a good thing, except in the case of economies, which are required to dance to the single tune of perpetual competition.

Actually, the market economy has little choice. Protectionism—in the sense of, for instance, trade tariffs against foreign imports—would allow domestic industry to settle into a comfortable inefficiency which will eventually ensure that it cannot sell its goods and services abroad; which it probably wouldn’t be able to do anyway because trading partners would build their own tariff barriers in retaliation. So free trade is with good reason a fundamental principle of a rationally-managed market economy.

But, of course, there is a downside, and we are coming to a time when it can be discussed without inviting derision. Competitive free trade comes with a commitment to growth, i.e., to the rubbing out of diversity and local self-reliance, to resource depletion, pollution, the loss of social capital and resilience—and eventual collapse. It is too late to consider protection against these things; the damage has already been done. But protection of what is left of indigenous food production and steps towards reduced dependence on fossil fuels would be rational. As E.F. Schumacher writes, protection of the intermediate technology (aka appropriate technology) which could make progress towards such ends is not about “keeping alive activities which lack essential viability: it is concerned with creating a new viability”.P106

Protection is a deep behaviour which, in some senses, is shared by all living things. True, natural selection is a condition of all living things, too. But species with less intelligence than ours use both. It is time we caught up.


Related entries:

Lean Economics, Local Currency, Nation > Currency.

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David Fleming
Dr David Fleming (2 January 1940 – 29 November 2010) was an economist, historian and writer, based in London. He was among the first to reveal the possibility of peak oil's approach and invented the influential TEQs scheme, designed to address this and climate change. He was also a significant figure in the development of the UK Green Party, the Transition Towns movement and the New Economics Foundation, as well as a Chairman of the Soil Association. His wide-ranging independent analysis culminated in two critically acclaimed books, Lean Logic and Surviving the Future. A film about his perspective and legacy - The Sequel: What Will Follow Our Troubled Civilisation? - was released in 2019, directed by BAFTA-winning director Peter Armstrong. For more information, including on Lean Logic, click the little globe below!

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