Canadian Journal of Political Science


The Limits of Protectionism: Building Coalitions for Free Trade

Chris  Kukucha  a1
a1 University of Lethbridge

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The Limits of Protectionism: Building Coalitions for Free Trade, Michael Lusztig, Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2004, pp. xi, 272.

As the title suggests, Michael Lusztig offers a non-apologetic endorsement of liberal trade, coalition building, and the limitations of protectionism and rent seeking. Specifically, he argues that “flexible” rent seekers have a better opportunity to prosper than “inflexible” rent seekers. The goal, therefore, is for governments to reduce rents below a specific threshold to force sectoral interests to successfully adjust to or exit the market. Strategies include the big bang approach, divide and conquer, iteration, and the path of least resistance. Catalysts for change are periods of economic crisis, international obligations, and strategic considerations in which reform is linked to potential electoral success. Ultimately, in Lusztig's opinion, crisis and mandated international change offer the best opportunities for rent reduction, at least in terms of limited political backlash.