Trade restrictions do exactly what their name implies-restrict trade. They act as barriers that block imports and exports from entering or leaving the country. This decreases trade, which, in turn, decreases revenue and economic prosperity. Many people wonder why a government would want to do this. One argument is that of the national defense theory.
The national defense theory states that certain industries are vitally important to a nation’s defense. Examples are the aircraft, petroleum, and weapons industries. Supporters of this argument believe that countries should not be dependent on other ones for national defense equipment. They think that a nation’s domestic weaponry industries should be protected from foreign competitors. That way a domestic supply of defense materials would be available if an international crisis ever occurred. The country would then have the things needed to defend itself on hand and would not have to worry about trying to secure what it needed from other countries. Basically, the national defense theory argues how it would not be wise for one country to be completely dependent on other ones for defensive material. It would make the country vulnerable. However, if the government implements trade restrictions that result in a domestic supply of defense weapons, then the trade restrictions make the nation independent and prepared for conflict. That is the whole concept behind the national defense theory.
However, this concept is often abused. The theory has some validity, but relatively few industries are truly vital to national defense. Furthermore, it would make more sense to stock necessary materials during peaceful times rather than to employ protectionist policies to preserve a domestic industry. Moreover, sustaining an economy that has the ability to produce the mass quantity of goods necessary to sustain a war effort is in itself a strong defense.
The national defense theory is a valid but often abused theory. It does offer some merit as to the imposition of trade restrictions. However, it can easily be refuted as well. It does seem logical to propose that a country would not want to be dependent on other ones in times of war or emergency and that it should therefore protect its domestic weaponry industries. However, the country could also allow free trade, everybody would gain much more significantly than with the trade restriction, and defensive planning could be made by way of storing materials that would be necessary for certain impertinent situations.