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Two companies that make solar panels are asking the government to protect them from foreign competition. They want the government to put taxes and a price floor on imports. Other companies are warning that these policies would raise prices and shrink the market, eliminating jobs for solar-panel installers, manufacturers of mounting equipment and other parts of the larger solar industry. They say as many as 88,000 jobs are at risk.

Solar protectionism would thus fit in a long tradition of America shooting itself in the foot by restricting trade. In a new paper for the libertarian Cato Institute, trade lawyer Scott Lincicome reviews the dismal history.

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