I ran into John Taylor of Caroline when I was roaming the shelves of the Library of Congress in 1987. A few weeks earlier, I had written a piece that the Wall Street Journal headlined, "U.S. Fair Trade Laws Are Anything But," in which I pounded the Commerce Department for almost always finding imports guilty of selling at "less than fair value" on the basis of nonsense pulled out of their bureaucratic ears. I scoffed that U.S. "trade laws perpetually inflate domestic prices in order to protect consumers against the one-in-a-million possibility that a foreign company could corner the market — and raise prices." Bruce Smart, the undersecretary of commerce for international trade, sent an angry response to the Journal: "Mr. Bovard displays an alarming ignorance of our trade laws." I sought to allay officialdom's alarms by becoming better informed.
I slipped into the Library of Congress alcoves, found the shelves with publications on trade policy from America's first decades, and fetched out an armload of musty petitions to Congress from the early 1800s.