I have just read "Protectionist Paranoia," by Michael Kinsley (Speaking Out, February), and I take direct issue with both the author's premises and conclusion.

The author has rehashed the time-worn, stereotyped theory of free trade. The theory is that the country that can most advantageously produce a certain article should do so and those that cannot should import it. This is an interesting theory if everyone plays according to the rules, but you cannot be the only true sportsman in the field. While other nations are taking full advantage of our relatively open door, they have kept theirs tightly closed. Oh, yes, the Japanese will be happy to accept our coal, our oil, and our timber because they have none. In turn they expect us to buy their automobiles, steel, and many other products that we already have in abundance. One by one they have "targeted" U.S. industries for destruction. First they must undersell us until no U.S. company can remain in business. When the last domestic competitor is gone, the Japanese raise their prices, having to compete only with other nations such as Korea, which play the same game. Conversely, with few exceptions, no nation will knowingly permit the importation of any article that will cause one man to lose work for one day.

If the United States is to limit its production to those items in which it has a competitive advantage, where will it leave us? There is practically no manufactured article that other industrial nations cannot produce as well as and more cheaply than the United States.

The author states that if we erect protective barriers, other nations will retaliate. I submit that the other nations have already done so, and it is we who would be retaliating. You indicate that protectionist policies brought on the Great Depression of the 1930s, but I submit that the depression was well under way before the Smoot-Hawley tariff became law. Our protectionism was a result of the worldwide depression, not the cause.