The goal of this post: to encourage you to read, if you have not recently, Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson. It is a short book. Most could read it in a few hours. It is an interesting book, written without the complex mathematics and confusing terminology so frequently associated with economics.
It’s written for the simpleton like you and me (OK, so you’re not a simpleton; it’s written for simpletons like me, then, but even sophisticates like yourself may benefit). Simple, straightforward arguments and perspectives apply simple, enduring economic principles to debunk the common economic myths all around us.
What is the lesson? The lesson is that good economists consider all effects in all groups, including long-ranging indirect effects on many groups, whereas bad economists focus more narrowly, for instance, on merely one aspect of a short-term economic effect.
Where can you read it? This webpage has the book in its entirety. As you can see, it covers protectionism, protecting industries, the effect of machinery on employment, rent control, farm subsidies, and many other things.
It is a great tool for the citizen to understand basic economic principles. It also exposes the economic problems associated with any mainstream approach (Republican and Democrat) and some not-from-the-mainstream (like the Green Party, for instance). So read it. Really. It will be worth your time.