Clashing over Commerce: A History of US Trade Policy

University of Chicago Press
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Should the United States be open to commerce with other countries, or should it protect domestic industries from foreign competition? This question has been the source of bitter political conflict throughout American history. Such conflict was inevitable, James Madison argued in The Federalist Papers, because trade policy involves clashing economic interests. The struggle between the winners and losers from trade has always been fierce because dollars and jobs are at stake: depending on what policy is chosen, some industries, farmers, and workers will prosper, while others will suffer.

Douglas A. Irwin’s Clashing over Commerce is the most authoritative and comprehensive history of US trade policy to date, offering a clear picture of the various economic and political forces that have shaped it. From the start, trade policy divided the nation—first when Thomas Jefferson declared an embargo on all foreign trade and then when South Carolina threatened to secede from the Union over excessive taxes on imports. The Civil War saw a shift toward protectionism, which then came under constant political attack. Then, controversy over the Smoot-Hawley tariff during the Great Depression led to a policy shift toward freer trade, involving trade agreements that eventually produced the World Trade Organization. Irwin makes sense of this turbulent history by showing how different economic interests tend to be grouped geographically, meaning that every proposed policy change found ready champions and opponents in Congress.

As the Trump administration considers making major changes to US trade policy, Irwin’s sweeping historical perspective helps illuminate the current debate. Deeply researched and rich with insight and detail, Clashing over Commerce provides valuable and enduring insights into US trade policy past and present.
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About the author

Douglas A. Irwin is the John Sloan Dickey Third Century Professor in the Social Sciences in the Department of Economics at Dartmouth College. He is a research associate of the NBER.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Nov 29, 2017
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Pages
832
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ISBN
9780226399010
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Economic History
Business & Economics / Economics / Macroeconomics
Business & Economics / General
Business & Economics / International / General
Political Science / Public Policy / Economic Policy
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This content is DRM protected.
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In Trade and the American Dream, Susan Aaronson highlights a previously ignored dimension of the United States trade policy: public understanding. Focusing on the debate over the three mechanisms designed to govern world trade -- the International Trade Organization (ITO), the General Agreement on Tarriffs and Trade (GATT), and the World Trade Organization (WTO) -- she examines how policymakers communicate and how the public comprehends trade policy.

Since 1947 the U.S. has led global efforts to free trade, and support for freer trade policies and for an international organization to govern world trade has become dogma among policymakers, business leaders, and economists. Relaying on archival research, polling data, public documents, interviews, and Congressional testimony, Aaronson shows that the public also matters in trade policy decisions. If concerns about the implications of economic interdependence remain unaddressed, American trade policy and an international trade organization are vulnerable to a surge of populism and isolationism.

While Americans became addicted to imported cars, radios, computers, and appliances, a growing number saw the costs of freer trade policies in the nation's slums, poverty statistics, crime rate, and unemployment figures. Concerns about freer trade policies reached a crescendo in the mid-1990s, especially as Congress debated U.S. participation in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Aaronson suggests ways to create greater public understanding for the GATT/WTO and international trade. If national trade policy is to play in Peoria, Americans must first understand it.

As the globalization of economic production reshapes domestic economic activity and redefines the substance of international politics, the importance of international economic policy is becoming more widely appreciated. This book is a revised and updated edition of the definitive study of the decision-making process in all sectors--trade, finance, development, and energy--of U.S. international economic policy. Students and practitioners of economics and political science will find it invaluable in understanding how process affects substance in some of the most far-reaching policies being made in Washington.

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An honest discussion of free trade and how nations can sensibly chart a path forward in today’s global economy

Not so long ago the nation-state seemed to be on its deathbed, condemned to irrelevance by the forces of globalization and technology. Now it is back with a vengeance, propelled by a groundswell of populists around the world. In Straight Talk on Trade, Dani Rodrik, an early and outspoken critic of economic globalization taken too far, goes beyond the populist backlash and offers a more reasoned explanation for why our elites’ and technocrats’ obsession with hyper-globalization made it more difficult for nations to achieve legitimate economic and social objectives at home: economic prosperity, financial stability, and equity.


Rodrik takes globalization’s cheerleaders to task, not for emphasizing economics over other values, but for practicing bad economics and ignoring the discipline’s own nuances that should have called for caution. He makes a case for a pluralist world economy where nation-states retain sufficient autonomy to fashion their own social contracts and develop economic strategies tailored to their needs. Rather than calling for closed borders or defending protectionists, Rodrik shows how we can restore a sensible balance between national and global governance. Ranging over the recent experiences of advanced countries, the eurozone, and developing nations, Rodrik charts a way forward with new ideas about how to reconcile today’s inequitable economic and technological trends with liberal democracy and social inclusion.


Deftly navigating the tensions among globalization, national sovereignty, and democracy, Straight Talk on Trade presents an indispensable commentary on today’s world economy and its dilemmas, and offers a visionary framework at a critical time when we need it most.

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In four brief, clear chapters, Irwin presents an authoritative account of the politics behind Smoot-Hawley, its economic consequences, the foreign reaction it provoked, and its aftermath and legacy. Starting as a Republican ploy to win the farm vote in the 1928 election by increasing duties on agricultural imports, the tariff quickly grew into a logrolling, pork barrel free-for-all in which duties were increased all around, regardless of the interests of consumers and exporters. After Herbert Hoover signed the bill, U.S. imports fell sharply and other countries retaliated by increasing tariffs on American goods, leading U.S. exports to shrivel as well. While Smoot-Hawley was hardly responsible for the Great Depression, Irwin argues, it contributed to a decline in world trade and provoked discrimination against U.S. exports that lasted decades.


Featuring a new preface by the author, Peddling Protectionism tells a fascinating story filled with valuable lessons for trade policy today.

The bestselling author of The Death of Money and Currency Wars reveals the global elites' dark effort to hide a coming catastrophe from investors in The Road to Ruin, now a National Bestseller.
 
A drumbeat is sounding among the global elites. The signs of a worldwide financial meltdown are unmistakable. This time, the elites have an audacious plan to protect themselves from the fallout: hoarding cash now and locking down the global financial system when a crisis hits.
 
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