May 2018, Vo. 245, No. 5


Historic Perspective on U.S. Protective Tariffs

Protective tariffs occasionally have played a role in U.S. policy, but always with a less-than-desirable result going back to the late 1820s and marking the start of the nation’s Great Depression in 1930 with the now historic Smoot-Hawley Act, the product of a Republican majority Congress and 18 months of debate that put protective tariffs on just about all U.S. imports at the time. The act and resulting retaliatory tariffs by America’s trading partners were major factors in cutting American exports and imports in half during the Depression. Although economists disagree by how much, the consensus is that Smoot–Hawley tariffs exacerbated the Great Depression. Dartmouth University economist

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