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Peddling ProtectionismSmoot-Hawley and the Great Depression$
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Douglas A. Irwin

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691150321

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691150321.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Peddling Protectionism

Douglas A. Irwin

Princeton University Press

This introductory chapter discusses the background of the Smoot–Hawley tariff, which President Herbert Hoover signed into law on June 17, 1930. The Smoot–Hawley tariff ranks among the most infamous pieces of congressional legislation of the twentieth century. Although imports were not surging into the country or causing any great problem for the economy, Congress raised tariffs on imported goods with the intention of protecting farmers and manufacturers from what little foreign competition they faced. In doing so, they did not follow any economic logic or consider the interests of consumers and exporters who would be harmed by the tariffs. Instead, they engaged in the most blatant form of pork-barrel politics, catering to the demands of special interests that wanted to limit imports. Not surprisingly, several foreign countries retaliated by imposing duties on U.S. exports. These trade restrictions spread just as the world economy was beginning to sink into a depression. The contribution of the Smoot–Hawley tariff to the collapse of trade and the Great Depression of the 1930s has been debated ever since.

Keywords:   Smoot–Hawley tariff, protectionism, trade policy, imports, Great Depression

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