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Clashing over Commerce

A History of US Trade Policy

Douglas A. Irwin

Clashing over Commerce

Douglas A. Irwin

832 pages | 17 halftones, 21 line drawings, 17 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2017
Cloth $35.00 ISBN: 9780226398969 Published November 2017
E-book $35.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226399010 Published November 2017
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.
 
Review Quotes
Economist
"Tells the history of American trade policy, showing that trade is neither dull nor deserving of the attacks on it. . . . As Mr Irwin spins this grand narrative, he also debunks trade-policy myths."
George Melloan, Wall Street Journal
“Irwin outlines [the] long evolution of trade politics from the mercantilist 1640s to the present, when Trump has made trade controversial again by arguing for a renewal of protectionist policies. [His] chronicle—lengthy, detailed, and readable—traces the winding trail that has brought us to the liberal world trading order we enjoy today.”
National Review
“Other histories have been written about US trade policy, but Irwin’s is the most comprehensive and useful for guiding our current decision making on trade. . . . Irwin combines scholarly analysis with a historian’s eye for trends and colorful details. This book is readable and illuminating, for the trade expert and for all Americans wanting a deeper understanding of America’s evolving role in the global economy.”
 
I. M. Destler, University of Maryland
Clashing over Commerce is a magisterial book. Irwin takes readers through the long story of American trade policy with keen insight and a sense for historical significance.”
Jeremy Atack, Vanderbilt University
“This is, without a doubt, the most comprehensive discussion of trade policy since Taussig’s immensely influential Tariff History of the United States. Irwin describes the profound evolution of American trade policy from colonial times to the present, bringing up to date with the most recent empirical research and the emergence of a broader trade policy. In its breadth and depth, Clashing over Commerce represents a major contribution.”
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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