The Crisis in the International Trading System
Chapter 11: Recession, International Trade and the Fallacies of Composition
Fallacy of composition: a fallacy in which what is true in part is, on that account alone, alleged to be true of the whole. Paul Samuelson, Economics, 19661 During the 1928 election campaign, Republican presidential candidate Herbert Hoover pledged to help the beleaguered farmer by, among other things, raising tariff levels on agricultural products. But once the tariff schedule revision process got started, it proved impossible to stop. Calls for increased protection flooded in from industrial sector special interest groups and soon a bill meant to provide relief for farmers became a means to raise tariffs in all sectors of the economy. When the dust had settled, Congress had produced a piece of legislation, the Tariff Act of 1930, more commonly known as the Smoot-Hawley tariff ... Scholars disagree over the extent of protection actually afforded by the SmootHawley tariff; they also differ over the issue of whether the tariff provoked a wave of foreign retaliation that plunged the world deeper into the Great Depression. What is certain, however, is that Smoot-Hawley did nothing to foster cooperation among nations in either the economic or political realm during a perilous era in international relations. It quickly became a symbol of the ‘beggarthy-neighbor’ policies of the 1930s. Such policies, which were adopted by many countries during this time, contributed to a drastic contraction of international trade. For example, U.S. imports from Europe declined from a 1929 high of $1,334 million to just $390 million in 1932, while U.S. exports to Europe fell...
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