Protective Tariffs, Revenue Tariffs, and American Economic Growth

by Don Boudreaux on December 22, 2010

in Growth, History, Taxes, Trade

Did protectionist tariffs contribute to, or obstruct, America’s economic growth during the 19th century?  In this essay, I address this question.

I’m unaware of any historical research done on the following question: To what extent did Uncle Sam’s heavy reliance upon tariff revenues during the 19th century contribute either to (1) keeping tariffs from being more protective rather than being sources of government revenue; or (2) keeping the size of the national government smaller (than it would otherwise have been) by keeping Uncle Sam’s revenues lower (as a consequence of using tariffs to restrict imports rather than to raise revenue)?

My being unaware of such research is hardly evidence that this question hasn’t been researched (and researched extensively).  If anyone knows of relevant research along these lines, please let me know.  Thanks!

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