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T. Norman Van Cott, R.I.P.

I was saddened to awaken this morning to news that Ball State economist T. Norman Van Cott died on Monday. Although Prof. Van Cott had been ill for some time, Steve Horwitz tells me that he died of complications from covid-19.

Readers of Cafe Hayek have often encountered links that I offered to his always-clear and relevant writings. The most recent was this link from just over a month ago. Prof. Van Cott had that too-rare ability to explain economics creatively and accessibly.

One of my favorite pieces by him is a splendid article that he co-authored with his Ball State colleague Cecil Bohanon – and which first appeared in the Spring 2005 issue of The Independent Review – titled “Tariffs, Immigration, and Economic Insulation: A New View of the U.S. Post–Civil War Era.” This article documents the contributions to 19th-century American economic growth of the U.S. policy then of largely unrestricted immigration. (When economic nationalists – especially Trumpians – today, in their attempts to justify raising tariffs, trot out the flimsy post hoc fallacy that 19th-century American economic growth was fueled by high U.S. tariffs, I often ask these protectionists, as I point to the Bohanon-Van Cott article, if they are willing, in exchange for a return to 19th-century tariff policy, also to return to 19th-century immigration policy. Blank stares ensue, followed only by huffing and puffing.)

My thoughts are with Prof. Van Cott’s family, friends, and colleagues. He’ll be much missed.


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