TARIFFS: The Smoot-Hawley Fairy Tale

3 posts / 0 new
Last post
unlawflcombatnt's picture
unlawflcombatnt
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 27 2008
Posts: 1
TARIFFS: The Smoot-Hawley Fairy Tale

Tariffs: The Smoot-Hawley Tariff Fairy Tale

Once again, it's necessary to debunk the Globalist fairy tales about the "damage" caused by the Smoot-Hawley Tariff. Below is a copy of U.S. GDP from 1929 through 1939. These are official government figures from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA)

Below is a copy of the chart that has key numbers underlined. The Trade Balance has been underlined in Red. Exports have been underlined in Blue. Imports have been underlined in Orange.

** Note on the above referenced charts: The 1929 Trade balance is listed as +$0.4 billion. This is a MISTAKE. It should be +$0.3 billion. Subtracting the $5.6 billion in imports from the $5.9 billion in exports gives a difference of +$0.3 billion, not +$0.4 billion.

Notice that there is a slight decline in both exports and imports by the end of 1930. The trade balance remained around 0 during the entire time. Exports bottomed in 1932 — 2 years before any revision or modification of Smoot-Hawley occurred. The Smoot-Hawley Tariff was signed into law on June 17, 1930, and raised U.S. tariffs on over 20,000 imported goods. Legislation was passed in 1934 that weakened the effect of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff. In effect, the 1934 legislation functionally repealed Smoot-Hawley. Thus, the effects of Smoot-Hawley cover only the period between June 17, 1930, and 1934. This is the time frame that should be focused on.

So in reviewing the chart, what evidence is there that the Smoot-Hawley Tariff "hurt" the economy?? Is there any evidence at all?

No, there is practically NO evidence that Smoot-Hawley hurt our economy. The US was already in a Depression when Smoot-Hawley was enacted. Prior to Smoot-Hawley, the 1929 Trade Surplus was +0.38% of our GDP. In other words, it contributed less than 1/200th to our economy.

What happens if we focus on exports alone? Exports were $5.9 billion in 1929, and had declined to $2.0 billion in 1933, for a -$3.9 billion decline. This $3.9 billion decline was roughly 3.8% of our 1929 GDP, which had already declined by a whopping 46% over the same period of time. Thus, of the -46% GDP decline, only 3.8% of it was due to a fall in exports.

But the effects on trade must also include the reduction in Imports, which ADDS to GDP. (A decline in imports increases GDP). If the import decline is added back to the GDP total (to measure the net trade balance), the "loss" becomes only -$0.2 billion from our GDP — or less than ½ of 1% of the total GDP decline. In other words, the document-able "loss" from the Smoot-Hawley Tariff — the "net export" loss — contributed less than ½ of 1% of our our -46% GDP decline.

Overall, the Smoot Hawley Tariff caused almost 0 damage to our economy during the Depression. To put this in better perspective, let's compare all the GDP components together:

1929 .......................................................... 1933

GDP $103.6 billion--------------------->$56.4 billion ( decreased -$47.2 billion)

Consum. Expend $77.4 bil----------> $45.9 billion ( decreased -$31.5 bill)

Private Invest $16.5 bil--------------> $1.7 billion ( decreased -$14.8 billion)

*Trade Balance +$0.3 bil------------>+$0.1 billion ( decreased -$0.2 billion)

Exports $5.9 billion--------------------> $2.0 billion ( decreased -$3.9 billion)

Imports $5.6 billion--------------------> $1.9 billion ( decreased -$3.7 billion)

 

Again, to re-emphasize, how much difference to US GDP did the export loss make? The Trade Balance worsened by only -$0.2 billion, or about 0.19% of our 1929 GDP ( or less than 1/5th of 1% of 1929 GDP). Meanwhile, our total GDP decreased a whopping -46% (or $47.2 billion).

How much effect did a 1/5th of 1% loss of GDP have on the Great Depression, especially when spread over a 4-year period?

Again, where's all the "damage" that the Smoot-Hawley Tariff caused??

(Was it was all in "off-balance sheet" accounts?)

Based on available statistics, Smoot-Hawley had almost NO effect on the Great Depression. At the very most, caused a -3.8% decline in GDP from loss of exports. But factoring in the GDP increase from a decline in imports, it caused less than 1% of the GDP decline. T

he Smoot-Hawley Tariff did not cause the Great Depression, nor did it worsen it or extend it. Claims to the contrary are not only false, but easily refutable. The evidence to disprove those claims is abundant, overwhelming, and freely available to the public. The Smoot-Hawley myth needs to be put to rest, once and for all. The claim that it worsened the Great Depression is nothing but a fairy tale.

Economic Populist Forum

 

joe2baba's picture
joe2baba
Status: Martenson Brigade Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 17 2008
Posts: 807
Re: TARIFFS: The Smoot-Hawley Fairy Tale

up until 1913 we had no income tax. the government was run on tariffs and small excise taxes.

we will never return to a system of tariffs even though it is the only way to rein in govenment spending and remove the unfair competition our workers (whats left of them ) experience.

now that obama is loading up his financial team with federal reservists, free trade clintonistas and chicago school economists.

we will see what is left of our middle class and middle class jobs leave for sunnier climes. srgentina anyone?

great post unlawful

Ray Hewitt's picture
Ray Hewitt
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 5 2008
Posts: 458
Re: TARIFFS: The Smoot-Hawley Fairy Tale

Methinks unlawflcombatnt is spinning the numbers. Let's examine.

Notice that there is a slight decline in both exports and imports by
the end of 1930. The trade balance remained around 0 during the entire
time. Exports bottomed in 1932 — 2 years before any revision or
modification of Smoot-Hawley occurred. The Smoot-Hawley Tariff was
signed into law on June 17, 1930, and raised U.S. tariffs on over
20,000 imported goods. Legislation was passed in 1934 that weakened the
effect of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff. In effect, the 1934 legislation
functionally repealed Smoot-Hawley. Thus, the effects of Smoot-Hawley
cover only the period between June 17, 1930, and 1934. This is the time
frame that should be focused on.

He says Smoot-Harley was signed into law in 1930 and exports bottomed in 1932. That makes sense, because the tariffs, by reducing imports, reduced exports. I believe at the time, farmers were especially hard hit.

The Smoot-Hawley Tariff did not cause the Great Depression, nor did it worsen it or extend it. 

What is not said that the sectors dependent on exports bore the brunt of the tariff and hapless consumers had to cut back consumption of cheaper imports. The purpose of Smoot-Harley was to protect high American wages. In a contracting economy, wages have to fall with prices, otherwise unemployment will increase as it did then - unemployment hit a high of 28% by March 1933. I wouldn't lay all the blame on Smoot-Harley, but it was a contributing factor during the time it was in effect.

Notice in the chart above that federal expenditures went from 1.7 in 1929 to 5.7 in 1938. Therein lies the heart of why the depression was long and deep; What government spends it takes from the private economy. 

Notice the statistics on Gross Domestic Product. They were in decline until 1933 when Roosevelt confiscated gold, giving him the means to inflate the economy. Thereafter, the numbers show a rise in GDP, as one would expect in an inflationary economy.

Anybody who argues taxes of any kind have no negative effect on the economy, needs to re-examine his biases. The numbers don't always show in aggregate statistics, so they remain as unseen consequences. That is the mortal danger of central planning and social engineering.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Login or Register to post comments