Podcast

The Ghost of Smoot-Hawley

On the podcast: The United States’ last big trade war was in 1930. It did not end well.

U.S. President Donald Trump holds up a signed presidential memorandum aimed at what he calls Chinese economic aggression at the White House on March 22. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump holds up a signed presidential memorandum aimed at what he calls Chinese economic aggression at the White House on March 22. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

If U.S. President Donald Trump doesn’t know about the Smoot-Hawley Act, this episode is for him. The legislation enacted in 1930 introduced tariffs on 900 products and launched the United States headlong into a trade war with Canada, the United Kingdom, and other countries. Already in the throes of the Great Depression, the retaliation made it worse. It took the United States more than a decade to recover.

Douglas Irwin, an economist who’s written a book about Smoot-Hawley, joins us on the podcast this week to talk about tariffs, trade wars, and that iconic scene in the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Anyone? Anyone?

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