Thursday, January 8, 2009

Warren Harding Redeemed?

I've been wrestling lately with the concept of "free trade" vs. protectionism. Read Tom Piatak on President Harding:
Jin Powell of the Cato Institute has an interesting article at NRO arguing that Warren Harding, not FDR, has the best record of any president in leading the country out of a serious economic downturn. Harding inherited from Wilson an economy that had shrunk 24% from 1920 to 1921, as well as a federal debt that had grown nearly 25 times from 1916 to 1919. Harding reduced income taxes, reduced federal spending, and led the country to its lowest level of peacetime unemployment ever, 1.8% in 1926. Mentioned only in passing by Powell is the fact that Harding “supported tariffs.” In fact, Harding signed the Fordney-McCumber tariff, which doubled the average tariff rate to 38%. In asking Congress to raise tariffs, Harding stated, “I believe in the protection of American industry . . .it is our purpose to prosper America first.” It is thus clear that a high tariff is perfectly consistent with smaller government and strong economic growth, and Americans looking to Harding’s policies for guidance today should not overlook his administration’s trade policy.
This basically aligns with what I've been thinking lately. There is a damn good reason to protect American industry. It protects American jobs, keeps more Americans in a decent position to be good consumers, and keeps the profits and means of production in the USA.

I plan on expanding on this more later. For now, I thought Tom's little history lesson was an eye-opener.

Of course, what brought the Harding era to an end was bad finance, trading on borrowed money, and the eventual crash...but none of that is due to tariff policy.


Tom Piatak said...

Thank you very much for noticing my piece and for your kind words about it.

E.D. Kain said...

Your welcome, Tom. Kinds words, maybe, but well-deserved. Thanks for stopping by...

Best regards!