A historian on the myths of American trade

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Clashing over Commerce: A History of US Trade Policy. By Douglas Irwin. University of Chicago Press; 832 pages; $35.

TRADE-policy wonks are gluttons for punishment. In good times, their pet topic is dismissed as dull. In bad, they find trade being faulted for everything. As Donald Trump blames America’s economic woes on terrible trade deals, one geek is fighting back. In “Clashing over Commerce”, Douglas Irwin of Dartmouth College tells the history of American trade policy, showing that trade is neither dull nor deserving of the attacks on it.

Few could accuse America’s early trade history of lacking drama. Rules requiring American ships to send most of their cargo via British shores bred resentment against the colonial rulers. In 1773, when the British government tried to put smugglers out of business by slashing the official duty on tea, the Boston Tea Party protests followed, leading to an embargo and, ultimately, a…Continue reading

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