Development and Underdevelopment in the History of Economic Thought

Frank W Taussig, President Wilson & the creation of the U.S. Tariff Commission in 1917

Gomez Betancourt Rebeca Gomez Betancourt, Université Lyon 2 Triangle

This is an article on the relation between an economist, Frank W. Taussig and a political man Woodrow Wilson on the creation of an American institution devoted to regulate trade during World War I. Taussig, Harvard Professor 1892-1935 was the editor of the Quarterly Journal of Economics from 1889 to 1890 and from 1896 to 1935, President of the American Economic Association in 1904 and in 1905. He was the first chair of the United States Tariff Commission from 1917 to 1919 and a supporter of free trade. When Wilson decided to create in 1916 the Tariff Commission, the idea was to hail an expert, and to have a nonpartisan institution that would remove politics from tariff-making. The aim of this paper is to show the relation between economic knowledge and public policy through the ideas introduced by Taussig and by President Wilson during the years prior to the creation of the U.S. Tariff Commission (1912-1917) and during Taussig’s presidency (1917-1919). Some questions that it answers are: How the U.S. Tariff Commission was created? Who participated? What were the main goals of the commission? How the First World War affected the U.S. Tariff Commission? How Wilson & Taussig reacted to this?

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Keywords: Trade, politics, institution, Harvard University

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