From: DennisLeeWilson-Ariz-Wyo Sent: 2/23/2003 12:51 PM http://www.mises.org/fullstory.asp?control=1168 Gods, Generals, and Tariffs
By Thomas J. DiLorenzo
[Posted February 21, 2003]
The anticipation surrounding the new movie "Gods and Generals," which opens today, underscores the continuing fascination that Americans (and the world) have with the meaning of the Civil War. It also reflects a growing awareness that the simple story of Northern liberators versus Southern slaveholders fails to do justice to the truth. But what continues to be missed are the economic roots of the North-South conflict: roots which represent deviations from the free-trade ideal.
In a May 10, 2002 article on mises.org ("Lincoln's Tariff War
") I elaborated on the argument in my book, The Real Lincoln
, that the tariff was a far more important cause of the War between the States than most historians and economists admit. Charles Adams also makes a very powerful case for the importance of the tariff in precipitating the war in his book, When in the Course of Human Events
. Professors Robert A. McGuire of the University of Akron and T. Norman Van Cott of Ball State University provided additional support for this argument in a July 2002 article in Economic Inquiry
, one of the top peer-reviewed economics journals ("The Confederate Constitution, Tariffs, and the Laffer Relationship").
These authors note, as I do in my book, that the Confederate Constitution outlawed protectionist tariffs altogether
. Article I, Section 8 allows for the collection of "taxes, duties, imposts and excises" but only "for revenue necessary" to finance the government and not to protect any business or industry from international competition. "Nor shall any duties or taxes on importations from foreign nations be laid to promote or foster any branch of industry . . ." The actual tariff rates that were put into effect by the Confederate government averaged 13.3 percent, with dozens of commodities exempt altogether. This was lower than the 15 percent average tariff rate of 1857 that Frank Taussig said, in his Tariff History of the United States [FULL TEXT] was the closest to the free-trade ideal ever accomplished by the United States during the nineteenth century. (Taussig was speaking of the U.S. government's tariff rates; the Confederate government's tariff policy was in reality the high water mark of free-trade policy in the nineteenth century).
In sharp contrast, when the Republican Party gained power in the late 1850s the top item on its agenda was to increase the average tariff rate from 15% to 32% and then to over 47%. The Republican Party would dominate national politics in America until World War I, and the average tariff rate would remain at about that level all during that time. Emphasis added
....Click on link at top for remainder of article....