The Political Power of Economic Ideas: Protectionism in Turn of the Century America
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One of the main economic debates taking place in late nineteenth and early twentieth century America was between supporters of protectionism and advocates of free trade policies. Protectionists won this debate, as the 1897 Dingley Tariff raised tariff rates to record highs. An analysis of this outcome highlights the overlapping interests of Republican politicians and business groups. A key feature of this analysis is a discussion of how both of these groups endorsed particular economic arguments in favor of protectionism. Contemporary studies by academic economists are also analysed as they provide fodder for the debates surrounding protectionist policies. The evidence from politicians, business owners, and economists combine to provide a broad view of who favored protectionist policies in turn of the century America, and suggests a political economy framework for understanding why protectionism won out over free trade policies at this time.