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Higher Tariffs, Lower Revenues? Analyzing the Fiscal Aspects of “The Great Tariff Debate of 1888â€

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  • Irwin, Douglas A.

Abstract

After the Civil War, Congress maintained high import tariffs to pay off the public debt. By the early 1880s the federal government was running large fiscal surpluses –revenues exceeded expenditures by over 40 percent. The Democrats proposed lower tariffs to reduce customs revenue. The Republicans proposed higher tariffs to reduce imports and customs revenues. This article attempts to determine the revenue effects of the proposed changes. Given the height of the tariff and the price elasticity of U.S. import demand, the actual tariff was below the maximum revenue rate, and therefore a tariff reduction would have reduced customs revenue.

Suggested Citation

  • Irwin, Douglas A., 1998. "Higher Tariffs, Lower Revenues? Analyzing the Fiscal Aspects of “The Great Tariff Debate of 1888â€," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(1), pages 59-72, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:jechis:v:58:y:1998:i:01:p:59-72_01
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    Cited by:

    1. Douglas A. Irwin, 2019. "U.S. Trade Policy in Historical Perspective," NBER Working Papers 26256, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Phillip Magness, 2009. "Constitutional tariffs, incidental protection, and the Laffer relationship in the early United States," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 20(2), pages 177-192, June.
    3. Cagé, Julia & Gadenne, Lucie, 2018. "Tax revenues and the fiscal cost of trade liberalization, 1792–2006," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 1-24.
    4. Douglas A. Irwin, 2007. "Trade Restrictiveness and Deadweight Losses from U.S. Tariffs, 1859-1961," NBER Working Papers 13450, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Douglas A. Irwin, 2000. "Ohlin Versus Stolper-Samuelson?," NBER Working Papers 7641, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Desai, Mihir A. & Dyck, Alexander & Zingales, Luigi, 2007. "Theft and taxes," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(3), pages 591-623, June.
    7. Tena Junguito, Antonio, 2001. "Measuring protection over time : revenue and protective products in the 19th century European tariff growth debate," IFCS - Working Papers in Economic History.WH wh017204, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Instituto Figuerola.

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