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Tax Britannica: Nineteenth Century Tariffs and British National Income

  • Sami Dakhlia


  • John Nye


The literature on British economic history presumes thatBritain was a free trader after the repeal of the Corn Lawsand that her tariff levels were thus below those which wereoptimal for maximizing utility. Presumably, if the optimalBritish tariffs had been positive and greater than the levelsestablished by mid-century, a reduction to zero of all tariffsthat remained would have lowered British welfare even further.In this paper, we use a simple computable general equilibriummodel to simulate a drop in all British tariffs to zero. Theresulting substantial net increase in British welfaresuggests that British tariffs were much higher than would beconsistent with an optimum tariff policy. More important, thesize of British losses from her high tariff levels suggeststhat British policy was not consistent with the stance of anideological free trader. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

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Article provided by Springer in its journal Public Choice.

Volume (Year): 121 (2004)
Issue (Month): 3 (February)
Pages: 309-333

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Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:121:y:2004:i:3:p:309-333
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  1. Anderson, James E & Neary, J Peter, 1994. "Measuring the Restrictiveness of Trade Policy," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 8(2), pages 151-69, May.
  2. Kevin H. O'Rourke, 1994. "Measuring protection : a cautionary tale," Working Papers 199423, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
  3. Mercenier, Jean & Yeldan, Erinc, 1999. "A Plea For Greater Attention on the Data in Policy Analysis," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 21(7), pages 851-873, December.
  4. Irwin, Douglas A., 1993. "Free Trade and Protection in Nineteenth-Century Britain and France Revisited: A Comment on Nye," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 53(01), pages 146-152, March.
  5. McCloskey, Donald N., 1980. "Magnanimous albion: Free trade and British national income, 1841-1881," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 17(3), pages 303-320, July.
  6. Anderson, James E, 1998. "Trade Restrictiveness Benchmarks," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 108(449), pages 1111-25, July.
  7. Nye, John Vincent, 1991. "The Myth of Free-Trade Britain and Fortress France: Tariffs and Trade in the Nineteenth Century," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 51(01), pages 23-46, March.
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