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The Slide to Protectionism in the Great Depression: Who Succumbed and Why?

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  • Barry Eichengreen
  • Douglas A. Irwin

Abstract

The Great Depression was marked by a severe outbreak of protectionist trade policies. But contrary to the presumption that all countries scrambled to raise trade barriers, there was substantial cross-country variation in the movement to protectionism. Specifically, countries that remained on the gold standard resorted to tariffs, import quotas, and exchange controls to a greater extent than countries that went off gold. Gold standard countries chose to maintain their fixed exchange rate and reduce spending on imports rather than allow their currency to depreciate. Trade protection in the 1930s was less an instance of special interest politics than second-best macroeconomic policy when monetary and fiscal policies were constrained.

Suggested Citation

  • Barry Eichengreen & Douglas A. Irwin, 2009. "The Slide to Protectionism in the Great Depression: Who Succumbed and Why?," NBER Working Papers 15142, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15142
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F02 - International Economics - - General - - - International Economic Order and Integration
    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations
    • F31 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - Foreign Exchange
    • F42 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - International Policy Coordination and Transmission
    • N70 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services - - - General, International, or Comparative

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