Hoover: The Myth of Free Trade
By Bryan Caplan
Note: When Hoover says “our opponents set up the Hawley-Smoot tariff bill,” he means that
the opponents are blaming the tariff for the depression, not that they voted for it!
In the face of these gigantic, appalling
worldwide forces our opponents set up the Hawley-Smoot tariff
bill–changing as it did the tariffs on less than one-sixth of our own
imports, one one-hundredth of the world’s imports, and introduced long
after the collapse started-as the cause of all this world catastrophe. What an unspeakable travesty upon reason this explanation is!
that we had never had the Hawley-Smoot tariff bill. Do you think for
one moment that this crushing collapse in the structure of the world,
these revolutions, these perils to civilization would not have happened
and would not have reached into the United States ?
And yet, in
order to make a political campaign by which they can play upon
discontent so that they could hope to create a protest vote, they are
compelled to set up this travesty of argument.
If you read Hoover’s other speeches, he claims that the tariff had massive benefits for American farmers and factory workers. Example:
Bad as our prices are… you will
find that, except for the guardianship of the tariff, butter could be
imported for 25 percent below your prices, pork products for 30 percent
below your prices, lamb and beef products from 30 to 50 percent below,
flaxseed for 35 percent below, beans for 40 percent below, and wool 30
percent below your prices. Both corn and wheat could be sold in New
York from the Argentine at prices below yours at this moment were it
not for the tariff. I suppose these are ghastly jests.
removal of or reduction of the tariff on farm products means a flood of
them into the United States from every direction, and either you would
be forced to further reduce your prices, or your products would rot in
But days before the election, Hoover insisted that Smoot-Hawley was a drop in the bucket. It’s almost as if a politician held inconsistent positions. 🙂