Wilbur Hamilton Ross
By David Henderson
Payday for Public Choice.
Because it’s [the tariffs on Chinese goods] spread over thousands and thousands of products, nobody’s going to actually notice it at the end of the day.
This quote is from an interview of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on CNBC’s Squawk Box last September.
And now here’s Alexander Hamilton in April 1782:
No mode [other than tariffs] can be so convenient as a source of revenue to the United States. It is agreed that imposts on trade, when not immoderate, or improperly laid, is one of the most eligible species of taxation. They fall in a great measure upon articles not of absolute necessity, and being partly transferred to the price of the commodity, are so far imperceptibly paid by the consumer.
What’s interesting, beyond their assertion that consumers won’t notice the slightly higher prices, is that both Hamilton and Ross use this an an argument for tariffs. We economists who apply Public Choice to understand government policy often point out that one reason tariffs are so popular is that they benefit a concentrated group (domestic producers) at the expense of a dispersed group (consumers.) It’s striking to see how upfront both Hamilton and Ross are at admitting that that is one of their arguments for tariffs.