The Grass in American StreetsrnReassessing the Smoot-Hawley Tariffrnby Alfred E. EckesrnDuring his debate with Citizen Perot, Vice President AlrnGore joined a distinguished list of misinformed public officialsrnwhen he bashed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff. SenatorrnReed Smoot and Congressman Willis Hawley “raised tariffs,”rnGore said, “and it was one of the principle causes . . . of thernGreat Depression.” Predictably, the national press jumpedrnwith joy. Claiming the “famous tariff lives on in the annals ofrninvincible ignorance,” the Wall Street Journal recalled thatrnSmoot and Hawley “represented a brand of dumb and reactionaryrnRepublicanism that consigned the party to also-ranrnoblivion.” Business Week assailed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff forrn”triggering the Great Depression and paving the way for WorldrnWar II.”rnIn recycling old Smoot-Hawley stories, Gore and the WallrnStreet Journal demonstrated slavish devotion to the conventionalrnwisdom. But historians know that the conventionalrnwisdom is often wrong, as it is about Smoot-Hawley, and forrntwo generations, the mythmakers have spun a poignant tale ofrnmisdeeds and mistakes. In June 1930, the story goes, over thernadvice of 1,000 economists. President Herbert Hoover signedrninto law the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, containing the highest protectivernduties in American history. Smoot-Hawley, they claim,rnAlfred E. Eckes is Ohio Eminent Research Professor at OhiornUniversity and a former chairman and commissionerrn(1981-1990) of the U.S. International Trade Commission.rnshook the stock market, exacerbated the Great Depression, andrnprovoked foreign protests and retaliation. In succumbing tornshortsighted economic nationalism, the United States wreckedrnthe international trading system and paved the way for Nazi politicalrnvictories and Japanese conquests.rnAttacked from all directions, Smoot-Hawley became—likernPearl Harbor, Yalta, and Vietnam—a metaphor for public policyrnfailure. National leaders from Franklin Roosevelt to RonaldrnReagan, George Bush, and now Al Gore have invoked thern”lessons” of Smoot-Hawley to warn against rising protectionismrnand impending trade wars, and textbook and editorial writersrnregularly condemn Smoot-Hawley and preach the perceivedrnvirtues of free trade. But this bugbear interpretation of “infamous”rnSmoot-Hawley rests on a foundation of fantasies andrnfabrications, not facts. Eager to slay protectionist dragons,rnpoliticians, journalists, and scholars have invented and perpetratedrnmyths while blithely ignoring the historical record.rnFirst, the Tariff Act of 1930 did not enact the highest tariffrnin American history. During the second half of 1930, after enactmentrnof Smoot-Hawley, the average duty on all imports wasrn13.7 percent. This was certainly no record. From 1821 torn1914—for 94 consecutive years—the average tariff on all importsrnalways exceeded the Smoot-Hawley level. Average dutiesrnon all imports peaked not in 1930, but a century earlier in 1830rnat 57.32 percent.rnTo support the pervasive image of resurgent Smoot-Hawleyrn24/CHRONlCLESrnrnrn