The Wealth of a Nation: A History of Trade Politics in America

By Johnson, Keith | Foreign Policy, April 2018 | Go to article overview

The Wealth of a Nation: A History of Trade Politics in America


Johnson, Keith, Foreign Policy


The Wealth of a Nation: A History of Trade Politics in America

C. DONALD JOHNSON, OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, 6B4 PP., $34.95, APRIL 2018

DURING THE U.S. CIVIL WAR, in the midst of one of the country's many protectionist benders, a man named Joseph Wharton successfully lobbied for high tariffs on imported nickel. It made sense for him: He owned the nation's only working nickel mine. He also got Congress to mandate a new 5-cent coin so there'd be a market for his monopoly. But Wharton is perhaps best known for endowing the world's first business school, to which he assigned a clear mission: "to advocate economic protectionism unequivocally," writes C. Donald Johnson in The Wealth of a Nation.

Perhaps it's due to a certain Wharton graduate that protectionism has stomped back so noisily into the center of American politics. Or perhaps it's a national design flaw. After all, American colonists initially rebelled because of British mercantilism and then turned around and did the mother country one better by becoming masters of the tariff wall and government coddling of industry, nearly starting their own civil war decades ahead of schedule.

Johnson, who worked as a trade official in President Bill Clinton's administration and then as a lawyer, set out to chronicle the central role trade politics have always played in the United States. …

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