The fruits of free trade
Tariffs and the Great Depression revisited
Drawing on recent business cycle research on the Great Depression, we return to an argument we advanced in a 1996 article in the Journal of Monetary conomics - the argument that features of the Hawley-Smoot tariffs could have done more to decrease economic activity than is customarily believed, though not enough to account for the severe decline of the early 1930s. Here we reformulate our argument in a business cycle accounting framework that apportions fluctuations between three types of "wedges": (productive) inefficiency, the consumption-leisure margin, and intertemporal inefficiency. ...
Protectionist demands in globalization
This paper analyzes a small, open economy whose citizens have single-peaked preferences on the tariff rate for an import good. They publicly declare this rate to the government, which has discretion in implementing it. While the government has an incentive not to deviate too much from the publicly chosen tariff rate, its final choice is determined by bargaining with a foreign lobby that has a much lower optimal rate and offers monetary transfers in return for lower tariffs. The authors show that the expectation of foreign influence causes citizens to vote for a more protectionist tariff ...
Self-employment in the global economy
This paper studies the eff ects of foreign competition on self-employment levels. We begin by pointing out a previously unknown fact: the greater the exposure to foreign competition, the smaller the fraction of self-employed people. This fact holds across very different countries, across relatively similar countries like European Union members, and across industries within the United States. We develop a model where heterogeneous agents select themselves into being either employees or self-employed in the spirit of Lucas (1978). This, in turn, translates into intra-industry firm heterogeneity ...
Income taxes as reciprocal tariffs
This article shows the equivalence between tariffs on international trade and income taxation. Traditionally, income taxes have been seen as lowering society's output through the household's labor-leisure trade-off. Income taxes also reduce the degree to which individuals specialize in market activity, which is similar to the way countries respond to tariffs in international trade. Income taxes discourage individuals from specializing in activities that reflect their comparative advantage. In so doing, income taxes may have their most distorting effects, not by encouraging individuals to ...
Can vertical specialization explain the growth of world trade?
The growth in the trade share of output is one of the most important features of the world economy since World War II. The growth is generally thought to have been generated by falling tariff barriers worldwide. This thinking, however, does not square with standard static and dynamic international trade models. Because tariff barriers have decreased little since the early 1960s, these models cannot explain the growth of trade without assuming counterfactually large elasticities of substitution between domestic and foreign goods. I show that this growth can be reconciled with the relatively ...
A gain from trade: more research, less obstruction
There is an old wisdom that reductions in tariffs force changes on producers that lead to costless, or nearly so, increases in productivity. We construct a technology-ladder model that captures this wisdom. As in other technology-ladder models, time spent in research helps propel an industry up a technology-ladder. In contrast to the literature, we include another activity that plays a role in determining an industry's position on the technology-ladder: attempts to obstruct the research program of rivals (through regulations, for example). In this world, reductions in tariffs between ...
Political asymmetry and common external tariff in a customs union
We present a three-nation model, where two of the nations are members of a Customs Union (CU) and maintain a common external tariff (CET) on the third (non-member) nation. The producing lobby is assumed to be union-wide and lobbies both governments to influence the CET. The CET is determined jointly by the CU. We follow the political support function approach, where the CU seeks to maximize a weighted sum of the constituents? payoff functions, the weights reflecting the influence of the respective governments in the CU. A central finding of this paper is that the CET rises monotonically with ...
When tariff cuts don't boost import variety
Sustained growth of international trade since World War II has coincided with an array of trade agreements and gradual reduction of tariffs. How much declining tariffs boosted commerce and the impact of liberalized trade rules on a country's standard of living have been a central focus of trade-policy economic research. The welfare effects of trade liberalization can be quite different when viewed from either of two perspectives--from the intensive margin, where liberalizing countries import more of the same goods, or from the extensive margin, where countries import a greater variety of ...
How much of South Korea's growth miracle can be explained by trade policy?
South Korea's growth miracle has been well documented. A large set of institutional and policy reforms in the early 1960s is thought to have contributed to the country's extraordinary performance. In this paper, the authors assess the importance of one key set of policies, the trade policy reforms in Korea, as well as the concurrent GATT tariff reductions. They develop a model of neoclassical growth and trade that highlights two forces by which lower trade barriers can lead to increased per worker GDP: comparative advantage and specialization, and capital accumulation. The authors calibrate ...