Most Favored Nation
discusses the movement for tariff
revision under Republican administrations in the critical years
preceding World War I. Paul Wolman shows how and why some
Republicans turned away from their party's -- and the nation's --
traditional tariff reduction and revision. Wolman describes how the
revisionists of this period developed a comprehensive program that
sought to replace the "logrolling" system of protectionist interest
trading that had prevailed in the United States since the 1860s. In
its place they proposed a multiple-rate tariff embodying
substantial reductions; commercial reciprocity agreements,
especially with Germany, France, and Canada; and a "scientific"
tariff administered by a commission.
According to Wolman, all revisionists hoped to further American
leadership in an open-door world economy. But as their movement
developed, revisionists split into two competing groups. One group,
the "radical" revisionists, wished to use lower tariffs to restrain
the growing power of corporations. Led by agricultural implement
manufacturer H.E. Miles of Wisconsin, the radical revisionists
hoped that freer importation of goods such as steel bars and
billets would break the growing strangehold of U.S. Steel and
International Harvester on markets for intermediate goods and
restore more competitive pricing.
The second group, or "cooperationists," accepted the emerging
hegemony of large corporations, which were beginning to supplant
traditional American propriety enterprises. Encouraged by Theodore
Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, these revisionists worked to
rationalize the emerging corporate market system and U.S. foreign
commercial relations without promoting anticorporate activism.
Wolman suggests that through both consensus and conflict, the
Republican revisionists of the McKinley, Roosevelt, and Taft era
laid the foundation for modern systems of liberal trade. In
detailing how they did so, Wolman offers new insights not only on
the tariff question but also on related concerns in U.S. foreign
economic policy, including business-state relations, corporate
development, international treaty making, and imperialism.
Originally published 1992.
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