Tariffs: The Smoot-Hawley Fairy Tale

Once again, it's necessary to debunk the Globalist fairy tales about the "damage" caused by the Smoot-Hawley Tariff. Below is a copy of U.S. GDP from 1929 through 1939. These are official government figures from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

For the chart below: GDP: 1929-1938 only

The Trade Balance is underlined in red. Exports are underlined in blue. Imports are underlined in orange.





Notice that there is a slight decline in both exports and imports by the end of 1930. The trade balance remained around 0 during the entire time. Exports bottomed in 1932 — 2 years before any revision or modification of Smoot-Hawley occurred.


The Smoot-Hawley Tariff was signed into law on June 17, 1930, and raised U.S. tariffs on over 20,000 imported goods. Legislation was passed in 1934 that weakened the effect of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff. In effect, the legislation functionally repealed Smoot-Hawley. Thus, the effects of Smoot-Hawley cover only the period between June 17, 1930, and 1934. This is the time frame that should be focused on.   


So in reviewing the chart, where is the evidence that the Smoot-Hawley Tariff caused major damage to the economy?? Is there any at all?

The US was already in a Depression. Prior to Smoot-Hawley, the 1929 Trade Surplus was +0.38% of our GDP.

Let's focus on exports alone. Exports were $5.9 billion in 1929, and had declined to $2.9 billion in 1933. This $3 billion decline was roughly 3.8% of our 1929 GDP, which had declined by a whopping 46% over the same period of time. Thus, of the -46% GDP decline, only -3.8% of it was due to a fall in exports.

But the gain from import reduction must also be included. (A decline in imports increases GDP). If the import decline is added back to the GDP total (to measure the net trade balance), the "loss" was only $0.2 billion from our GDP — or less than ½ of 1% of the total GDP decline.

In other words, the document-able "loss" from the Smoot-Hawley Tariff — the "net export" loss — was less than ½ of 1% of our our GDP decline.


To put this in perspective, let's compare all the GDP components together:

1929 .......................................................... 1933

GDP $103.6 billion-------------------> $56.4 billion (change: -$47.2 billion)
Consum. Expend $77.4 bil------------>$45.9 billion (change: -$31.5 bill)
Private Invest $16.5 bil----------------> $1.7 billion (change:  -$14.8 billion)
Trade Balance  +$0.3 bil-------------> +$0.1 billion (change: -$0.2 billion)
Exports $5.9 billion--------------------> $2.0 billion (change: -$3.9 billion)
Imports $5.6 billion--------------------> $1.9 billion (change: -$3.7 billion)

Again, at the risk of being repetitious, how much difference to US  GDP did the export loss make? The Trade Balance worsened by only -$0.2 billion, or about -0.19% of our 1929 GDP, or less than 1/5th of 1% of 1929 GDP. Meanwhile, our total GDP decreased a whopping -46%.

How much effect did a 1/5th of 1% loss of GDP have on the Great Depression, especially when spread over a 4-year period?

From the actual statistics, the true "harm" caused by the Smoot-Hawley is fictional. The harmful effects exist only in the minds of self-serving Globalist propagandists.

Based on available statistics, Smoot-Hawley had almost NO effect on the Great Depression. At the very most, it caused a -3.8% decline in GDP from loss of exports. But factoring in the GDP increase from a decline in imports, it caused less than 1% of the  GDP decline.

The Smoot-Hawley Tariff did not cause the Great Depression, nor did it worsen it or extend it. Claims to the contrary are false and easily refutable. The evidence to disprove those claims is abundant, overwhelming, and freely available to the public. The available GDP numbers completely exonerate the Smoot-Hawley Tariff from any contribution to the Great Depression.

The Smoot-Hawley myth needs to be put to rest, once and for all. The claim that it worsened the Great Depression is nothing but a fairy tale. 

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Tags: Economy

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