What should I ask Doug Irwin?

I will be doing a Conversation with Doug in early October, although with no associated public event, just a later podcast and transcript.  Here is Wikipedia on Doug:

Douglas Irwin is the John Sloan Dickey Third Century Professor in the Social Sciences in the Economics Department at Dartmouth College and the author of seven books. He is an expert in both past and present U.S. trade policy, especially policy during the Great Depression. He is frequently sought by media outlets such as The Economist and Wall Street Journal to provide comment and his opinion on current events.[1][2]

Prior to Dartmouth, Irwin was an Associate Professor of Business Economics at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, an economist for the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, and an economist for the Council of Economic Advisers Executive Office of the President.

Doug has a very exciting new book on the history of trade coming out, which I covered here.  Here is Doug on Twitter.  Here is Doug’s recent WSJ Op-Ed on Steve Bannon, trade, and the history of America’s greatness.

So what should I ask Doug?  Your grace and wisdom are always appreciated and never in short supply.


'Your grace and wisdom are always appreciated and never in short supply.'

Best satire site on the web.

He wasn't referring to you, obviously.

Did you see that move Lebron pulled in Boston and was the Basquiat painting that was sold for 110 million the day after really worth its weight in weight?

‘Your grace and wisdom are always appreciated and never in short supply.’

Ask him, "Are traps gay?"

Smoot-Hawley always get the blame for worsening the effects of the Great Depression, but what part did the trade restrictions of the 1920s play in creating the conditions for downturn. And related, what part did they play in that decade's boom?

Before that, there was the international boycott of Germany after the armistice and the international boycott against Soviet Russia after the revolution. I've heard of these sometimes being blamed for the Depression.

Fordney-McCumber was the big one.

The US and Western Europe were not prepared for the economic (and domestic) consequences of the industrialization of China and other less developed countries and the shift to China et al. of trillions in global economic output. Tariffs are a poor response, as Irwin has made clear. Wouldn't a better response be to promote greater international trade by making China et al. more like the US and the US more like China et al., with more domestic consumption and less savings in China et al. and more savings and less consumption in the US? That seems a reasonable compromise for both sides. How to achieve it here would be a political challenge but is doable (e.g., by copying China with much larger public investment). As for China, I suspect the Chinese people would embrace a higher level of consumption, something that likely will happen anyway as China continues on the path to development but could be encouraged with a little creativity in the trading relationship between the two countries.

Sounds interesting. The "I covered here" link is bad.

s/b http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/07/clashing-commerce-history-us-trade-policy.html

He has written a lot about the causes of the Great Depression. Ask him something like "What are the most common beliefs that economists hold about the causes of the Great Depression that are wrong?"

Or perhaps put another way, what are the best arguments to be made that FDR helped the US recover from the Great Depression, and what are the best arguments he made it worse? Did raising the price of gold from 20$ to 35$ actually cause inflation, and was inflation actually a good thing in this case?

In high school, I was taught that going on war footing helped the US economy, but that smacks too much of broken window fallacy. FDR is a pretty controversial figure, and reading about this era usually has too much current-politics bleeding into it.

This is good.

Another variant might be "What do conservatives and progressives get wrong about the Great Depression and FDR's policies?"

And even another might be "What do Keynesians and Monetarists get wrong about the Great Depression?"

I would ask him about the seeming dichotomy between (most) economists and the "general folk" regarding free trade.
Most economists (I think) subscribe to free trade.
However, in the general populace, (I think), protectionists feelings and tendencies are very much ingrained. This is because many in the general populace see factories abandoned, empty buildings, corporations outsourcing abroad, etc, which can leave many unemployed and with a bitter taste.
So, i would ask, how do you persuade the general populace of the benefits of free trade?
Should there be a compensation to the losers in free trade by the winners in free trade? (Has there ever been, successfully?)

I would also ask him what he (Irwin) thought about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), which President Obama negotiated, but President Trump abandoned.
Was it really a good agreement for the US? Will the TPP live on without the US? Could the Trump Administration revive TPP, perhaps?

You could also asked if he thought Paul Krugman had good points in oppsing TTP.

For a city/state with a pure service economy (e.g. no ag or industry, tourism as sole "export") what is the equilibrium ratio of imports/total spending by locals?

Why did teacher played by Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller's Day Off say "Hawley Smoot" tariff instead of "Smoot Hawley" tariff? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxPVyieptwA

I wondered about that myself. I saw an interview with Stein about his performance in that movie, and he grew up in DC with parents that worked for the government, and they talked a lot about that tariff. When he was hired to play the teacher in the movie, the director wanted him to give a boring lecture but they hadn't written the lecture. No problem, he could give an impromptu lecture about the tariff off the top of his head.

I think the convention was always that the House sponsor of a bill -- often the chair of the ways and means committee (especially at that time) -- would be listed first, and the senate sponsor (often chair of finance committee) would be listed second. Smoot Hawley violates that convention, and some people didn't like the departure from precedent and insisted on calling the bill Hawley Smoot.

Good insight from 3/16
IRWIN: Well, it's very interesting. Both parties have this division within them. Interestingly, public opinion polls suggest that Democrats support trade more than Republicans. But the Democratic candidates are speaking more to their union base in the party and opposing these trade agreements. Meanwhile, the Republicans traditionally have been, in recent decades, much more in favor of free trade. But the Republican base does not support trade as much. And now you see some candidates moving in that direction as well.

The parties to the TPP Agreement are likely to reach a deal by November on bringing it into force without the US. They are each also working on free trade agreements (like the Japan-EU FTA) that don't include the US. As a result, US exporters are looking at greater and greater comparative tariff penalties on their exports. Regardless of how this happened - between Trumpism on the one side, and virtue signaling about TPP by the left on the other -- this is reality.

For instance, Japan has raised its tariff on beef except for its FTA partners, so the US (which faces a beef tariff of 50%) is already shipping less beef, and Australia (only 27.2%) is shipping more. The Japanese government told the Nebraska governor they are not interested in a bilateral agreement with the US. TPP had a lot for Japan that a bilateral with the US just doesn't offer.

How can the US get back to TPP at this point?

Why is Japan allowed to have such swingeing tariff rates in the first place?

Shouldn't GATT etc have lowered those?

"Third Century Professor ...": don't be silly, there weren't any universities in the third century.

Where or how have job retraining programs (after people lose their jobs from free trade) worked?

How do you explain trade surplus & gains from trade to people without an economics background?

I would ask him about predatory trade practices. Could a nation (China?) use exports as a weapon against a rival, using a US import surge as a way of crippling militarily strategy industries such as steel, shipbuilding, and microchips?

Trade isn't always "win-win."

Why has the WTO's Doha round and the negotiation process generally broken down so badly and what would it take to put it back on track? How important is that anyway?

I would ask him: "five_questions_for_douglas_irwin" (Economist blog entry from 2009)

Then I would ask him what evidence is there for free trade causing prosperity as well as money non-neutrality outside of textbooks, given hard data seems to show little evidence for both unrestricted free trade causing prosperity by itself, nor for money non-neutrality beyond a mere 3.2% to 13.2% out of 100% (Bernanke et al 2002 FAVAR paper).

I did read his book on Peddling Protectionism where he knocks down a strawman (that Smoot-Hawley caused the Great Depression, only simpletons believe that, though there's plenty of those around).

1)Does he hold any animosity towards Myliobatoidei as it relates to his father's death?
2)Which of his custom guitar designs does he cherish the most and why?

Why'd we go from fun bill descriptions like The Tariff of Abominations to Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act? The latter sort of title seems much more complacent to me.

At what point did it start to make sense for the U.S. to have a single national trade policy, instead of national trade policy being more the imposition of the priorities of one region over another? Or are we not there yet?

Should revenue considerations play a role in trade policy? With the US $20+ trillion in debt, does it make sense to heavily tax US firms and unilaterally eliminate all tariffs on imports as the GMU geniuses advocate?

"Doug, we know that US tariffs went up post-Civil War. We also know that transport costs fell precipitately at the same time, the ocean going steamship. Can we just confirm that total trade costs fell over the 1870 - 1900 period, that combination of tariff and transport? Thus making this period not an example of growth from high trade barriers, but of growth with falling trade barriers?"

Ask him why the insights of the New Economic Geography should not reduce our confidence in standard free trade stories.

Ask about Jagdish Bhagwati's influence on him.

Irwin spent some time at both AEI and Cato too, I believe - what are his thoughts on the role of think tanks in trade policy? Generic cheerleaders for free trade etc. or repositories of arcane, but important, knowledge like AD/CVD case history?

Is there any recent research that has caused him to reconsider some long-held beliefs regarding the benefits of free trade (Autor/Dorn/Hanson 2012 & 2016 etc.)?

Who is the most thoughtful critic of free trade that he pays attention to?

Why are all economic history books not as beautifully bound as the hardcover version of Peddling Protectionism?

Should there be a Department of Trade that consolidates USTR/ITA/USDA-FAS/TDA/MCC/OPIC etc.?

New New Trade Theory: overrated or underrated?

Ask the Professor if it is a smart idea to hand on a silver platter the world's largest economy to a sworn enemy that is rearming with the explicit goal of fighting--and winning--a major war with you.

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