The Corner

Economy & Business

Tariffs and Americans’ Welfare

(Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Economists disagree with the president about whether his steel and aluminum tariffs will make America Great again. See this poll asking a panel of economists at highly respected universities if they agree or disagree that “imposing new US tariffs on steel and aluminum will improve Americans’ welfare.” Sixty-five percent of the respondents said they strongly disagree with the motion and 28 percent said they disagree.

That’s what I call a consensus. It’s rare — but it happens. A few responses are worth highlighting:

MIT’s Daron Acemoglu said:

It will help some Americans and hurt others. But the overall benefits are likely to be quite limited, and losses larger.

MIT’s David Autor said:

Simple answer is no! Complex answer is that this could be a strategic gambit in a longer game that deters abuse of free trade agreements.

Chicago’s Austeen Goolsbee said:

SMACK. SMACK [punching self in face] SMACK. SMACK.

Harvard’s Oliver Hart said:

A robust result is that free trade increases national income. The cases where this is not true are rare and hard to spot.

Standford’s Kenneth Judd said:

They may help SOME Americans SIGNIFICANTLY but the number is small and the costs to others will far exceed the gains.

Harvard’s Eric Maskin said:

I thought we had learned our lesson with Smoot-Hawley

Larry Salmuelson of Yale said:

A small number of people, engaged in steel and aluminum production, will benefit from these tariffs, at great cost to many others.

(H/T to Matt Mitchell.)

Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

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