C. Donald Johnson | Wealth of a Nation: A History of Trade Politics in America

C. Donald Johnson | Wealth of a Nation: A History of Trade Politics in America

Wednesday, May 02, 2018 7:00 PM

Jimmy Carter Presidential Library
441 Freedom Pkwy NE, Atlanta, GA 30307

The United States is entering a period of profound uncertainty in the world political economy-an uncertainty which is threatening the liberal economic order that its own statesmen created at the end of the Second World War. The storm surrounding this threat has been ignited by an issue that has divided Americans since the nation's founding: international trade. Is America better off under a free-trade regime, or has protectionism been more beneficial? The issue divided Alexander Hamilton from Thomas Jefferson, the slaveholding south from the industrializing north, and populists and industrialists in the Gilded Age. In our own times, it has pitted anti-globalization activists and manufacturing workers against both multinational firms and the bulk of the economics profession.

Former U.S. Trade Representative C. Donald Johnson's The Wealth of a Nation is an authoritative history of the politics of trade in America from the Founding to the Trump era. He begins by charting the rise and fall of the U.S. protectionist system from the time of Alexander Hamilton to the Smoot-Hawley Tariff of 1930. Challenges to protectionist dominance were frequent and often serious, but the protectionist regime only faded in the wake of the Great Depression. After World War Two, America was the primary architect of the liberal free-trade economic order that ended up dominating the globe for over half a century. Recent years, however, have seen a swelling anti-free trade movement that casts the postwar liberal regime as anti-worker, pro-capital, and-in Donald Trump's view-even anti-American. In the course of this riveting history, Johnson emphasizes the benefits that have flowed from the postwar free trade regime, but focuses in particular on how it has helped American workers. Augmenting the system with new policies that address the negative effects of free trade is far more likely to help them than jettisoning it for a protectionist regime. As he stresses, free trade should not be the issue because it helps create wealth. Rather the central political issue remains as it always has been: how will business and labor share the wealth of the nation.

A Cappella Books is the official bookseller for this event.

If you are unable to attend this event, you may pre-order a signed copy below.

(link coming soon)