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Hegemonic stability theory and 19th century tariff levels in Europe

  • Timothy J. McKeown

Although the theory of hegemonic stability has attracted an impressive array of adherents, current formulations leave many conceptual issues unresolved. Existing formulations also fail to draw from the theory any implications concerning the process by which a hegemonic state creates and maintains a regime. As an example, Great Britain is generally agreed to have been hegemonic in the nineteenth century, but Britain's behavior was generally inconsistent with that implied by a theory of hegemonic stability. I advance an alternative set of explanations for changes in international tariff levels based on the notion of a “political business cycle.”

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1. Kindleberger, C. P., The World in Depression (Boston: Little, Brown, 1973); Gilpin, R., U.S. Power and the Multinational Corporation: The Political Economy of Foreign Direct Investment (New York: Basic Books, 1975); Krasner, S. D., “State Power and the Structure of International Trade,” World Politics 28 (1976), pp. 317–47; Keohane, R. O. and Nye, J. S., Power and Interdependence: World Politics in Transition (Boston: Little, Brown, 1977); Magdoff, H., The Age of Imperialism (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1969); MacEwan, A., “The Development of the Crisis in the World Economy,” in Steinberg, B., et al. eds., U.S. Capitalism in Crisis (New York: Union for Radical Political Economics, 1978); Wallerstein, I., The Modern World System, vol. 2: Mercantilism and the Consolidation of the European World-Economy, 1600–1750 (New York: Academic Press, 1980).

2. Kindleberger, , World in Depression; Whitman, M. v. N.,” Foreign Policy no. 20 (1975), pp. 138–64; Frohlich, N., Oppenheimer, J. A., and Young, O., Political Leadership and Collective Goods (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971).

3. See the works by Krasner, , Magdoff, and MacEwan cited in note 1 above.

4. Gallagher, J. and Robinson, R., “The Imperialism of Free Trade,” Economic History Review, 2d series, 6 (1953), pp. 115.

5. Gilpin, , U.S. Power, pp. 80–82.

6. Ibid., pp. 83–85.

7. Krasner, , “State Power,” pp. 335–36.

8. Ibid., p. 336.

9. Gilpin, , U.S. Power, p. 81.

10. Krasner, , “State Power,” p. 337.

11. Ibid., p. 322.

12. A partial exception to this is to be found in those cases where a decision not to sell, i.e., an embargo or some form of voluntary export restraint, has been imposed by the state.

13. Hirschman, A. O., National Power and the Structure of Foreign Trade (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1945).

14. Olson, M., The Logic of Collective Action (New York: Schocken, 1968), p. 2.

15. If we considered the trade of those states that had lost tariff autonomy–China, the Ottoman Empire, certain Latin American states–the total would be even higher, but the demonstration of control from the core is more problematic than in the case of formal colonies.

16. Olson, , Logic of Collective Action, p. 33.

17. Lave, C. A. and March, J. G., An Introduction to Models in the Social Sciences (New York: Harper & Row, 1975).

18. Iliasu, A. A., “The Cobden-Chevalier Commercial Treaty of 1860,” Historical Journal 13 (1971), pp. 6798.

19. For the details, see Williams, J. B., British Commercial Policy and Trade Expansion (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972).

20. Ashley, P., Modern Tariff History: Germany–United States–France (London: John Murray, 1920).

21. Williams, , British Commercial Policy, p. 191.

22. Ibid., p. 192.

23. Ibid., pp. 193–94.

24. Albrecht-Carrie, R., Britain and France–Adaptations to a Changing Context of Power (New York: Doubleday, 1970), pp. 7079; Dunham, A. L., The Anglo-French Treaty of Commerce of 1860 and the Progress of the Industrial Revolution in France (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1930), pp. 1213.

25. Dunham, , Anglo-French Treaty, p. 13.

26. Ibid., pp. 10–11.

27. Ibid., pp. 16–17.

28. Ashley, , Modern Tariff History, p. 294; Dunham, , Anglo-French Treaty, p. 18.

29. Dunham, , Anglo-French Treaty, pp. 1920.

30. United Kingdom, Statistical Abstract for the United Kingdom, nos. 14–18 (Valduz: Kraus Reprint, 1965).

31. Dunham, , Anglo-French Treaty, p. 52. Emphases in original.

32. Bartlett, C. J., Great Britain and Sea Power, 1815–1853 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963), pp. 181–84.

33. Iliasu, , “Cobden-Chevalier Commercial Treaty.”

34. Henderson, W. O., The Zollverein (Chicago: Quadrangle, 1959), p. 40.

35. Ibid., p. 43.

36. Williams, , British Commercial Policy, pp. 199200.

37. SirWard, A. W. and Gooch, G. P., eds., The Cambridge History of British Foreign Policy (New York: Octagon, 1970), p. 468.

38. Kindleberger, C. P., “The Rise of Free Trade in Western Europe, 1820–1875,” Journal of Economic History 4 (1975), pp. 613–34.

39. Ashley, , Modern Tariff History, p. 17.

40. Gordon, N. M., “Britain and the Zollverein Iron Duties, 1842–1845,” Economic History Review, 2d series, 22 (1969), PP. 7587.

41. Ashley, , Modern Tariff History, pp. 2021.

42. Gordon, , “Britain and the Zollverein,” p. 84.

43. Ward, and Gooch, , Cambridge History, p. 466.

44. Ashley, , Modern Tarff History, p. 21.

45. Henderson, , The Zollverein, pp. 209210.

46. Ibid., p. 235.

47. Useful summaries of this situation can be found in Henderson, W. O., The Rise of German Industrial Power, 1834–1914 (London: Temple Smith, 1975), and Böhme, Helmut, An Introduction to the Social and Economic History of Germany, trans. Lee, W. R. (New York: St. Martin's, 1978). A detailed treatment of Prussian and Austrian maneuvering over the Zoliverein and the German Confederation can be found in Bohme's, Deutschlands Weg zur Grossmacht: Studien zum Verhältnis von Wirtschaft und Staat während der Reichgründerzeit, 1848–1881 (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1966).

48. Ward, and Gooch, , Cambridge History, p. 475.

49. Iliasu, , “Cobden-Chevalier Commercial Treaty,” p. 68.

50. The one clear example of linkage in Williams's study consists of a threat to Portugal in 1836 that prospective tariff increases might cause Britain to become “extremely indifferent” to Portuguese security. The Portuguese went ahead and raised tariffs (Williams, British Commercial Policy, pp. 54–55).

51. “Many” is not all. Aside from the exception of the United States noted by Krasner, Russia was also outside the open trading system. Russian tariffs tended throughout the 19th century to be quite high relative to those of western and central Europe.

52. Krasner, , “State Power,” p. iii (abstract).

53. Ashley, , Modern Tariff History, Böhme, , Deutschlands Weg.

54. Dunham, , Anglo-French History.

55. Hibbs, Douglas A. and Fassbender, Heino, eds., Contemporary Political Economy: Studies on the Interdependence of Politics and Economics (New York: North Holland, 1981).

56. J. McKeown, Timothy, “Firms and Tariff Regime Change: Explaining the Demand for Protection,” paper presented at the International Studies Association meeting,Cincinnati,Ohio,25 March 1982.

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International Organization
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