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The Slide to Protectionism in the Great Depression: Who Succumbed and Why?

  • Barry Eichengreen (a1) and Douglas A. Irwin (a2)

The Great Depression was marked by a severe outbreak of protectionist trade policies. But contrary to the presumption that all countries scrambled to raise trade barriers, there was substantial cross-country variation in the movement to protectionism. Specifically, countries that remained on the gold standard resorted to tariffs, import quotas, and exchange controls to a greater extent than countries that went off gold. Just as the gold standard constraint on monetary policy is critical to understanding macroeconomic developments in this period, exchange rate policies help explain changes in trade policy.

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