The NBER Reporter 2017 Number 4: Books

Organizations, Civil Society,

and the Roots of Development

Edited by Naomi R. Lamoreaux and John Joseph Wallis


    Modern developed nations are rich and politically stable in part because their citizens are free to form organizations and have access to the relevant legal resources. Yet in spite of the advantages of open access to civil organizations, it is estimated that 80 percent of people live in countries that do not allow unfettered access. Why have some countries disallowed the formation of civic organizations as part of their economic and political systems?

    The contributions to Organizations, Civil Society, and the Roots of Development seek to answer this question through an exploration of how developing nations throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, including the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Germany, made the transition to allowing their citizens the right to form organizations. The transition, contributors show, was not an easy one. Neither political changes brought about by revolution nor subsequent economic growth led directly to open access. In fact, initial patterns of change were in the opposite direction, as political coalitions restricted access to specific organizations for the purpose of maintaining political control. Ultimately, however, it became clear that these restrictions threatened the foundation of social and political order. Tracing the path of these modern civil societies, Organizations, Civil Society, and the Roots of Development is an invaluable contribution to all interested in today¬ís developing countries and the challenges they face in developing this organizational capacity.

Clashing over Commerce:

A History of U.S. Trade Policy

Douglas A. Irwin


    Should the United States be open to commerce with other countries, or should it protect domestic industries from foreign competition? This question has been the source of bitter political conflict throughout American history. Such conflict was inevitable, James Madison argued in The Federalist Papers, because trade policy involves clashing economic interests. The struggle between the winners and losers from trade has always been fierce because dollars and jobs are at stake: depending on the policy chosen, some industries, farmers, and workers will prosper, while others will suffer.

    Clashing over Commerce: A History of U.S. Trade Policy is the most authoritative and comprehensive history of U.S. trade policy to date, offering a clear picture of the various economic and political forces that have shaped it. From the start, trade policy divided the nation — first when Thomas Jefferson declared an embargo on all foreign trade, then when South Carolina threatened to secede from the Union over excessive taxes on imports. The Civil War saw a shift toward protectionism, which then came under constant political attack. Controversy over the Smoot-Hawley tariff during the Great Depression led to a policy shift toward freer trade, involving trade agreements that eventually produced the World Trade Organization.

    Irwin makes sense of this turbulent history by showing how different economic interests tend to be grouped geographically, meaning that every proposed policy change found ready champions and opponents in Congress. As the Trump administration considers making major changes to U.S. trade policy, Irwin's sweeping historical perspective helps illuminate the current debate. Deeply researched and rich with insight and detail, Clashing over Commerce provides valuable and enduring insights into U.S. trade policy past and present.

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