The Wealth of a Nation

The Wealth of a Nation

The United States is entering a period of profound uncertainty in the world political economy--an uncertainty which is threatening the liberal economic order created under American leadership 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 liberal trade regime, or would protectionism be more beneficial? The issue divided Alexander Hamilton from Thomas Jefferson, the agrarian south from the industrializing north, and progressives from robber barons 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. 

Ambassador C. Donald Johnson's The Wealth of a Nation is an authoritative history of the politics of trade in America from the Revolution to the Trump era. Johnson begins by charting the rise and fall of the U.S. protectionist system from the time of Alexander Hamilton to the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act 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 II, America was the primary architect of the liberal rules-based economic order that has dominated 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 this riveting history, Johnson emphasizes the benefits of the postwar free trade regime, but focuses in particular on how it has attempted to advance workers' rights. This analysis of the evolution of American trade policy stresses the critical importance of the multilateral trading system's survival and defines the central political struggle between business and labor in measuring the wealth of a nation.

Take a Look Inside (courtesy Amazon)


Pre-publication Reviews

"Densely detailed study of trade agreements across the span of American history, written by a former U.S. trade representative...[F]or students of international trade, macroeconomics, and governance-another theme is the struggle among various branches of government to regulates foreign trade-this will be a useful reference....Timely..."--Kirkus


"Johnson, who worked as a trade official in president Bill Clinton's administration and then as a lawyer, set out to chronicle the central role trade politics have always played in the United States. He largely succeeds...with the Trump administration starting trade wars and bringing protectionism back, the book couldn't be timelier."--Foreign Policy


"Don Johnson has used his talents and vast experiences representing our nation to achieve an important historical study of trade policy. There are many perspectives on the lessons to be learned from that history, and it is vital that we debate those differences as we confront the challenges of globalization."
--Sander Levin, U.S. Congressman of Michigan and former Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee


"Johnson provides reassuring evidence that the country's current politico-economic climate is not unique, or even new, reminding readers that trade debates date to the founding fathers, as do protectionist movements....This thoughtful, eloquent history also doubles as a plea for improved public understanding of a vital issue."--Publishers Weekly


"This splendid book covers the politics of American trade policy from the country's beginnings through Trump. Johnson provides a great overview of a fascinating subject."
--Douglas Irwin, John French Professor of Economics, Dartmouth College, and author of Clashing over Commerce: A History of US Trade Policy


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