Frank William Taussig

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Frank William Taussig (December 28, 1859 – November 11, 1940) was an American economist and educator. Serving as a professor of economics at Harvard University for almost 50 years, Taussig is credited with creating the foundations of modern international trade theory. His position at Harvard, his famous 1911 textbook, and his control of the Quarterly Journal of Economics helped spread his version of Cambridge neoclassicism throughout the United States. He was one of the most prominent authorities on tariff issues in the United States at the turn of the twentieth century, acting as an adviser on commercial policy to President Woodrow Wilson and serving as chairman of the U.S. Tariff Commission. His articles and books on tariffs, both in theory and in careful empirical studies of industries and history, became the foundation for teaching modern trade theory.

Taussig viewed economic problems not as independent entities but in their social and historical context. He recognized that human motivation was crucial in understanding economic activity, but was skeptical that behind economic behavior lay solely egoism and hedonism. In his work he sought to include other social factors as significant in determining economic activity and the consequent health and prosperity of society and all its members.


Frank Taussig was born on December 28, 1859, in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of a successful doctor and businessman who had immigrated to the United States from Prague. He graduated from Harvard University in 1879, and obtained his Ph.D. there in 1883. He also received his law degree from Harvard in 1886. He was a student and later colleague of Charles Dunbar.

Taussig started to lecture at Harvard in 1882, becoming assistant professor in 1886, and full professor in 1892. He held his powerful Harvard post until 1935, when the chair was handed over to his more colorful successor, Joseph Schumpeter. In 1911, he published his acclaimed Principles of Economics.

He married Edith Guild Taussig, with whom he had four children. His wife died from tuberculosis in 1909.

In the period from 1917 to 1919, he acted as an adviser on commercial policy to President Woodrow Wilson and was chairman of the U.S. Tariff Commission.

Taussig was the editor of the Quarterly Journal of Economics from 1889 to 1890 and from 1896 to 1935. He was the president of the American Economic Association in 1904 and 1905.

Taussig died on November 11, 1940, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery.


Taussig remains famous for his contributions in the area of international trade theory, particularly on the issue of tariffs. His work on the history of tariffs in the United States remained influential well into the twentieth century. He started and supervised a program of “verification” of international trade theory.

Although he supported free trade economy, he opposed unions, expressing reservations about their role in the national economy. He was also skeptical about compulsory social insurance and unemployment insurance. He supported the monometallist position, advocating the use of one metal only, gold or silver, as a monetary standard. These views revealed Taussig to be a relatively conservative economist.

Taussig was an opponent of the idea of a "marginalist revolution," arguing instead in favor of the congruity of classical and neoclassical economics. In 1896, he tried to resurrect the almost forgotten "wage-fund" doctrine, the theory that workers’ wages are determined by a ratio of capital to the population of available workers. In 1911, he published his acclaimed Principles of Economics, which further contributed to the theory of wages.

Taussig was somewhat sympathetic to ideas of the Austrian school, particularly Böhm-Bawerk's theory of capital. However, he opposed the radical, high-theory of marginalism as well as American institutionalism. Due to the fact that he lived and worked in the time of institutionalism, he did share some points with that school of thought.

Taussig always viewed economics in the context of political economy. He studied economic problems not as independent entities, but in their social and historical context. He was thus skeptical of the belief that behind economic behavior lay solely egoism and hedonism, regarding such thinking of human motivation as an oversimplification of human nature. He tried to shift attention to other elements of the social environment that played an important role in economic activity.


Taussig was often regarded as the "American Marshall," not only because he had a strong affinity for the doctrines of Alfred Marshall, but also because he shared with Marshall a strong personality with which he influenced American economics. His important position at Harvard University, his influential 1911 textbook, and his control of the Quarterly Journal of Economics helped Taussig spread his version of Cambridge neoclassicism throughout the United States. His work influenced such economists as Jacob Viner, John H. Williams, and J. W. Angell.


  • Taussig, Frank W. 1883. The Protection to Young Industries as Applied in the United States: A Study in Economic History. Cambridge, MA: M. King.
  • Taussig, Frank W. [1888] 2000. The Tariff History of the United States. Adamant Media Corporation. ISBN 1402197853
  • Taussig, Frank W. [1891] 2000. The Silver Situation in the United States. Books for Business. ISBN 0894990160
  • Taussig, Frank W. [1896] 2000. Wages and Capital. Honolulu, HI: University Press of the Pacific. ISBN 0898751217
  • Taussig, Frank W. 1905. The Present Position of the Doctrine of Free Trade. Boston: American Free Trade League.
  • Taussig, Frank W. [1911] 2003. Principles of Economics. San Diego, CA: Simon Publications. ISBN 1932512063
  • Taussig, Frank W. [1915] 1971. Some Aspects of the Tariff Question: An Examination of the Development of American Industries under Protection. New York: AMS Press. ISBN 0404063489
  • Taussig, Frank W. 1920. Free Trade, the Tariff and Reciprocity. New York: Macmillan.
  • Taussig, Frank W. 1927. International Trade. Augustus M. Kelley Pubs. ISBN 067800157X
  • Taussig, Frank W. 1929. The Opposition of Interest between Employer and Employee: Difficulties and Remedies. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Alumni Association.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Bruce, Kyle. 2005. Frank W. Taussig's Institutionalism. Journal of Economic Issues 39(1): 205.
  • Encyclopedia Britannica Online, Frank W. Taussig. Retrieved October 4, 2007.
  • Schumpeter, Joseph A. 2003. Ten Great Economists: From Marx to Keynes. San Diego, CA: Simon Publications. ISBN 1932512098

External links

All links retrieved April 9, 2024.


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