Constitutional tariffs, incidental protection, and the Laffer relationship in the early United States

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10602-008-9060-6

Cite this article as:
Magness, P.W. Const Polit Econ (2009) 20: 177. doi:10.1007/s10602-008-9060-6


This article explores an early attempt to establish a constitutional constraint on tariffs utilizing the Laffer Curve relationship. In 1842 John Calhoun suggested that the curve’s revenue maximization apex could be used to differentiate between “Revenue” and “Protective” tariffs independently from the non-judiciable question of legislative motive. When admitted that a tax must actually be collected to remain constitutionally valid, the apex functions as a de facto upper tariff rate constraint. Despite subsequently falling in disfavor, Calhoun’s argument illustrates the importance of political economy on the constitutional level by recognizing conditions that induce policymakers to rationally raise tax rates at the expense.


Tariffs Protection Laffer Curve 

JEL Classification

H20 K10 N41 N71 F13 

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.George Mason UniversityViennaUSA

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