There’ve been many confusing articles about the impact of the US-China trade war. One way to gain perspective is to consider what happened after the depression of the 1930s, when world trade imploded for more than a decade.

A major contributor to this calamity was America’s Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, which imposed draconian duties on imports into the US. Economists implored President Herbert Hoover not to sign it — he ignored them...

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