Frank W. Taussig

Taussig’s Early Life and Education

Frank William Taussig (18591940) was born in St. Louis, Missouri.

Taussig’s father was a physician and businessman, who was involved in the construction of the Eads Bridge connecting St. Louis with East St. Louis, Illinois, which was completed in 1874. The Eads Bridge, which still stands, was the first to be built across the Mississippi River south of its confluence with the Missouri River.

Taussig’s parents encouraged his early literary and musical interests. The boy learned to play the violin at an early age.

Taussig attended public elementary schools, while for his secondary education he attended a private St. Louis boys’ school called Smith Academy.

For his higher education, Taussig initially attended Washington University (now “Washington University in St. Louis”), before transferring to Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Taussig received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard in 1879. He then spent a year in Europe, where he studied economics the University of Berlin.

Upon returning to the US, Taussig reentered Harvard, where he studied for a law degree. During his graduate studies, he served as a secretary to Harvard President Charles W. Eliot for several years.

In 1886, Taussig received his law degree from Harvard.

Taussig’s Career

Immediately upon graduation, Taussig was offered a position as assistant professor of economics at Harvard. In 1892, he was promoted to full professor.

Apart from a few years devoted to government service and to traveling in Europe for health reasons, Taussig spent his entire career at Harvard.

Over his years at Harvard, Taussig taught many students who went on to have distinguished careers, perhaps most notably, Jacob Viner.

Taussig was deeply involved with activities designed to bolster the professional status of the young discipline of economics. For example, Taussig was editor of the Quarterly Journal of Economics from 1889 until 1890 and again from 1896 until 1935.

Moreover, Taussig was elected president of the American Economic Association twice, in 1904 and in 1905, and served as chair of the United States Tariff Commission during World War I, between 1917 and 1919.

In addition to his professional activities as an economist, Taussig was a vocal advocate of eugenics, a now-discredited belief system inspired by Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection, which was widespread in American academia at the time.

Taussig’s Ideas

Taussig was an important conduit of neo-Classical economic ideas from England to the US during the last two decades of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth century.

Taussig was sometimes referred to as the “American Marshall.” However, he earned this sobriquet not just for his advocacy of Alfred Marshall’s actual doctrines, but also for the central role that he played in the establishment of economics as a professional discipline in the US, which was analogous to the role that Marshall played in the UK.

In addition to Taussig’s professional activities already mentioned above, his 1911 textbook, Principles of Economics, reprinted in 1915 and 1927, was one of the principal conduits of this influence.

On the other hand, Taussig was not a dogmatic follower of Marshall or anyone else. Indeed, he opposed placing inordinate stress on the “Marginalist Revolution,” emphasizing instead the continuity between Classical and neo-Classical economics. An example of this was his effort in 1896 to resurrect the forgotten “wages-fund” doctrine.

Taussig generally accepted the principles of Austrian economics, especially the theory of capital of Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk. However, he took a dim view in general of economic theorizing conducted at a high level of abstraction, such as Marginalism and the American version of Institutionalism.

Taussig’s own main contribution to economics was in the area of international trade. More specifically, he was considered an authority on the issue of tariffs.

While Taussig’s support for free trade was decidedly qualified, he was considered quite conservative in other ways, such as his suspicion of labor unions and of silver coinage.

Selected Works by Taussig

Protection to Young Industries as Applied to the United States: A Study in Economic History (1883).

The History of the Present Tariff, 1860–1883 (1885).

“The New School of Economists and the History of Economics,” Science, 8: 3334 (1886).

The Tariff History of the United States: A Series of Essays (1888).

“The Early Protective Movement and the Tariff of 1828,” Political Science Quarterly, 3: 17–45 (1888).

“Some Aspects of the Tariff Question,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 3: 259–292 (1889).

The Silver Situation in the United States (1892).

“Reciprocity,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 7: 26–39 (1892).

“Recent Literature on Protection,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 7: 162–176 (1893).

“Results of Recent Investigations on Prices in the United States,” Publications of the American Statistical Association, 3: 487491 (1893).

“The Wages-Fund Doctrine at the Hands of German Economists,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 9: 1–25 (1894).

“The Tariff Act of 1894,” Political Science Quarterly, 9: 585–609 (1894).

“The Employer’s Place in Distribution,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 10: 6794 (1895).

Wages and Capital: An Examination of the Wages Fund Doctrine (1896).

“The Tariff Act of 1897,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 12: 42–69 (1897).

“The United States Treasury in 1894–1896,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 13: 204–218 (1899).

“The Taxation of Securities in the United States,” Political Science Quarterly, 14: 102–127 (1899).

“The Iron Industry in the United States,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 14: 143170, 475–508 (1900).

“The Currency Act of 1900,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 14: 394–415 (1900).

“The Present Position of the Doctrine of Free Trade,” Publications of the American Economic Association, 3rd Series, 6(1), Part I: 2965 (1905).

“The Tariff Debate of 1909 and the New Tariff Act,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 24: 1–38 (1909).

“Outlines of a Theory of Wages,” American Economic Association Quarterly, 3rd Series, 11: 136–156 (1910).

Principles of Economics (two volumes) (1911).

“How Tariffs Should Not Be Made,” American Economic Review, 1: 20–32 (1911).

“Beet Sugar and the Tariff,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 26: 189214 (1912).

“The Tariff Act of 1913,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 28: 1–30 (1913).

Inventors and Money Makers; Lectures on Some Relations Between Economics and Psychology (1915).

“Price Maintenance,” American Economic Review, 6(1), Supplement: 170–184 (1916).

“The Proposal for a Tariff Commission,” North American Review, 203: 194–204 (1916).

“Exhaustion of the Soil and the Theory of Rent,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 31: 345–348 (1917).

 Some Aspects of the Tariff Question (1918).

“The Financial Situation: A General Survey,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 75: 1–11 (1918).

“How to Promote Foreign Trade,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 32: 417–445 (1918).

“The Present and Future of the International Trade of the United States,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 34: 1–21 (1919).

“Price-Fixing as Seen by a Price-Fixer,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 33: 205–241 (1919).

“The Present and Future of the International Trade of the United States,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 34: 1–21 (1919).

Free Trade, the Tariff, and Reciprocity (1920).

“Review: Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 34: 381–387 (1920).

Selected Readings in International Trade and Tariff Problems (1921).

“Is Market Price Determinate?,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 35: 394411 (1921).

“The Tariff Act of 1922,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 37: 1–28 (1922).

International Trade (1927).

Selected Works About Taussig

Bruce, Kyle, “Frank W. Taussig’s Institutionalism,” Journal of Economic Issues, 39: 205220 (2005).

Hollander, Jacob H., “International Trade Under Depreciated Paper: A Criticism,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 32: 674–690 (1918).

Newman Jonathan, “Introduction,” in Frank W. Taussig, Wages and Capital, online edition (2016).

Samuels, Warren J., “Ashley’s and Taussig’s Lectures on the History of Economic Thought at Harvard, 1896–1897,” History of Political Economy, 9: 384–411 (1977).

Samuels, Warren J., “Introduction,” in Frank W. Taussig, Inventors and Money-Makers. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers (1989).

Schumpeter, Joseph A., Arthur H. Cole, and Edward S. Mason, “Frank William Taussig,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 55: 337363 (1941).

Viner, Jacob, et al., Explorations in Economics, Notes and Essays Contributed in Honor of F.W. Taussig (1936).