F. W. Taussig

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F. W. Taussig
Frank William Taussig circa 1915.jpg
Taussig, c.1915
Frank William Taussig

(1859-12-28)December 28, 1859
DiedNovember 11, 1940(1940-11-11) (aged 80)
  • Edith Thomas Guild
    (m. 1888;died 1910)
  • Laura Fisher
    (m. 1918)
Academic background
Alma mater Harvard University
Influences Charles F. Dunbar
Academic work
Discipline Economics
Sub-discipline International economics
Institutions Harvard University
Doctoral students

Frank William Taussig (1859–1940) was an American economist who is credited with creating the foundations of modern trade theory.


Early life

Wages and Capital, 1935 Taussig - Wages and capital, 1935 - 5780967.tif
Wages and Capital, 1935

He was born on December 28, 1859, in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of William Taussig and Adele Wuerpel. His parents encouraged his literary and musical interests, and he played the violin at an early age. He was educated in the St. Louis public schools and at Smith Academy in that same city. He then went to Washington University there but, after a year transferred to Harvard from where he graduated in 1879. [4]

He traveled in Europe for a year, taking some time to study economics at the University of Berlin. He then did graduate work at Harvard in law and economics while he was secretary to President Charles W. Eliot for some years.


He got a law degree in 1886 and was appointed assistant professor at Harvard. [5] He became professor of economics in 1892, and he remained at Harvard for the balance of his professional career except for several years spent in federal service and some time spent traveling in Europe recovering from a nervous disorder. [4]


Taussig was an open advocate of forced sterilization of races and classes he considered inferior. In his 1911 textbook Principles of Economics, Taussing remarked:

Certain types of criminals and paupers breed only their kind, and society has a right and a duty to protect its members from the repeated burden of maintaining and guarding such parasites. ... The human race could be immensely improved in quality, and its capacity for happy living immensely increased, if those of poor physical and mental endowment were prevented from multiplying. [6]

Paul Douglas (a future president of the American Economic Association and three-term Senator from Illinois) was a graduate student under Taussig at Harvard in the Fall of 1915 and recalled the experience. Douglas had studied two years in graduate school at Columbia University with Edwin Seligman, who was an ideological enemy of Taussig. Given the opportunity to criticize the Columbia school of economic thought by confronting Douglas, Taussig attempted to humiliate him to the delight of the Harvard pupils who filled the lecture hall to witness the "slaughter". Eventually, Douglas turned the tables and trapped Taussig in a logical economic debate. Douglas recalled, "The following day, Taussig cordially shook hands with me at the end of the hour. ... We also became fast friends for the rest of his life. Trying as the experience was, it was the best thing to happen to me in my academic life. It forced me to master the reasoning of the great economic theorists and to stand my ground under verbal and logical bombardment." [7]

Beet sugar and tariff

In a 1912 article in The Quarterly Journal of Economics , Taussig favored protecting the beet sugar industry with a tariff on sugar imports. A beet sugar industry gives intangible benefits by adding to the versatility and capabilities of American agriculture. Unskilled labor gains employment in the labor-intensive beet sugar sector of agriculture. Beet sugar grows best in cool climates of the irrigated regions of Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Montana, and California. [8]

Other positions held

He was the editor of the Quarterly Journal of Economics from 1889 to 1890 and from 1896 to 1935, president of the American Economic Association in 1904 and 1905, and chair of the United States Tariff Commission from 1917 to 1919.

In March 1919, he was called to Paris to advise in the adjustment of commercial treaties, and in November, on invitation of Woodrow Wilson, he attended the second industrial conference in Washington, DC, for promoting peace between capital and labour. He was a strong supporter of the League of Nations.


He died on November 11, 1940, aged 80, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Taussig is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge.


The successor to his chair at Harvard was Joseph Schumpeter. In 1888, he married Edith Thomas Guild. One of their four children was Helen B. Taussig (1898–1986), a noted pediatrician and cardiologist. F. W. Taussig's first wife died in 1910, and he married Laura Fisher. [4] [5]


Taussig (second from the left) at the 1911 Harvard commencement Harvard Commencement 1911.jpg
Taussig (second from the left) at the 1911 Harvard commencement

Much of Taussigs work is available from Internet Archive:

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  1. http://www.irwincollier.com/harvard-ph-d-examination-candidates-in-economics-1914/
  2. Holmes, Gordon (2013). Staples, Political Economy and Trade Flows: A New Interpretation and Quantitative Evidence (PhD thesis). Hamilton, Ontario: McMaster University. p. 100. hdl: 11375/15304 .
  3. Moggridge, Donald E. (2014). "Review of The Battle of Bretton Woods: John Maynard Keynes, Harry Dexter White and the Making of a New World Order, by Benn Steil". Œconomia. 4 (4): 647–650. doi: 10.4000/oeconomia.1043 . ISSN   2269-8450.
  4. 1 2 3 Edward S. Mason (1958). "Taussig, Frank William". Dictionary of American Biography . Supplement Two. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
  5. 1 2 Ann T. Keene (1999). "Taussig, Frank William". American National Biography (online ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/anb/9780198606697.article.1400620.(subscription required)
  6. F. W. Taussig (1915). Principles of Economics. pp.  236–.
  7. Douglas, Paul H. (1971). In the Fullness of Time. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. pp. 28–34.
  8. Taussig, F. W. (1912). "Beet Sugar and the Tariff". The Quarterly Journal of Economics. 26 (2): 189–214. doi:10.2307/1884763. JSTOR   1884763.