Why Chamberlain failed and Bismarck succeeded: The political economy of tariffs in British and German elections
This article analyses three crucial elections which determined the fate of free trade in Britain and Germany. These are the elections of 1906 in the UK and 1877 and 1878 in Germany. We examine the political economy of trade policy by examining the voting patterns of the electorates in their choice of commercial policy. The underlying hypothesis to be explored is that voting behaviour was based on the economic interests of the constituents as determined by the international trade performance of the sector in which they were employed. An econometric model reveals the degree to which the support for and opposition to free trade was based on occupational characteristics and well explains the outcome for Germany in 1877. The analysis for Britain extends previous work by Irwin (1994) by assessing how considerations of turnout, religion and restricted voting rights alter the results of his original model. In 1878 in Germany religious affiliation and turnout played a significant role in the result although not in the ways assumed by historians, in particular the outcome of the election was not determined by the mobilisation of agricultural labourers on the great estates. The results of estimating the model shows that franchise restrictions contributed to the victory of free trade in Britain, but their absence had no impact on the result in Germany.
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