mercantilism

Disciplines: Economics, Political Science

Theory of the responsibility of the state to protect and promote national wealth by encouraging exports and limiting imports.

Since wealth is limited, trade between nations is a zero-sum game, so one country can only benefit at the expense of another.

Mercantilism was advocated by a number of English, French and German writers, many of whom were merchants. Leading Mercantilists included GERALD MALYNES (1586-1641), THOMAS MUN (1571-1623) and John Locke (1632-1704).

Mercantilists welcomed government involvement in economic matters as a means of stimulating the creation of wealth, and favored such policies as high-import tariffs, prohibition of bullion exports, and exchange control.

Source:
E F Heckscher, Mercantilism (London, 1935); David Miller et al., eds, The Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Political Thought (Oxford, 1987)

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