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Mercantilists





Schools of economic thought and some of the great names

· Mercantilists

· Physiocrats

· Classical Economics: Adam Smith and David Ricardo

· Karl Marx

· Neoclassical Economics

· John Maynard Keynes

· Monetarists: Milton Friedman

· Paul Samuelson

The first systematic thinkers were the mercantilists of the 16th – 18th centuries. The major emerging nation-states of Europe believed in the economic theory of mercantilism. Mercantilists argued that nations should behave as if they were merchants competing with one another for profit. Accordingly, governments should support industry by enacting laws designed to keep labor and other production costs low, and exports high. In this way the nation could achieve what was called a ‘favorable balance of trade’, a situation in which exports exceeded imports. The excess, which was like profits to a merchant, would result in an increase in the nation's supply of gold or silver.

To achieve favorable trade balances, the major European powers sought to acquire colonies. Colonies, it was thought, could provide the ‘mother country’ with cheap labor, rawmaterials and a market for its manufactured goods.

In an effort to achieve these goals in their American colonies, the British, for example, enacted the Navigation Acts. The Navigation Acts protected British industry by prohibiting the colonies from producing certain goods like hats, woolen products and wrought iron (кованое железо). Protest against the Navigation Acts was so great that they are regarded as one of the principal causes of the American Revolution.

Mercantilist practices inspired numerous ideas. David Hume (1711-1776) suggested his brilliant gold-flow mechanism to demonstrate how the mercantilists’ gold inflow would eventually end up raising prices rather than output.





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