In the last few years we’ve seen critiques of free trade from across the political spectrum. Trump focused on the US-China trade imbalance, while the left focuses its ire on free trade agreements themselves.
It’s, of course, not the first time that protectionist ideas have found currency in a globalizing economy.
In the late 18th century a theory known as ‘neomercantilism’ began to thrive in a number of western countries. It was a theory, most famously espoused by the German thinker Friedrich List, that focused on protectionism and government activism to create an industrial state. But as Eric Helleiner, a political science professor at the University of Waterloo explores in his new book ‘The Neomercantilists,’ this movement did not start in Europe and diffuse out to the rest of the world. Rather, it was a truly global phenomenon, with intellectual roots springing up everywhere from Africa to Asia to Latin America.
On this episode Mark talks with Eric about the neglected intellectual traditions that gave rise to varieties of neomercantilism. Eric’s analysis not only helps explain the protectionist revivals of today. It also challenges Western readers’ assumptions about how economic theory develops, and how economic ideas gain influence around the world.
Original video: https://m.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=45&v=RQgdvUlvHXM&feature=emb_logo
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