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On Adam Smith on Mercantilism

Summary:
If you read Adam Smith’s monumental 1776 work, An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, you cannot miss – especially when you get to the peak of the work’s crescendo (Book IV) – Smith’s complete disdain for mercantilism. Mercantilism was nonsense in Smith’s day – and he exposed this nonsense with brilliance and relish. Mercantilism remains nonsense in our day. In any era it is nonsense on steroids. The fact that mercantilism is a dogma cherished by the likes of Donald Trump, Peter Navarro, and Sherrod Brown (among many others) does nothing to recommend it or to scrub it free of any of its countless fallacies. Here’s the first of a series of short videos in which I answer questions about Adam Smith’s understanding of trade and trade policy. (For producing these

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If you read Adam Smith’s monumental 1776 work, An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, you cannot miss – especially when you get to the peak of the work’s crescendo (Book IV) – Smith’s complete disdain for mercantilism. Mercantilism was nonsense in Smith’s day – and he exposed this nonsense with brilliance and relish.

Mercantilism remains nonsense in our day. In any era it is nonsense on steroids. The fact that mercantilism is a dogma cherished by the likes of Donald Trump, Peter Navarro, and Sherrod Brown (among many others) does nothing to recommend it or to scrub it free of any of its countless fallacies.

Here’s the first of a series of short videos in which I answer questions about Adam Smith’s understanding of trade and trade policy. (For producing these videos I thank my Mercatus Center colleague Matt Beal.)

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Don Boudreaux
He is a professor of economics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Previously, he was president of the Foundation for Economic Education.

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