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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 65 of Joel Mokyr’s wonderful 2009 volume, The Enlightened Economy: An Economic History of Britain 1700-1850; Mokyr argues – correctly, in my view – that the suppression both of mercantilist notions and of the growth-debilitating policies to which these notions give rise was necessary for the great creation of widespread prosperity in Britain (citation removed):

British mercantilism was rooted not so much in deep analytical economic thought as in the needs of foreign policy in combination with special rent-seeking interests.  The British fought wars with other nations over colonies, trade routes, and commercial monopolies.  Enlightenment thinkers developed a growing conviction that wars over foreign resources and colonies often made little sense.  (Adam Smith was scathing about colonial adventures.)  Instead, the concept of free trade took root.  Lord Mansfield, the influential Lord Chief Justice, was a free trader to the point that he supported trade with the enemy.  The dominant idea was that free trade between nations, unregulated and unfettered labor markets, the abolition of monopolies and various so-called “freedoms” (in reality, special deals), free markets in grain and other necessities, and other reforms were key to economic prosperity.  These pathbreaking notions took a long time to take hold and had to overcome powerful resistance.  But slowly, with many reversals and setbacks, these ideas became established in Britain, and the continued growth of the British economy cannot be imagined without them.