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What was the theory of mercantilism?



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Mercantilism was the economic philosophy underlying early European colonial policy. The object of mercantilism was to increase the wealth of the Mother Country (England) in gold and silver. To accomplish that goal, a favorable balance of trade was desired. That means that a nation would sell more than it would purchase, thus creating a surplus in the treasury. The name of the philosophy points out the importance of merchants in this policy. Merchants would sell products to foreign nations and purchased items to be sold within the nation. Theorists using this model tended to view the market as a pie that was up for grabs. Wealth was always gained at the expense of other nations. For some, the ideal was to become self-sufficient. The nation would produce everything its people needed and buy nothing from foreign nations -- thus the idea of the trade deficit. Since the ideal could not be accomplished in the real world of economics, the object of mercantilism was to minimize imports that cost money and maximize exports and the trade that brought money in to the nation.