Early English Mercantilists and the Support of Liberal Institutions

BRUCE ELMSLIE
HISTORY OF POLITICAL ECONOMY 47.3 (2015): 419-449

Abstract: Ever since Adam Smith and David Hume launched an assault on specific mercantilist policies, most economists have been of a similar opinion regarding the mercantilists: they were a loose group of writers who failed to grasp the proper workings of the economy, and/or they were simply a group of writers following their own narrow interests and argued for policies that furthered those interests at the expense of the general welfare. New work in the economic history of Europe from 1500 to 1800 suggests a reexamination of the role played by early mercantilist writers. The link between the Atlantic trade, mercantile interests, and institutional change favoring individual property rights outside of the monarch’s inner circle suggests another broader interpretation of some prominent mercantilist writers as institutional reformers.