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In the 17th and 18th centuries, the United Kingdom rose to a position of unheralded prominence in the European continent and became the first realm in Western Europe to become developed. The depth of the vast change that came about can be evaluated through the changes that were witnessed in the economic and social conditions that were experienced by the country’s citizens. Between 1650 and 1670, the economy of Britain was founded on the agricultural sector. Merchant ships, though, set out to do business with countries in North America and the West Indies where not only had colonies been established before but citizens had emigrated to these lands by the thousands.
These colonies shipped goods worth over a million pounds to London in a year, which included sugar, cotton and other items for which consumer demand was increasingly growing. Growing overseas business with colonies inspired merchants to turn out ships to get in touch with these lands and trade in goods for use of the emergent pioneer communities. Slaves, forcibly captured off the coasts of Africa, provided the labor needed to tend the farms and perform other menial tasks as relate to manufacture of the needed exports. Adam Smith, a liberal economist, viewed mercantilism as a march backwards in the progress of economical notions.
He did not believe that the world capital was static; as held true by proponents of mercantilism who also believed amount of wealth a country is a real measure. They emphasized export over imports would place a country in a good position to have more clout than its neighbors. His theories encouraged British citizens in colonies to do away with reliance on their original country and to instead espouse their economic freedom and use it to improve their own lives. Adam Smith held that a person’s desire to improve his own life by accruing growing profits in business would not clash with his urge to assist the disenfranchised if the capitalist side of him was allowed to develop unchecked. To his way of thinking, the most long-lasting change would be realized if capitalists were allowed to thrive because the industries then created would also benefit the poor in society in a much more beneficial way than if they had programmes of assistance specifically created to cater for them.
Mercantile driven economies, in contrast, believe in their governments instituting policies that coerce weaker societies and leave them economically at the mercy of the bullying nation for all their resources. Slavery thrived on just this kind of presumption but with a much greater brutal streak. Smith taught that costs and income would involuntarily reach the best possible levels, having been guided by the Deity, if such liberated trade was encouraged. Smith considered that the responsibility of government should be constrained to defending trading pacts under law, conceding government grants and copyrights as encouraging reasons for operation of businesses and in providing municipal works such as high-quality road networks that would profit the whole society. It is a contrast from mercantilism holding that governments should dominantly support their budding business enterprises by ratifying policies to protect their interests even if at the cost of another country’s economy.
Practices such as wholesale theft of third world economies’ minerals among other products have been endorsed by this practice.
How did Jean Baptiste Colbert Feature in the move for Mercantile Capitalism?
In France, the minister of finance under Louis XIV, Jean Baptiste Colbert augmented port duties on alien craft entering French ports and endowed bounties on French ship constructors. Colbert was totally sold on the mercantile capitalist’s dream and felt that its opponents were businesspersons with small private holdings that would not amount to much. He believed that businesspersons who wanted to compete among themselves were not seeing or grasping the importance of sticking together and providing a united front against prospective foreign competitors.
The mercantilist dreams of Colbert consisted of preserving and maintaining gold ingots in the realm so that it could stream into reserves of state, barring the export of gold bars, alliancing through exceptional high principles of quality, sponsorship of exports and limiting of imports until France became fully sufficient in itself. Colbert also believed that the number of resources in the world that could be used for business purposes was already fixed. That the amount of business traffic in the world, number of transport vessels and the total amount of manufacturing possible was fixed and could not be adjusted. Thriving in trade certainly would mean depriving some other state of this predetermined quantum. A severe man, Colbert believed in forced labor to utilize the energy of vagabonds in producing more revenue for king and country.
Extending the implementation of his ideas to embrace the realm of the arts, Colbert persisted and brought creative and academic expression under state control so that this could also contribute to the service of the King. The palace of Versailles is the remarkable result of his efforts. Even after his death, his rules continued to be enforced. Defensive levies were significantly augmented, imports of various wares restricted to precise docks, value policies fortified, and innovations queued for the security of trade and professional status quo.
Colbert gave unparalleled momentum to business and spread the kingdom’s authority around the globe, eventually instigating corporations such as, Comagnie Des Indes Orientales. The introduction of presence of the French in Quebec that persists to this day is also attributed to his ruthless policies. His name lives on in the notion of Colbertism, a financial theory involving exacting state management and protectionism.