Who benefited from mercantilism?


Quick Answer

Mercantilism benefited the mother country while hindering the progress of colonists; in particular, mercantilism favored manufacturers and ultimately the ruling government. The goal of mercantilism was not the prosperity of the general public but the financial potency of the state. This focus on state competition in the face of new theories emphasizing the mutually beneficial nature of trade led to mercantilism's gradual decline as a governing ideology.

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Full Answer

Mercantilism was the economic counterpart of political absolutism and nationalism. It was dominant in Europe between the 16th and 18th centuries, when major international wars plagued the continent. Mercantilist practices were intended to strengthen the state by increasing tax revenue and augmenting monetary reserves while simultaneously weakening enemy states by limiting their sales and access to goods.

Thus, mercantilist policies were formed with the benefit of the state — not the people, and especially not colonists — in mind. The government often forbade colonists to trade with foreign nations or carry trade in foreign ships. If it did allow outside goods to be sold within its borders, these were subject to high tariffs. The measures hurt the public by raising the prices of goods, minimizing the market for manufacturers and sellers, and placing consumers at the mercy of often state-sponsored monopolies.

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