Liberty and American Civilization

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2. Abraham Lincoln and the Triumph of Mercantilism in America

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06/06/2006Thomas J. DiLorenzo

Alexander Hamilton wanted the colonies to be just like Britain, but without a king. He pushed mercantilism in America by arguing that public debt was positive and central banking was necessary.

High tariffs, especially on manufactured goods, are an almost universal feature of mercantilist policy. Yet it was just that system that the colonists had rejected by seceding from Britain. The goal of mercantilist economic policies was to build up the state and benefit a small group of elite merchants and government bureaucrats.

Murray Rothbard, representing the Austrian School of economics, describes it this way:

Mercantilism, which reached its height in the Europe of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, was a system of statism which employed economic fallacy to build up a structure of imperial state power, as well as special subsidy and monopolistic privilege to individuals or groups favored by the state. Thus, mercantilism held exports should be encouraged by the government and imports discouraged.

Lecture 2 of 10 from the Steven Berger Seminar: Thomas DiLorenzo on Liberty and American Civilization.


Contact Thomas J. DiLorenzo

Thomas DiLorenzo is professor of economics at Loyola University Maryland and a member of the senior faculty of the Mises Institute. He is the author of The Real Lincoln; How Capitalism Saved America; Lincoln Unmasked; Hamilton's Curse; Organized Crime: The Unvarnished Truth About Government; and The Problem with Socialism.

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