Edited by Jürgen G. Backhaus
Chapter 34: Friedrich List (1789-1846)
Amo Mong Daastol Introduction Friedrich List was one of the earliest and most severe critics of the Classical School of Economics, the tradition of the Physiocrats and Adam Smith. His theoretical system is an empirically oriented system, in the sense that he claimed it to be based on historical experience. It is nonetheless logical and therefore coherent. List is generally known as a proponent of a protective, nationalist economic policy and of railroad construction in the early 19th century. This is only correct from a superficial point of view, as his fundamental ideas were far wider reaching, dealing with questions like the ultimate and immaterial basis of economics and of civilization, within a dynamic long-term, global perspective. List agreed with Smith on the desirability of global free trade. He claimed, however, that instant and radical free trade would lead to a monopoly under the strongest nation, technologically and economically. Other nations therefore had to be lifted up to the level of the leading nation. This had to be done gradually through legal and regulatory arrangements, involving, among other instruments, limited and differentiated protection at home and international legal agreements. List may be a greater free trader than his main adversary, Adam Smith, in the sense that List’s strategy would promote long-term competition to a larger degree than would Smith’s strategy, and thereby promote wealth creation more efficiently. This is a matter of perspective, of time, and of economic complexity, regarding for instance the interrelationship between markets. List would claim that...
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