Mercantile Oppression   Leave a comment

Mercantilism sought enrich the monarch of a particular country at the expense of other countries and even the people of that monarch’s country. This was accomplished by preventing the king’s subjects from freely trading with buyers and sellers in other countries. The power of the state prohibited transactions the king disapproved and compelled manufacturers to produce what the monarch deemed desirable and to sell them at prices that the king considered “just” and “fair.”

Image result for image of colonial oppression

France was the powerhouse of mercantilism economic commands. Royal France, perhaps, was the most determined in imposing and enforcing the Mercantilist economic commands. The famous French classical liberal and advocate of free enterprise, Charles Dunoyer (1786-1862), explained the extent and form of many of these government controls and regulations in his book, The Passage to Liberty(1845):

“The State exercised over manufacturing industry the most unlimited and arbitrary jurisdiction. It disposed without scruple of the resources of manufacturers; it decided who shall be allowed to work, what things it should be permitted to make, what materials should be employed, what processes followed, what forms should be given to production.

“It was not enough to do well, to do better; it was necessary to do according to the rules … Not the tastes of the consumers, but the commands of the law must be attended to. Legions of inspectors, commissioners, controllers, jurymen, guardians were charged with its execution.

“Machines were broken; products were burned when not conformable to the rules. There were different sets of rules for goods destined for home consumption and for those intended for exportation. An artisan could neither choose the place in which to establish himself, nor work at all seasons, nor work for all customers.

“There exists a decree of March 30, 1700, which limits to eighteen towns the number of places where stockings might be woven. A decree of June 18, 1723, enjoins the manufacturers of Rouen to suspend their works from the 1st of July to the 15th of September, in order to facilitate the harvest.

“Louis XIV, when he intended to construct the colonnade of the Louvre, forbade all private persons to employ workmen without his permission, with a penalty of 10,000 livres, and forbade workmen to work for private persons, on pain for the first offense, of imprisonment, and for the second, of the galleys.” Charles Dunoyer (1786-1862), The Passage to Liberty(1845):

Monsieur Roland of Rouen described the treatment of businessmen and merchants accused of violating the rules and regulations imposed by the government under mercantilism.

“The manufacturers were summoned, tried, and condemned; their goods were confiscated; copies of their judgment of confiscation posted in every public place; fortune, reputation, credit, all lost and destroyed.

“And for what offense? Because they had made of worsted a kind of cloth called shag, such as the English used to manufacture, and even sell in France, while the French regulations stated that that kind of cloth should be made of mohair.

“I have seen other manufacturers treated in the same way, because they had made camlets [the collars on women’s blouses] of a particular width, used in England and Germany, for which there was a great demand from Spain, Portugal, and other countries, and from other parts of France, for which the French regulations prescribed other widths.” Jerome-Adolph Blanqui, History of Political Economy in Europe (1846)

Alexis d’Tocqueville (1805-1859) provided one of the best descriptions of just how pervasive mercantilist regulations and controls extended into every corner of French society. Yes, that is the same d’Tocqueville who wrote Democracy in America.

“The government had a hand in the management of all the cities in the kingdom, great and small. It was consulted on all subjects, and gave decided opinions on all; it even regulated festivals. It was the government that gave orders for public rejoicing, fireworks, and illuminations …

“You have neither Parliament, nor estates, nor governors; nothing but thirty masters of   requests [i.e., the heads of the bureaucratic planning agencies in Paris], on whom, so far as the provinces are concerned, welfare, misery, plenty or want entirely depend …

“Under the old regime, as in our own day, neither city, nor borough, nor village, nor hamlet, however small, nor hospital, nor church, nor convent, nor college could exercise a free will in its private affairs, or administer its property, as it thought best. Then, as now, the administration was the guardian of the whole French people …

“A very extensive machinery was requisite before the government could know everything and manage everything in Paris. The amounts of documents filed were enormous, and the slowness with which public business was transacted was such that I have been unable to discover any case in which a village obtained permission to raise its church steeple or repair its presbytery in less than a year. Generally speaking, two or three years lapsed before such petitions were granted …

“Ministers are overloaded with business details. Everything is done by them or through them, and if their information be not coextensive with their power, they are forced to let their clerks act as they please, and become the real masters of the country [i.e., authority was delegated to a permanent bureaucracy] …

“A marked characteristic of the French government, even in those days, was the hatred it bore to everyone, whether noble or not, who presumed to meddle with public affairs without its knowledge. It took fright at the organization of the least public body that ventured to exist without permission. It was disturbed by the formation of free society. It could brook no association but such as it had arbitrarily formed, and over which it presided. In a word, it objected to people looking over their own concerns, and preferred general inertia to rivalry …

“Government having assumed the place of Providence, people naturally invoked its aid for their private wants. Heaps of petitions were received from persons who wanted their petty private ends served, always for the public good …

“Nobody expected to succeed in any enterprise unless the state helped them. Farmers, who, as a class, are generally stubborn and indocile, were led to believe that the backwardness of agriculture was due to the lack of advice and aid from government …

“Sad reading, this: Farmers begging to be reimbursed the value of lost cattle or horses; men in easy circumstances begging for a loan to enable them to work their land to more advantage; manufacturers begging for monopolies to crush out competition; businessmen confiding their pecuniary embarrassments to the intendant [the local bureaucrat], and begging for assistance or a loan. It would appear that the public funds were liable to be used in this way …

“France is nothing but Paris and a few distant provinces that Paris has not yet had time to swallow up.” Tocqueville, The French Revolution and the Old Regime (1856)

While mercantilism restricted the domestic economy, it strangled the colonial economy. Mercantilism called for the “mother country” to possess valuable colonies around the world so that they might control useful resources and raw materials that may be essential for its economic development. It would also secure essential supplies during times of war with other nation-states.

thewillowbranchMercantilism required the “mother country” to keep and maintain its colonial territories in a subservient position. For example, the British government attempted to limit the development of manufacturing in its 13 American colonies. Their dependency on the “mother country” for manufactured finished goods in exchange for colonial raw materials would make it more difficult for such colonies to become economically independent of the “mother country and would assure that the “mother country” could make a net gain – a “positive” balance of trade” – even with its own colonial dependencies. Colonial dependency on the “mother country” for manufactured finished goods made it more difficult to achieve independence.

In Daermad Cycle, the invading Svard seek to set up economic ports for the purposes of extracting the wealth of Celdrya to its own people. I haven’t yet decided that it will be a mercantilist system, but it is among the potential systems under consideration.

 

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