The Early Nationalist Definition

Summary - The Early Nationalists

Of the economists discussed in this chapter, it may be said that they stood for much criticism of the Classical political economy, and especially criticism on the score of its individualism and cosmopolitanism. They all criticized the doctrine of "division of labor," as taught by Smith.

They were Nationalists — although Carey's Nationalism was mixed with a considerable acceptance of Classical economic theories. They emphasized the nation as an important fact, often regarding it as a living organism, or as a quasi-organism, and placing it above the individual and between him and the world. (Well down to this day, German economists have fre­quently called their science National Oekonomie.)

Accordingly, they stood for protection, accusing England's thinkers of recommending in free trade what would benefit their own nation alone, at least in the then-existing stage of relative development.

In this connection, the historical idea frequently appears, and Miiller and List are noteworthy as precursors of the His­torical School. The former's admiration for the institutions of earlier times, and his treatment of the state as an organism suggest this; but List, with his discussion of stages in the evolu­tion of nations, although not truly historical in spirit, had more influence in this connection. (Both were known to the German Historical School.) To the extent that their analyses of institu­tions and stages are ideals spun out of the mind, they are, of course, mechanical in nature, and not truly historical.

Consistently with their leading idea, Miiller, List, and Carey, in criticizing the one-sidedness of the principle of division of labor, called attention to the association or cooperation phase of it. They emphasized the importance for the national welfare of insuring cooperation among the "divided" elements in production.

Their attitude toward individualism and materialism was such that they were led to attack, in one way or another, the emphasis laid upon objective exchange value. This Miiller and List did from a predominantly ethical point of view.

Miiller painted the darker tints of the money economy, and desired to retain the remnants of the "natural economy" of the Middle Ages. List accepted the economy of his time, but assailed Smithian teaching on the ground that it worked toward an English monopoly of trade; and Carey likewise developed his doctrine of protection in the interest of his young nation.

Though, in a sense, absolutists themselves, their criticisms served to offset the absolutism of the Classical School, and paved the way for a broader and truer economics.

In appraising Nationalist thought, it is vital to understand the significance of "protection." In a sense, the idea of pro­tection as applied to international trade, is incidental. At bot­tom, the idea is to "protect" the individual person — not as an "economic man," but as a personality which should have the "self-expression" that is so essential in Romanticism. This idea assumes not only a "self" with its innate and peculiar potentialities, but also other selves as onlookers. Cooperation is thus required. Each "self" must not only be developed; it must also be protected from other selves. But protection of un­equal selves (perhaps warped by inferiority complexes!) seems to require a sort of regimentation, and at the same time a revolt against material laws and "standards." Thus both the lowly individual and the backward nation, by group control and social planning, are to be assured self-expression, but subject to a protective system of cooperation. Naturally, this leads to status, as opposed to the test of survival in competition.


Considered thus philosophically, one may see a common thread in the protective tariff schemes of List and Carey, in the Romantic Medievalism of Mtiller, in the solicitude for "the forgotten man" and in the domestic "allotment" program of the "New Deal," and in the "projects" of the so-called "pro­gressives," both in education and in politics. These are all idealistic thought tendencies which thrive either among persons having a sense of inferiority, or in backward nations, or in periods of prolonged depression.