Merchantilism financial definition of Merchantilism
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mercantilism a set of economic ideas and policies that became established in England during the 17th century, accompanying the rise of commercial capitalism. The mercantilists stressed the importance of trade and commerce as the source of the nation's wealth, and advocated policies to increase a nation's wealth and power by encouraging exports and discouraging imports in order to allow the country to amass quantities of GOLD. These protectionist ideas (see PROTECTIONISM) were criticized by later classical economists like Adam SMITH.