Exports and Free Trade
The theory of comparative advantage materialized during the first quarter of the 19th century in the writings of 'classical economists'. While David Ricardo is most credited with the development of the theory (in Chapter 7 of his Principles of Political Economy, 1817), James Mill and Robert Torrens produced similar ideas. The theory states that all parties maximize benefit in an environment of unrestricted trade, even if absolute advantages in production exist between the parties.
In contrast to Mercantilism, the first systematic body of thought devoted to international trade, emerged during the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe. While most views surfacing from this school of thought differed, a commonly argued key objective of trade was to promote a "favorable" balance of trade, referring to a time when the value of domestic goods exported exceeds the value of foreign goods imported. The "favorable" balance in turn created a balance of trade surplus.
Mercantilists advocated that government policy directly arrange the flow of commerce to conform to their beliefs. They sought a highly interventionist agenda, using taxes on trade to manipulate the balance of trade or commodity composition of trade in favor of the home country.
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