GHDI logo

4. Economy and Labor
print version

1. Government and Administration   |   1.A. Confederation or Nation-State?   |   1.B. Authoritarian or Parliamentary/Constitutional Rule?   |   1.C. Emancipation of the Jews   |   2. Parties and Organizations   |   3. Military and War   |   4. Economy and Labor   |   5. Nature and Environment   |   6. Gender, Family, and Generation   |   7. Region, City, Countryside   |   8. Religion   |   9. Literature, Art, Music   |   10. Elite and Popular Culture   |   11. Science and Education

Particularly in the first half of the nineteenth century, repeated economic crises and evidence of growing impoverishment of large portions of the population made the ideas of economic deregulation unpopular. The economist Friedrich Bülau (1805-59), Professor of Governmental Administration (Staatswissenschaft) at the University of Leipzig, asserted in 1834 that contemporary understandings of the growth of poverty in Germany during the first half of the nineteenth century ignored the impact of markets on standards of living. He argued for free market solutions in agriculture, trade, and poor relief as means to resolve Germany's economic difficulties.

Even supporters of the free market had their doubts. This excerpt on freedom of occupation, taken from the entry "Trade and Manufacturing" in Rotteck and Welcker's Staats-Lexikon, vigorously denounced guilds and called for the establishment of freedom of occupation. Yet the author could not help noting that a free market in labor seemed to lead to the domination of large capitalists over small businesses. Rejecting any form of government intervention, he felt that the solution to this problem was to be found in voluntary associations, cooperatives, and educational efforts – ideas that were widely popular among German supporters of a free market economy, as can be seen from Böhmert's essay on freedom of occupation excerpted above.

One of the most prominent critics of free trade was the journalist and economist Friedrich List (1789-1846). In his most famous work, The National System of Political Economy (1841), excerpted here, List criticized Adam Smith and his successors. List argued that free trade between nations favored economically and industrially more advanced countries, such as Great Britain, and was harmful to industrially less advanced countries, such as Germany. These countries should introduce protective tariffs on manufactured goods to help their manufacturing capability develop. More broadly, List argued for a specifically national view of economic development and for the importance of policies aimed at improving the skills of a labor force as a means of economic development. List's ideas were very influential in nineteenth-century Germany, and his works are read with interest in East Asia today.

Page 14

first page < previous   |   next > last page