Academic journal article Journal of Competitiveness Studies

Economic Nationalism: Philosophical Foundations

Academic journal article Journal of Competitiveness Studies

Economic Nationalism: Philosophical Foundations

Article excerpt


Economic nationalism, its philosophical reasoning and foundations are addressed. Four philosophical foundations are clarified and their validity is discussed. Primarily, the paper focuses on political, cultural, economic, and societal peculiarities. Though it is made clear that these foundations are not exclusive, it is pointed out that some may be more potent than others during different stages of national economic and political development. The paper argues that economic nationalism, if it is not kept in check, is a dangerous business that denies others the right to their wealth, seeks to maximize the wealth of a nation at the expense of other countries, and encourages the use of force to achieve national objectives.

Keywords: Economic nationalism, Free trade, Globalization, Nation-state


For the last five centuries, economic philosophies have evolved aimed at optimally tackling two critical issues: how to allocate national economic resources and how to satisfactorily serve humanity. While the two issues appear to be in conflict, in fact the two can serve each other. Take, for example, the abundant availability of a nation's resources that can be traded with other nations in need of such resources. This has historically been the case with silk, spices, iron ore, oil, and in recent decades the transfer of knowledge and human capital. Classical economists, such as Adam Smith, have espoused the necessity of free trade and encouraged wealth creation through active participation in the marketplace. However, this thinking has been obstructed by nationalistic tendencies and the accompanying philosophy of economic nationalism.

While debate on the aforementioned two issues will not end in the foreseeable future, economists and responsible intellectuals are continually in search of better alternatives for improving the wellbeing of people in different parts of the world. World connectivity and interdependence have eased obstacles to economic openness. But economic integration has created fear and anxiety among certain groups in various corners of the world. These dissatisfied and anxious people, most commonly ordinary citizens, may have sound reasons for their concerns. It should be noted, that while certain individuals or groups may be misled by politicians and powerful elites to mistrust globalization of business, the majority of dissatisfied people have real concerns as they experience hardships due to loss of jobs and growing economic uncertainty.

Cities in Michigan, like Flint, Saginaw, and Detroit, have witnessed economic depression since the mid-1980s. Factories have closed, good paying jobs have vanished, and many workers have lost their jobs. As a result, public services have deteriorated and hope for a better life has become a mere dream. This scene is found in many other industrial hubs in the Midwest and the Northeast. This situation, however, is not limited to the U.S. In Europe, the economic malaise in countries like France, England, Greece, etc. has led to social and political upheavals. In France, for example, Time Magazine (see Walt, 2017, p.37) reports that shuttered factories in northern France have changed the political, social, and economic landscape, stating, "France, the world's sixth-biggest economy, has sputtered along for years with virtually no growth. Average unemployment rates have hovered around 10% for several years, and in this corner of France, known as the Somme, they are higher."

As in France, where the unemployed blame the lack of jobs on Polish workers or immigrants from Africa, in the U.S., Latin workers, and immigrants in general, have been accused of stealing jobs. Furthermore, the fear is that imports are responsible for economic disaster. This belief, whether it is right or wrong, has led to a shift in U.S. attitudes toward free trade. For several decades, the U.S. was the champion of free trade and instrumental in establishing a global economic regime where goods and capital move freely. …

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