Originally Posted by Sulla the Dictator
I didn't say France was the only nation which practiced protectionism. I'm saying that it was the one which practiced it rather consistently from the beginning of the Industrial Age until now. No other nation has had the same continuity of trade policy than France, and in my view it is the reason France lagged behind the British and the Germans in the 19th century as an economic power. From Bourbons to Revolutionaries to Bonapartists to Bourbons to Revolutionaries to Bonapartists to Republicans to Gaullists.
Nothing particularly controversial about this. I don't even think French historians deny it. Rather, doesn't the argument follow something about "preservation" of lifestyle rather than growth?
I think it would be somewhat controversial for an economic historian to say that free trade is the most important factor in the development of capitalism, of "growth," a rather ambiguous concept anyway that is hard to measure before the 19th century. Population, natural resources, investment, education, technological innovation seem to me more important. The main reason France lagged behind Britain in the first half of the 19th century and Germany in the second half, was population stagnation and a relatively large agricultural sector.
That's history, as Americans say. It is not obvious to me that a country that today has more Fortune 500 companies than Germany still "lags behind" Germany or what that even means. In any case, I would rather be wie Gott in Frankreich than wie Gott in Deutschland.