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The merchants attempting to break the trading monopoly of the Dutch East India Company, cited free competition and republican government as two central components in the economic wealth and prosperity of the Republic.In his book Interest van Holland ("The Interest of Holland", 1662), de la Court also described naval power as complementary to Dutch commercial activity and success.
Since ancient times, mercantile activity often had disreputable associations and was frequently considered a dishonourable activity.
The primitive state of communication, localism, xenophobia, and religious and cultural divisions all conspired to promote fear of foreigners and, by extrapolation, activities involving foreigners were tainted with suspicion and even hostility.
Most notably, The Wealth of Nations (1776) by Adam Smith (1723–1790) saw free international commerce as a prerequisite for the wealth creation of expanding capitalist economies through the division of labour and the removal of artificial barriers to trading relationships.
Smith's work was the catalyst for free trade theory, and despite the obstinate survival of protectionism, notably in emerging nation-states anxious to protect domestic industries as a guaranty of national strength, free trade theory was increasingly accepted as underpinning progressive, modern policy-making.
Physiocracy flourished between 17, and later on the theory became a major influence on other economic theories such as Adam Smith’s classical liberalism.
Adam Smith was a critic and supporter of Physiocracy.
This article examines the international and ideological trajectory of the idea and considers the structural and economic influences which shaped policy development and outcomes, as well as the historical context within which it occurred.
The notion of free trade in international commerce has a long history, but only in the 18th century did an increasingly liberal view of the practical benefits and economic efficiency of free international commerce emerge in scholarly work.
With his theoretical arguments that were based on his experiences, de la Court provided a link between the previous definition of free trade relating to the monopoly rights and exclusive commercial privileges of the 16th and 17th centuries, and the broader conception of the relationship between commercial policy of free trade and wealth creation which would become prevalent in the 18th century.
In the medieval and early modern period, opposition to exports was the predominant sentiment among thinkers and the general populace.