What is an Economic Nationalist?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 September 2019
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Economic nationalists are people who favor the use of any and all means to maintain at least a partial degree of self-subsistence within a given country. To this end, an economic nationalist will generally support any move to make use of domestic production instead of imported goods and services to meet domestic consumption. In many ways, the idea of economic nationalism acts as both a balance to and an opponent of the concept of globalization, in which all nations are seen as economically interdependent.

One of the ways that an economic nationalist may seek to balance labor and capital formation with a country is to impose various tariffs on both imported and exported goods. The idea is to make imported goods less appealing to the general populace by driving up the purchase price. At the same time, imposing stiff tariffs on exported goods may be a means of limiting the amount of domestically produced goods from flowing out of the borders of the nation and being consumed by other countries. Instead, the goods and services remain in the country of origin and are perceived to yield a greater benefit to the citizens of the country.


An economic nationalist may also engage in the practice of purchasing only domestically produced goods and services. This means that foods imported from other countries are not purchased. Instead, local food sources such as farmers markets and local dairies may be utilized instead of supermarket chains that often import much of their produce and meat products. An economic nationalist may only purchase clothing that is made from cloth produced in the country of origin, as well as cut and assembled into wearable garments in factories that are operated within the country. Essentially, if there is any way to obtain the product domestically, the economic nationalist will choose that option over purchasing an imported product.

While the intent of an economic nationalist is to prevent a nation from becoming overly dependent on any other country for the basic necessities of life, many will make some exceptions. This is especially true when particular goods or services are not or cannot be produced with the borders of the nation. When this is the case, the economic nationalist will still go to great effort to purchase domestic goods at every opportunity, while still supporting economic restrictions that make it harder for imports to compete with goods that are produced domestically.


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Post 5

O.K., this might be a dumb question, but why do we have to trade with other nations? Why can't we exhaust all possible actions pertaining to buying/utilizing domestically produced goods, before we start trading with other nations? I brought this up because I believe all nations should strive to be self-sufficient. They should only trade internationally when they absolutely cannot produce those things themselves.

Post 4

@David09 - Look, there are goods that are made here, and there are good that are made overseas. It’s not always an either/or proposition.

Take cars for example. You are free to purchase cars in the United States instead of foreign imports. You can do this without penalizing Japan with high tariffs or adopting an economic nationalist position.

My point is that we need to voluntarily adopt a pro-American attitude in our buying decisions, without the need for government intervention.

Post 3

@nony - I agree – we live in an era of globalization, and it will be that way for a long time.

While appeals to nationalist ideology have a certain populist fervor, they are not practical when it comes to the nuts and bolts of making goods and services at prices we can afford.

Seriously, why is it that you think so many goods are made in China? Is it because we don’t love America? No, it’s because they can make that stuff so much cheaper than we can here.

What we need is a balance in trade; perhaps we can focus on things that we can make that the Chinese will need, rather than competing with them. I don’t know, it’s just a thought.

But I don’t believe punitive measures like high tariffs will foster a good working relationship.

Post 2

@MrMoody - I wish I could share your optimism, but I think there is a fine line between economic capitalism and economic imperialism.

We live in a global age, and we will always need to work with other nations, not only for fuel but to meet our other needs as well.

Speaking of fuel, I don’t believe the energy crisis is an excuse to boost production of domestic oil. We can go green, faster than most people realize, if we realize that it’s the only real, long term, sustainable option that we have.

As long as we lean on fossil fuels, we will always drag our heels in pursuing clean energy alternatives.

Post 1

Count me in as an economic nationalist, although probably in a sense different than what is described in the article.

I am mainly concerned about producing our own energy. I believe that there are enough gas, oil and coal reserves in the United States to meet our energy needs for a long time.

I am strong believer that we should drastically reduce our consumption of foreign oil. Actually on this point I believe there is some consensus.

However some people believe that the answer is to go with green energy, whereas I believe that we should tap our fossil fuel reserves, without restraint.

Call me a hardcore believer in economic capitalism. I realize some people have environmental concerns but the oil companies can address these concerns on their own without the intrusion of government regulations.

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