There are big reasons to be for "mercantilist" policies:
- In a world in which a country suffers from a shortage of risk-bearing capacity or a savings glut, exports are a very valuable source of aggregate demand.
- In a world in which there are substantial spillovers from the creation and maintenance of communities of engineering practice, exports in associated industries are a powerful nurturant and imports a powerful retardant of such communities.
- To the claim that subsidies to such communities are better, the proper rebuttal is "subsidies to whom?" Export champions reveal themselves to be competent productive organizations, and policies that encourage competent productive organizations are likely to do more to nurture communities of engineering practice than policies that encourage competent lobbying organizations.
The arguments against "mercantilist" policies are two:
- The little one: such policies are inefficient, in that the losers lose more than the winners win.
- The big one: such policies are not win-win, and economic policy energy is best devoted to things that are win-win--at least in the behind-the-veil-of-ignorance sense of win-win.
Paul Krugman: Trade Deficits: These Times are Different: "In normal times, the counterpart of a trade deficit is capital inflows...