Friedrich List was a nationalist/romantic critic of economic theory and one of the forefathers of the German Historical School. His best-known work, The National System of Political Economy (1841) was written as against the free-trade doctrines that permeated Classical economics. However, his was not a polemical defense of protectionism: he argued it on the basis of his analysis of economics, which stressed political factors - notably, the "nation" - in economics. List argued that it was the government's responsibility to foster the "productive powers" of a nation and, once these were in place, then free trade could ensue, but not before. This is akin to the modern "infant industry" argument for protection. More relevantly, he devloped a theory of economic "stages" which was to serve as a blueprint for the German Historical School.
List was a Professor at Tubingen and then a liberal member of the Württemburg
legislature. He was jailed and then exiled in 1825 for his political views. He was an
enthusiastic supporter and one of the main architects of the German customs union (Zollverein)
and an advocate for the expansion of railroads throughout in Germany. He lived in the
United States as a journalist for many years, before being sent back to Germany as an
American consul. He never regained a teaching post.
Major works of Friedrich List
Resources on Friedrich List