The Protestant and the Merchant

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The Protestant Reformation was integral in shaping Western Europe from a religious perspective, but arguably, the resulting divergence of Christianity was just as important to the development of Western Europe's political and economic climate. The adoption of Protestant beliefs would serve as a catalyst for the sharp rise in capitalist, mercantilist, and democratic thought and practice. The process by which democracy, capitalism and to an extent nationalism and mercantilism would come to fruition is a multistep path that begins with the Reformation, and Martin Luthers ninety-five theses. By distinguishing the factors that led to widespread dissatisfaction with the the Roman Catholic church, a correlation can be found in the timing of the rise in individual wealth within a newly formed capitalist structure, and the advent of Protestant beliefs. Furthermore, democratic politics are typically seen to increase with a rise in capitalist economic behaviour, an increase in personal wealth, and unobstructed business is often the result of fair, liberal representative government and vice versa. Increased capitalist economic behaviour and democratic practices were further catalyzed by Western European geopolitics, the result of which led to the beginnings of nationalism, which ran in parallel to, and was heavily influenced by what Adam Smith coined as Mercantilism.

Protestantism differs from Catholicism in three significant ways that are commonly referred to as; scripture alone, faith alone, and the ‘universal priesthood of believers.’ The essence of these tenets is the emphasis on the personal practice of ones religion, and the mitigation of a central church authority’s power. Scripture alone attests to the importance of a critical...

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...eory and practice common in Europe from the 16th to the 18th century that promoted governmental regulation of a nation’s economy, specifically import and export protectionism, for the purpose of bolstering one states power at the expense of a rival national power. To Schmoller, mercantilism appeared to be essentially “state-building - the replacing of a local and territorial economic policy by that of the national state.” The mercantilist aim was “to create a national economy closed off from the outside world, which could satisfy all the needs of its citizens by means of indigenous labor and which also, by vigorous internal traffic, would mobilise the country's natural resources as well as the laboring power of each citizen to serve the whole was a system trying to promote public welfare by, to a large extent, binding economic life to political norms.”

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