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What Is Beggar-Thy-Neighbor?

Beggar-thy-neighbor is a term utilized for a set of policies that a country orders to address its economic hardships that, thus, really deteriorate the economic issues of different countries. The term comes from the policy's impact, as it makes a "beggar" out of neighboring countries.

Grasping Beggar-Thy-Neighbor

Beggar-thy-neighbor frequently alludes to international trade policy that benefits the country that authorized it, while hurting its neighbors or trade partners. Protectionism is many times seen as a key illustration of policies that are planned to reinforce a domestic economy, yet which may negatively impact trading partners.

Beggar-thy-neighbor policies came to fruition, initially, as a policy solution to domestic depression and high joblessness rates. The fundamental thought is to increase the demand for a nation's exports, while decreasing dependence on imports.

This means driving consumption of domestic goods up, rather than consumption of imports. This is normally accomplished with a trade hindrance of some sort โ€” tariffs or quotas โ€” or competitive devaluation to bring down the price of exports and drive work and the price of imports up.

A currency war is a prime illustration of beggar-thy-neighbor in real life since it adds up to a nation endeavoring to gain an economic advantage without consideration for the ill effects it might have on different countries. Otherwise called competitive devaluation, this is a specific pattern of blow for blow policies where one nation coordinates an unexpected national currency devaluation with another devaluation.

At the end of the day, one nation is matched by a currency devaluation of one more in a negative feedback loop. Frequently the country cheapening first plans to help its exports on the global market, and not be guaranteed to truly hurt.

Beggar-Thy-Neighbor: A Brief History

The term is widely credited to the logician and economist Adam Smith, who involved the term in The Wealth of Nations, a critique of mercantilism and protectionist trade policies. Smith saw mercantilism and its zero-sum comprehension of the market empowering nations to beggar each other to increase economic gain as misinformed; all things being equal, he accepted that free trade would lead to long-term economic growth that was not zero-sum, yet would really increase the wealth of โ€” you got it โ€” all nations.

By and by, many country's have sent mercantilist and protectionist economic policies as the years progressed. A number of countries did as such during the Great Depression, Japan did after WWII, and China did after the Cold War.

With the rise of globalization during the 1990s, beggar-thy-neighbor dropped off the radar โ€” generally. As of late, however, protectionist policies have been getting back in the game, to some degree in visibility, as confirmed by former President Donald Trump's 'America First' way of talking.


  • Beggar-thy-neighbor alludes to economic and trade policies that a country establishes that end up adversely influencing its neighbors or potentially trading partners.
  • Frequently, beggar-thy-neighbor policies are not expected to negatively influence different countries; rather, it is a result of policies intended to reinforce the country's domestic economy and competitiveness.
  • Protectionist barriers like tariffs, portions, and sanctions are instances of policies that can hurt the economies of different countries.