Friedrich List 101: The Father of the European Union
Zatrun Published at April 20, 2023

Friedrich List was a German economist who believed that tariffs on imported goods would promote domestic development. As the founder and manager of the Association of Middle and South German Industrialists, List supported free trade in domestic goods, thus becoming a pioneer in a movement aimed at removing trade barriers between German states. Learn more about Friedrich List’s life, ideas, and contributions to the economy in this article.

Who is Friedrich List?

Georg Friedrich List, born in 1789, was a self-taught economist. He advocated for civil service reforms in Germany and promoted increased transparency in judicial procedures, actions that led to his exile in 1825. He was appointed to serve as editor of a German-language newspaper in Pennsylvania and moved to the United States.

In 1827, he published “Outlines of American Political Economy,” in which he argued that a national economy in its early stages of industrialisation inevitably required customs duties. The costs of a tariff should be considered an investment in a nation’s future productivity, he said.

After becoming a US citizen, List returned to Germany in 1834 to serve as US consul in Leipzig. There, he became involved in the construction of a railway line between Leipzig and Dresden in 1837. Despite its success, the venture did not meet List’s financial and personal expectations. List then went to France in despair, where he authored his famous book “The National System of Political Economy (1841).” The economist, who constantly faced financial difficulties, fell into depression, and committed suicide in 1846.

His Legacy

Friedrich List, who served as deputy finance minister in Germany in 1816, established the Faculty of Political Science in 1817 upon the recommendation of the education minister. List, who had not received any university education in his lifetime, served as a professor at the faculty he opened at the University of Tübingen until he was exiled. However, he supported the transportation of goods throughout the country with the railway company he founded in Germany.

With his famous books and articles, List played an important role in the formation of the modern world as a liberal economist. He had opinions on the formation of an economic union in Europe. Therefore, many thinkers consider him the father of the idea of the European Union.

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