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Thursday, January 27, 2005

Mercantilism and IBM-Lenovo

In talking in lecture the other day about the set of 18th-century policies that constituted what came to be called "mercantilism," I pointed out that, except for the matter of establishing formal colonies, the policies actually look very familiar to us today--for example, the U.S. has sought for most of the twentieth century to keep specific technologies out of foreign hands, generally on national-security grounds. In this sense, it's more accurate to think of mercantilism not as a historical phenomenon confined to the 18th century, but as a set of policies that have great attractions in times of intense international rivalry.

So here's the IBM-Lenovo deal in the news again: turns out that three House Republicans are asking the Bush administration to investigate whether the deal "poses a risk to national security" (reporter Steve Lohr's words).
Steve Lohr, "I.B.M. Deal in China Faces Scrutiny Over Security Issue," New York Times [natl. ed.], 1/27/05, C5.

revision 2/8/05: see also Steve Lohr, "Is I.B.M.'s Lenovo Proposal a Threat to National Security?" New York Times [natl. ed.], 1/31/05, C6.

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