Here is what it says in Wikipedia:
"Mercantilism is an economic theory that holds the prosperity of a nation dependable upon its supply of capital, and that the global volume of trade is "unchangeable." Economic assets or capital, are represented by bullion (gold, silver, and trade value) held by the state, which is best increased through a positive balance of trade with other nations (exports minus imports). Mercantilism suggests that the ruling government should advance these goals by playing a protectionist role in the economy, by encouraging exports and discouraging imports, especially through the use of tariffs.
Mercantilism was the dominant school of thought throughout the early modern period (from the 16th to the 18th century). Domestically, this led to some of the first instances of significant government intervention and control over the economy, and it was during this period that much of the modern capitalist system was established. Internationally, mercantilism encouraged the many European wars of the period and fueled European imperialism. Belief in mercantilism began to fade in the late 18th century, as the arguments of Adam Smith and the other classical economists won out. Today, mercantilism (as a whole) is rejected by economists, though some elements are looked upon favourably."
And, "All the European economists who wrote between 1500 and 1750 are today generally considered mercantilists; however, this was initially used solely by critics, such as Mirabeau and Smith, but was quickly adopted by historians. Originally the standard English term was mercantile system. The word mercantilism was introduced into English from German in the early 20th century.
The bulk of what is commonly called "mercantilist literature" appeared in the 1620s in Great Britain. Smith saw English merchant Thomas Mun (1571-1641) as a major creator of the mercantile system, especially in his posthumously published Treasure by Forraign Trade (1664), which Smith considered the archetype of manifesto of the movement. Perhaps the last major mercantilist work was James Steuartís Principles of Political Oeconomy published in 1767."
And, "The Austrian School of economics, always an opponent of mercantilism, describes it this way:
ď Mercantilism, which reached its height in the Europe of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, was a system of statism which employed economic fallacy to build up a structure of imperial state power, as well as special subsidy and monopolistic privilege to individuals or groups favored by the state. Thus, mercantilism held exports should be encouraged by the government and imports discouraged." (from Murray Rothbard, ďMercantilism: A Lesson for Our Times?Ē)
Today's paleoconservatives have a fondness for tariffs, and nearly all of the current crop of politicians are fond of "special subsidy and monopolistic privileges to individuals or groups favored by the state."