It is no surprise that the annual address of President Vladimir Putin to the Russian people featured a call for self-sufficiency, the closing of the national economy, and catering to all needs only with internal resources. Even though the statements of foreign leaders are not directly linked to the Bulgarian context, such ideas can find their ground at home too, especially in the context of election campaigns.
Some ideas have a tendency to survive in the minds of people, no matter how many times they are proven wrong. The economic nationalism, under the name of self-sufficiency or autarky, has not been a new concept. The idea dates back at least to the era of Mercantilism of the French monarchy under Louis XIV.
Humans are a social species. This is not unique within mammals, as many live in packs. These animals enjoy support of other group members, but their roles are mostly uniform. At the same time, the level of specialization humans developed is barely comparable with social insects like ants or bees.
Throughout the last year and a half, the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed weaknesses in healthcare, education, digitalization, and data collection, just to name a few. The shortages of essential goods experienced by many countries during the pandemic has inspired some to turn inwards.
Throughout our history, autarky has been an attractive idea for many, and while today’s public debate rarely includes a call to shut down the country and build a self-sufficient utopia, we may occasionally come across attempts to set up parts of the economy independent of external partners.
Protectionism is a frequently used political tool. Sometimes, it is hidden in complicated laws, other times it is presented quite openly. As society is witnessing a wave of populist and nationalist ideas in Europe, especially in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), protectionist ideas are still widely accepted.