Autarky is the quality of being self-sufficient. Usually the term is applied to political states or their economic policies. Autarky exists whenever an entity can survive or continue its activities without external assistance. Autarky is not necessarily economic. For example, a military autarky would be a state that could defend itself without help from another country. Autarky can be said to be the policy of a state or other entity when it seeks to be self-sufficient as a whole, but also can be limited to a narrow field such as possession of a key raw material.
The word "autarky" is from the Greek: αὐτάρκεια, which means "self-sufficiency" (derived from αὐτο-, "self," and ἀρκέω, "to suffice"). The term is sometimes confused with autocracy/autarchy (Greek: αὐτoκρατία/αὐταρχία "government by single absolute ruler"). Libertarian theorist Robert LeFevre used "autarchy" and "autarchism" in the sense of self-government to describe his own political philosophy and to distinguish it from anarchism.
Mercantilism was a policy followed by empires, especially in the 17th and 18th centuries, forbidding or limiting trade outside the empire. In the 20th century, autarky as a policy goal was sought by Nazi Germany in the 1930s, by maximizing trade within its economic bloc and minimizing trade outside it, particularly with the then world powers - Britain, the USSR and France - with whom it would eventually go to war and thus must not rely upon. In 1930s Germany, this economic bloc consisted primarily of economically weak countries such as those in South America, the Balkans and eastern Europe (Yugoslavia, Romania and Hungary)' who had raw materials vital to Germany's recovery. Trade with these countries, which was negotiated by then Minister of Economics Hjalmar Schacht, was based on the exchange of German manufactured produce directly for these materials rather than currency, allowing Schacht to barter without reliance on the strength of the Reichsmark. However, although food imports fell significantly between 1932 and 1937, Germany's rapid rearmament policy after 1935 proved contradictory to the Nazi Party autarkic ambitions and imports of raw materials rose by 10% over the same period.
Today, complete economic autarkies are rare. A possible example of a current autarky is North Korea, based on the government ideology of Juche (self-sufficiency), which is concerned with maintaining its domestic localized economy in the face of its isolation. However, even North Korea has extensive trade with the Russian Federation, the People's Republic of China, Syria, Iran, Vietnam, and many countries in Europe and Africa. Bhutan, seeking to preserve an economic and cultural system centered around the dzong, has until recently maintained an effective economic embargo against the outside world, and has been described as an autarky. With the introduction of roads and electricity, however, the kingdom has entered trade relations as its citizens seek modern manufactured goods.
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