What Is the Advantage of Using Joint Stock Companies Instead of Mercantile Capitalism?

What Is the Advantage of Using Joint Stock Companies Instead of Mercantile Capitalism?


Throughout history, various economic systems have emerged and evolved to meet the needs of societies. One such system is mercantile capitalism, which dominated Europe from the 16th to the 18th century. However, as societies progressed and economic activities expanded, joint stock companies emerged as an alternative model. Joint stock companies offered numerous advantages over traditional mercantile capitalism, leading to their widespread adoption and continued relevance in the modern world.

Advantages of Joint Stock Companies:

1. Limited Liability: One of the key advantages of joint stock companies is the concept of limited liability. In a joint stock company, shareholders are only liable for the amount they have invested in the company. This shields individual shareholders from personal financial ruin in case the company faces financial difficulties or bankruptcy. This feature encourages investment and entrepreneurship, as it reduces the risk associated with starting or investing in a business.

2. Access to Capital: Joint stock companies facilitate the pooling of capital from a large number of shareholders. This allows for the accumulation of substantial amounts of capital, which can be used for financing large-scale projects and business expansions. In contrast, mercantile capitalism relied heavily on individual merchants or wealthy investors who had limited resources. Joint stock companies, therefore, enabled significant economic growth by providing access to capital on a much larger scale.

3. Transferability of Shares: Another advantage of joint stock companies is the transferability of shares. Shareholders in a joint stock company can buy and sell their shares freely in the stock market, allowing for easy entry and exit of investors. This liquidity makes it easier for companies to raise additional capital or for shareholders to divest their holdings. In mercantile capitalism, on the other hand, transferring ownership or raising capital was often more challenging and time-consuming.

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4. Professional Management: Joint stock companies allow for the separation of ownership and management. This enables the company to hire professional managers who have the necessary expertise to run the business efficiently. In contrast, mercantile capitalism relied heavily on the skills and capabilities of individual merchants or investors. Joint stock companies, therefore, offer the advantage of attracting professional managers, leading to improved management practices and better allocation of resources.

5. Diversification of Risk: By investing in joint stock companies, shareholders can diversify their investment portfolios. Joint stock companies often operate in various sectors and industries, reducing the risk associated with investing in a single business. This diversification allows shareholders to spread their investments across different companies, reducing the overall risk and increasing the potential for returns.


1. Are joint stock companies only relevant in the past or do they still exist today?

Joint stock companies are still very much in existence today. In fact, many of the largest and most successful companies worldwide, such as Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon, operate under the joint stock company model.

2. Can individuals invest in joint stock companies?

Yes, individuals can invest in joint stock companies by purchasing shares in the stock market. This allows them to become shareholders and benefit from the company’s success.

3. Is limited liability an advantage for shareholders only?

Limited liability is an advantage for both shareholders and the overall economy. It encourages investment and entrepreneurship by reducing the risk associated with starting or investing in a business. Additionally, limited liability contributes to economic stability by ensuring that individual shareholders are not personally responsible for the company’s debts.

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4. What are the potential drawbacks of joint stock companies?

While joint stock companies offer numerous advantages, there are potential drawbacks as well. For example, decision-making can become slower and more bureaucratic due to the involvement of a large number of shareholders. Moreover, the focus on short-term profitability in stock markets may lead to neglecting long-term sustainable practices.


Joint stock companies have emerged as a highly effective economic structure, providing significant advantages over mercantile capitalism. These advantages include limited liability, access to capital, transferability of shares, professional management, and risk diversification. Joint stock companies continue to play a vital role in the modern business world, fostering economic growth and providing opportunities for investment and entrepreneurship.

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