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EC233 Ancient Greek Economics.docx

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Boston College
ECON 2233

Reading Notes: “Recent Literature on Ancient Greek Economic Thought” by S. Todd Lowry • Thesis: the influence of the Ancient Greeks, whether we like it or recognize it, is undeniable o The science of economics began with the Greeks, not with Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations o Oikoniomia – formal discipline that dealt with an abstract subject matter (estate management and public administration) o In Plato’s Dialogue, it is argued that the administration of either a small-sized city or a large household requires the same science no matter what it’s called o Why did the Greeks influence Western thought?  Classical Greek literature played a great thle in European education from the time of Thomas Aquinas to the early 20 century • Schumpeter’s Distinction between Economic Analysis and Economic Thought o Schumpeter’s definition of economic analysis: the development of a technical mental procedure or an intellectual apparatus capable of organizing economic problems o Note Plato’s political utopia, his justification of the division of labor based on differences in human capital (different skills/specialties), and fiat system of money o However, S. believed that Aristotle laid out the beginnings for formal analytic techniques applied economic subjects o Took a strong position that Aristotle was a metallist – “specific monetary medium is the subject of arbitrary legislative decision” • A Recent Textbook Appraisal of the Greeks o Henry Spiegel’s recent work on the history of economic thought o Concepts of Harmony vs. Polarity ( • Main ideas: o There’s no debate that oikonomia was NOT based on a concept of a self- regulating market  Humans are the decision makers that drive the market o However, can the oikonomia theory be useful for modern economists?  What about for those concerned with market externalities and welfare premises  management science is more important and is often removed from market analysis • Go to office hours to clarify my understanding of oikonomia – I know the word’s origins but how does its theory greatly differ from modern economics? o Difference in the idea that money is unnatural? Puts strain on nature and resources? September 10, 2012 • Lawry is not an ancient Greek but an economist who specializes him • One of the three principle journals: • Gives overall survey of what economist think of Ancient Greeks • Lowry raises the question: Is there any beginnings of economic thought in the ancient Greeks o There are many more Greeks that might have had something about economics (not just Aristotle) o Ex: Plato, Aristotle, Zenophon, Hesiod, Epicetus, Demicritus • Distinction between economic thought and economic analysis o Analysis is a subset of the broader idea of economic thought o Is there anything that fits into that category? Then, is there anything that could fit into economic analysis? • Reviews work of Schumpeter, Lowry, Spiegel, Gordon, Glauco-Tozzi o Yes, tend to believe that economic thought does have some basis o Overall, they believe that there is some economic anaylsis o There is nothing that can be found in Adam Smith’s first 5 chapte
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