Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Economic Ideas: Plato, Aristotle, and the Ancient Greeks

Richard Ebeling emails:

Dear Bob,

I have a new article on the Future of Freedom Foundation (FFF) website on, “Economic Ideas: Plato, Aristotle, and the Ancient Greeks, Part 1.”

The ancient Greeks are considered the intellectual fathers of logic, science and democracy in the West, but they wrote little on economics and for two reasons. First, they considered material affairs beneath the business of the free citizen of the city-state such as Athens, since “work” was the task of slaves. Second, slave labor reduced interest and incentives for laborsaving cost efficiencies.

When we turn to, first, Plato, we find a discussion of division of labor but little about its economic rationale in term of production and productivity. Instead, Plato was concerned with the ethics and aesthetics of men and their place in society. This led to his notion of the ideal city-state in The Republic, and here we find his model for a totalitarian state and the planned economy that became an inspiration in our own times for both communist and fascist dictatorships.

Next week, part 2 will explain Aristotle’s radically different conception of nature of man and the institution of private property in comparison to his teacher Plato, and his particular conceptions of economics, value, and exchange.



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