Thursday, January 14, 2016

The History of Economic Thought

Richard Ebeling emails:

Dear Bob,

I participated in the January 13, 2016 “Libertarian Angle,” webinar sponsored by the Future of Freedom Foundation, with the Foundation’s president, Jacob G. Hornberger, on the topic: “The History of Economic Thought.”

The focus this week was on an overview and explanation of the profound importance of the emergence and development of economics as specialized field of study in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. An importance not only for the development of an area of human understanding in general, but how this study of economic order and the workings of markets and prices led to the transformation of the Western world toward freedom, free enterprise and rising standards of living for the mass of humanity.

The discussion explains the ideas of the French Physiocrats and the Scottish Moral Philosophers (especially but not only Adam Smith and David Hume), and how they opened an awareness of the potentials and possibilities of the spontaneous order that arises out of free markets, competitive enterprise, and the self-interested profit motive, which is far superior in its results than any government planned or regulated system.

The discussion also went on to understand how some aspects of the “classical economics” of the nineteenth century became a source for the perverse twist of the emergence of socialism and the anti-capitalist mentality as represented, particularly, in the ideas of Karl Marx.

The discussion concluded with an appreciation of the positive power and importance of ideas as reflected in the writings of Frederic Bastiat, and his insightful and witty demonstrations of the superiority of free trade and free enterprise, and the absurdities of intervention and socialism.

Next week the discussion will continue with the emphasis on the new turn economics took starting in the 1870 with the “marginal revolution,” and especially in the development of this idea by members of the Austrian School of Economics.

The webinar runs for about 35 minutes.


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