Economics

Economic Ideas: David Ricardo on Wealth, Inflation, and Freedom

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David Ricardo (1772-1823) was one of the most influential economic theorists of the first half of the nineteenth century. Born in London, England, his father’s family were orthodox Jews originally from Portugal who had moved to England from Holland. His father was a highly successful stockbroker. David Ricardo learned the family business, and most likely would have ... [click for more]

Economic Ideas: Adam Smith on Free Trade, Crony Capitalism, and the Benefits from Commercial Society

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Adam Smith’s central contribution to economic understanding was surely his demonstration that under an institutional arrangement of individual liberty, property rights, and voluntary exchange the self-interested conduct of market participants could be shown to be consistent with a general betterment of the human condition. The emergence of a social system of division of labor makes men interdependent for the necessities, ... [click for more]

Economic Ideas: Adam Ferguson and Society as a Spontaneous Order

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One of the most cherished misunderstandings, if not delusions, of the social engineer – the individual who would presume to attempt to remake society through conscious and planned design – is the confident belief that he (and those like him) can ever know enough to successfully remold mankind and human institutions. An appreciation of how limited is our individual knowledge ... [click for more]

Economic Ideas: Francis Hutcheson and a System of Natural Liberty

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Scotland would seem a strange place for the emergence of center of intellectual development that would influence the stream of ideas throughout the world. Scotland had been unified with England near the beginning of the eighteenth century. It was considered a “backwater” of European civilization. But perhaps because of the strong nationalist sentiments and resentments that still lingered among many ... [click for more]

Economic Ideas: Bernard Mandeville and the Social Betterment Arising from Private Vices

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One of the major turning points in social and economic understanding emerged in the 1700s with the theory of social order without human design. Before the eighteenth century, most social theory presumed or took as a working assumption that human society had its origin and sustainability in the creation of social institutions through either “divine” intervention, or by human ... [click for more]

Economic Ideas: The French Physiocrats and the Case for Laissez-faire.

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In the middle decades of the eighteenth century two schools of thought emerged, one in France and the other in Great Britain that were critical of Mercantilism, the government system of economic planning and regulation in the 1700s. In Great Britain, the primary thinkers were members of what has become known as the Scottish Moral Philosophers. In France the proponents ... [click for more]

Economic Ideas: Mercantilism as Monarchy’s Planned Economy

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The Feudal System had resulted in the disintegration of the unity that much of Western, Southern, and Eastern Europe had known under the Roman Empire. Following the fall of Rome, Europe was divided into local and regional political and economic entities, each politically functioning and economically surviving in high degrees of isolation from each other. However, beginning in the fifteenth ... [click for more]
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