Economics


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, ...

Economics Ideas: David Hume on Self-Coordinating and Correcting Market Processes

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David Hume was one of the most prominent of the Scottish Moral Philosophers. He is particularly famous as a philosophical skeptic, who, in his book, An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748), questioned whether man’s reason and reasoning ability could successfully apprehend reality with any complete degree of certainty. He also argued that reason followed men’s “passions,” rather than reason ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

Economic Ideas: Inflation, Price Controls and Collectivism During the French Revolution

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Governments have an insatiable appetite for the wealth of their subjects. When governments find it impossible to continue raising taxes or borrowing funds, they have invariably turned to printing paper money to finance their growing expenditures. The resulting inflations have often undermined the social fabric, ruined the economy, and sometimes brought revolution and tyranny in their wake. The political economy ...