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History of Economics

Updated on November 18, 2009


Economics as a science is very young compared with other sciences which were formed even hundred years before the Birth of Christ. It has started to be known when Adam Smith's book Wealth of Nations was published in 1776. This book became the bible of economics for more than a century. Because of the economic contributions of Smith in the field of science, he has been considered the "Father of Economics."

However, the ideas and practices of economics have been as old as mankind. These economic thoughts appeared in biblical teachings, philosophy and politics. The primitive people were resourceful. They invented ways and means of food gathering and hunting. Such art of making a living among the ancient tribes represented a form of economics.

During the biblical times, economic ideas and activities were influenced by biblical teachings and the wisdom of the great prophets. Even the Babylonian code of Hammurabi contains detailed regulations for economic practices. Justice, charity and honesty were the rules in economic dealings. Usury was prohibited. Profits were despised.

The Babylonians had clear ideas about interests and mortgages. The Phoenicians had good knowledge about commerce and money. The Hebrews and the Hindus stressed the virtues of industry, temperance, and economy. The word economics was derived from an ancient Greek work oikonomos which means household management. The housekeeper had to see to it that there was enough food, clothing and shelter; that the house was kept in order; that the necessary duties and responsibilities were performed by the members of the household; and that their products were distributed according to necessity or custom. To the ancient Greeks, however, the term oikonomos applied more on the proper management of city-states.

The Greek philosopher Plato recommended division of labor in order to improve production. Another Greek philosopher, Aristotle, explained the functions of money. In the case of the Romans, they believed that agriculture was the only honorable industry. During the early days of the Roman Republic, the boys were taught to be good soldiers and farmers by their fathers. During the middle ages, the Church under St. Thomas Aquinas crusaded for distributive justice (fair distribution of goods), and compensatory justice (fair exchange of goods and services).


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