The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times & Ideas of the Great Economic Thinkers

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In this REVISED EDITION by Robert L. Heilbroner the author explores the views of men who were able to shape and sway mens minds and thus able to shape and sway the world through the extraordinary power of ideas.

He explains the market system and argues that the lure of gain steers each modern man in his task which is contrasted with the pull of tradition or the whip of authority. The economists role was to develop theories that explained serving ones self interest the interests of society would be served.

We are often told that peoples interest in self interest is as old as man himself but this is not the fact it is a relatively new phenomenon and even today the notion of gain is foreign to a large part of the worlds population.

The idea that each man should strive to constantly improve his material lot is largely absent in the majority of eastern civilizations and in fact the church taught in the middle ages "No Christian ought to be a merchant" and in Shakespeare time the object of life was not to improve but to maintain ones standard of living.

In fact the early capitalists were not the pillars of society but the outcasts and the 'deracines' (fuck nuts in english) as life was seen as merely a preamble for Heaven or Hell or life eternal as some like to put it.

From the 10th to the 16th century economic life and social life were one and the same and the idea of "making a living" had not come into the thick skulls of humans.

Of course there has been markets for as long as history but a market system is not just a means of exchanging goods but is a mechanism for sustaining and maintaining an entire system...the notion of "gain" providing the necessary attributes to hold a community together would be seen as madness a long time ago and even now if you think about seems improbable to say the least but on we go...

For instance in the 14th and 15th century there was no salable rent producing properties (i.e. u didn't have to pay to live)... no selling of services to the highest risk taking or change...and in fact the motto was safety first. Now in a risk society change is a constant and even the Buddhists have been sucked in.

This book is well written and pro capitalism.

The economist covered include Adam Smith, Parson Malthus, Karl Marx, Thorstein Veblen and John Maynard Keynes.

It puts the market system in historical perspective and perhaps lays the foundations for a critique of late stage capitalism and it's inevitable collapse...

after all can an ever expanding war machine justify itself in the face of nothingness or at least no enemies. Who the hell is Canada going to fight and why are we ordering more war keep the USA people out?

This book brings to light the question if not a market system then what? anarchy and mutual aid we say with a smile but this ignores basic human nature say some...

we'll be your show don't need leaders...

no one i know would return to tradition or authority as guiding lights...

yet now only the wealthy are free...

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