Saturday, September 29, 2012

Mark Thoma on Takeshi Amemiya's "Economy and Economics of Ancient Greece and Ancient China"

We had our first seminar of the year today. It was by Professor Takeshi Amemiya of Stanford. Takeshi is best known for his econometric research on a wide range of topics, including a series of highly influential theoretical papers in the 1970s and 1980s. His more recent research has been in a very different area -- the economics of ancient Greece. The title of his talk was: "Economy and Economics of Ancient Greece and Ancient China"
One of the things I took from the talk was how many of the ideas in Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations can be found in these ancient texts, concepts such as the division of labor, supply and demand, the role of prices, monopoly power, wealth accumulation, and so on.
But it was also interesting to see echoes of so many modern debates, e.g. about wealth inequality, taxes, etc., from so long ago. Here are a few quotes from the section "Economic Thoughts" in his slides (there is a timeline in the slides showing when each of the people quoted below lived)....
Economist's View
'Economy and Economics of Ancient Greece and Ancient China'
Mark Thoma


John Zelnicker said...

Tom -- Link is dead... Thanks.

Tom Hickey said...

Thanks. Fixed now.

Matt Franko said...

This is interesting from Plato's "Laws" again:

"Leaving the common tables, we may therefore proceed to the means of providing food. Now, in cities the means of life are gained in many ways and from divers sources, and in general from two sources, whereas our city has only one. For most of the Hellenes obtain their food from sea and land, but our citizens from land only. And this makes the task of the legislator less difficult-half as many laws will be enough, and much less than half; and they will be of a kind better suited to free men. For he has nothing to do with laws about shipowners and merchants and retailers and innkeepers and tax collectors and mines and moneylending and compound interest and innumerable other things-bidding good-bye to these, he gives laws to husbandmen and shepherds and bee-keepers, and to the guardians and superintendents of their implements; and he has already legislated for greater matters, as for example, respecting marriage and the procreation and nurture of children, and for education, and the establishment of offices-and now he must direct his laws to those who provide food and labour in preparing it."

Seems like all the chaos came in via the mercantilist's dealings with the external sector... hmmmmmm