Showing posts from September, 2020

A Wealth-and-Welfare Reading of Hesiod's Works and Days

We begin with Hesiod’s Works and Days .  Hesiod probably composed Works and Days (in addition to Theogony and Shield of Heracles , the other complete works of his that remain) at the end of the eight century BC.  This is likely contemporaneous with Homer’s famous epics.  However, Hesiod lived on the Greek mainland, whereas Homer came from Asia Minor.  According to Dorothea Wender, who translates and introduces the version I use, whereas “the tradition in Asia Minor…produced epics designed for an upper-class audience, the tradition in Boeotia (Hesiod’s district…) produced more pedestrian works: genealogies, catalogues, handbooks on divination, astronomy, ethics, farming and mental work.”  Finally, it’s worth noting that Hesiod, as with Homer, may have been more than one person.  Scholars are divided on the question as to whether all of Hesiod’s works derive from a single author. Works and Days is an eclectic work with an overarching theme: “The poem, a mixture of mythology, ethical

Economists and Liberal Education

 In my previous post , I provided some thoughts about the ability of the institutional university to supply the holistic educational experience necessary for what it provides to be called a liberal education. That post was an attempt to think institutionally about the points made by Alex regarding liberal education. I am going to continue that form of inquiry by looking at an institutional equivalent of economics: the economist. While it is possible for economics to be liberal, what does it mean for economists to be liberal? Let us return briefly to Cardinal John Henry Newman’s conception of liberal education. For education to be liberal, it must be holistic. The student must gain insight into the interconnectedness and necessity of all the disciplines and not just the major object of their studies. While a liberal education does not guarantee a virtuous person, it does provide the opportunity for a mature person: one that has (some) grasp on the world and society. Therefore, the chi

Universalizing Economics

Because economists spend so much time analyzing markets, prices, and related phenomena, it is easy to get the impression that economics is a science of wealth.  That is, economics is defined by its subject matter: the production and distribution of commodities.  But as I previously argued , this conception of economics is needlessly limited.  Economics has many valuable things to say about markets and market-supporting institutions.  But it is not confined to these topics.  Rather, economics is the way of thinking that generates those insights. It is the science not of action in markets, but action as such. The universalization of economics is the theme of Professor Israel Kirzner’s sagacious essay on the history of economic thought, The Economic Point of View .  Kirzner acknowledges that the activities of merchants “are of specific interest for the economic perspective on social phenomena” but economists have often disagreed about why mercantile activity was so important.  “For som