The Economics of Socrates and Plato: a series of 8 lectures

What light can the wisdom of ancient Greece shed upon the economic affairs and the economic order of the modern world? 2,500 years ago, Socrates presented his fellow Athenians with many challenging and far-reaching principles which call into question many significant assumptions made about economics today. These principles are elaborated in the works of Socrates’ disciple Plato.

This course is based upon the proposition that there are a small number of key economic principles, such as those we find in the works of Plato, that arise from our very nature as human beings. Departure from these principles creates an economic order that is ill-suited to the nature of humanity, an economic order in which people suffer, either emotionally, physically, or both. Adherence to such principles ensures that the needs of humanity are fully met at the physical and emotional level insofar as economics and law can meet our full needs.

The purpose of this series of 8 lectures is to present a number of economic principles to be discerned in the dialogues of Plato and to argue that Socrates during his lifetime sowed in Plato certain universal economic principles in seed-like form. Plato, we suggest, developed these seed like universal principles comprehensively and in great detail thereby presenting an understanding of economics and approach to that realm which is unique and challenging.

Week 1

Socrates’ two fundamental principles; that we should value excellence or virtue over the things of this world and that all the good things of this world come, to us only from excellence or virtue.

Week 2

Opposition to Socrates’ principles originating from a perverted concept of “Natural Justice”. The introduction of Plato’s enquiry into the nature of true justice.

Week 3

Plato’s lifelong enquiry: what is justice? Can there be disadvantages to living a just life?

Week 4

A city without rulers in which nothing belongs privately to anyone – is this Socrates’ and Plato’s ideal? Are they aiming for an ideal at all? The place of ideals in economic thinking.

Week 5

Land ownership in Plato’s Republic and Laws. The principle that “friends have all things in common” and its place in economic thinking.

Week 6

Accumulation of wealth, and the desire to have more. Should the desire for more be eradicated or channelled to good use?

Week 7

Markets and trade and the regulation of markets and trade. Debt, the enforceability of contracts, and the question of slavery. The place of competition and the concept of “the war of all against all”.

Week 8

Systems of government and their influence upon economic affairs. The true system which is a balance between monarchy and democracy. How can real positive change come about?

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