Economics, Philosophy of

People have thought about economics for as long as they have thought about how to manage their households, and indeed Aristotle assimilated the study of the economic affairs of a city to the study of the management of a household. During the two millennia between Aristotle and Adam Smith, one finds reflections concerning economic problems mainly in the context of discussions of moral or policy questions. For example, scholastic philosophers commented on money and interest in inquiries concerning the justice of "usury" (charging interest on money loans), and in the 17th century, there was a great deal of discussion of policy concerning foreign trade. Economics only emerged as a distinct field of study with the bold 18th-century idea that there were "economies"--that is autonomous law-governed systems of human interaction involving production, distribution and exchange. This view is already well developed in Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, from which much of economics derives.
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