Front Page Titles (by Subject) Ancient Greek Economic Thought - Literature of Liberty, April/June 1979, vol. 2, No. 2
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Ancient Greek Economic Thought - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, April/June 1979, vol. 2, No. 2 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Ancient Greek Economic Thought
“Recent Literature on Ancient Greek Economic Thought.” Journal of Economic Literature 17 (March 1979): 65–86.
Although many contend that economic science began with either the Physiocrats or Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations in the eighteenth century, significantly the name of economics itself derives from the more ancient Greek discipline of oikonomia, which designated estate management and public administration. The well-known influence of classical Greek literature on European education from the medieval Aquinas to the present day should make us open to the possible contribution of ancient Greek thought on later economics. Even Joseph A. Schumpeter, who dismissed strict economic analysis in Xenophon's Oeconomicus or Plato's writings, recognized in Aristotle's Politics (Book I) and Nichomachean Ethics (Book 5) the “beginnings of formal analytic techniques applied to economic subjects.” Schumpeter further judged that the first five chapters of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations recapitulated Aristotle's economic contributions on barter, exchange, and the division of labor. Schumpeter, however, overlooked the possibility of subjective relativism in Aristotle's theory of money.
In fact the economic contributions of the Greeks were far more profound than even Schumpeter allowed and influenced such matters as spontaneous market harmony, equilibrium processes, subjective utility, proto-marginalist concepts, and monetary theory. These contributions are discussed in: Henry Spiegel's The Growth of Economic Thought (1971); Glauco Tozzi's Economisti greci e romani (1961); and Barry Gordon's Economic Analysis Before Adam Smith (1975).
Tozzi's volume is especially important since (1) he draws extensively on French and Italian economic history scholarship that has never entered the English tradition; and (2) he poses “the question of an abstract empiricist view of justice, i.e., can justice be built as a social concept from the subjective self-interest of the individual participants in the political structure.” Gordon's work notes the importance of Scholastic interpretations of Aristotle's theory of money exchange as “unnatural” because it was unlimited by natural and moderate human needs. This concept, together with the ancient and invidious comparison between noble oikonomia (public administration of the economy) and morally suspect chrematistike (private commercial activity or wealth-getting) supported the belief that public intervention on the economy was necessary.
Some 124 items of scholarship are cited in this far-ranging and suggestive assessment of ancient economic thought.