Karl Marx to John Maynard Keynes: Ten of the greatest economists by Vince Cable
From the father of Economic History who developed theories to explain why capitalist economies have fluctuations and crises – to the greatest economic thinker of the 20th century. His 1776 landmark book on economics, published at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution – and was even consulted on economic matters by Pitt The Elder, the Whig politician and Prime Minister. DAVID RICARDO. British political economist – the third of 17 children from a Sephardic Jewish family of Portuguese origin – Ricardo was a huge influence on 19th-century economics. FUKUZAWA YUKICHI. An author, entrepreneur and political theorist, Yukichi’s ideas made a lasting impact on Japan following the 1868 Meiji Revolution, which saw the restoration of imperial rule in Japan and set in train its economic modernisation. Widely regarded as one of Japan’s founding fathers, Yukichi tried to understand how modern systems and organisations worked and how ‘civilisation’, including business enterprise and new technology, could be transplanted to Japan to create economic development. In many ways he is the father of Economic History, having developed explanations for the evolution of the economic structure from feudalism to capitalism. Despite his belief in capitalism’s self-destructive tendencies, much of his economic thinking stands up to scrutiny. AMARTYA SEN. Among the most important events of my lifetime has been the economic emergence through rapid growth of major developing countries – most notably China and India, but also Korea, Brazil and Mexico among others. JOHN MAYNARD KEYNES. The greatest economic thinker of the 20th century, Keynes challenged fundamentally the idea that market economies will automatically adjust to create full employment. His insistence on the central role that uncertainty plays in economic decisions foreshadows much of the current interest in behavioural economics. While his basic economic framework – in which short-term economic growth depends on ‘aggregate demand’ is built into many of our forecasting models today. DANIEL KAHNEMAN. Perhaps the most radical change in direction in economics in recent decades has been the emergence of ‘behavioural economics’. Traditional economics, from Smith and Ricardo to Marx, Keynes and Friedman, has been based on general theories which treat it as a branch of natural science. People also hang on to irrational habits and seemingly perverse ways of evaluating choices, confounding those economists who premise their models on ‘rational economic man’. Some economists have retaliated by applying economic rationality to explain non-economic problems such as crime and punishment, prostitution and marriage patterns.
Religious views on capitalism
Some defend the natural right to property, while others draw attention to the negative social effects of materialism and greed. You begrudge your fellow human beings what you yourself enjoy; taking wicked counsel in your soul, you consider not how you might distribute to others according to their needs, but rather how, after having received so many good things, you might rob others. ‘But whom do I treat unjustly,’ you say, ‘by keeping what is my own?’ Tell me, what is your own? What did you bring into this life? From where did you receive it? It is as if someone were to take the first seat in the theater, then bar everyone else from attending, so that one person alone enjoys what is offered for the benefit of all in common – this is what the rich do. They seize common goods before others have the opportunity, then claim them as their own by right of preemption. For if we all took only what was necessary to satisfy our own needs, giving the rest to those who lack, no one would be rich, no one would be poor, and no one would be in need. Who are the greedy? Those who are not satisfied with what suffices for their own needs. By allying itself with the rising economic system it made men dependent upon the world of things even to a higher degree than before. Where formerly they worked for the sake of salvation, they were now induced to work for work’s sake, profit for profit’s sake, power for power’s sake. To countless generations of religious thinkers, the fundamental maxim of Christian social ethics had seemed to be expressed in the words of St. Paul to Timothy: “Having food and raiment, let us be therewith content. For the love of money is the root of all evil.” Now, while, as always, the world battered at the gate, a new standard was raised within the citadel by its own defenders. The garrison had discovered that the invading host of economic appetites was, not an enemy, but an ally. Not sufficiency to the needs of daily life, but limit less increase and expansion, became the goal of the Christian’s efforts. The shrewd, calculating commercialism which tries all human relations by pecuniary standards, the acquisitiveness which cannot rest while there are competitors to be conquered or profits to be won, the love of social power and hunger for economic gain-these irrepressible appetites had evoked from time immemorial the warnings and denunciations of saints and sages. Plunged in the cleansing waters of later Puritanism, the qualities which less enlightened ages had denounced as social vices emerged as economic virtues. For the world exists not to be enjoyed, but to be conquered. In winning the world, he wins the salvation of his own soul as well.