Worldly Philosophers


In their vision of economics in the classical political economy, economists were not able to predict growth in technology and changes in social trends and attitudes. However, this did not hinder them from making relevant predictions that were generalized but precise. Their visions are limited by the twists and turns of history but their lessons are practical. Economics, being more of a study on human behavior, is conceivable that predictions were not always accurate, and that most applied only to the extent allowed by prevailing technology and lifestyle preferences. It is, therefore, no wonder, that Adolph Lowe stated that the function of economics should not be to predict but rather to control (Heilbroner 32).

Breaking with earlier traditions, modern economists have a lot of problems to solve, such as depression and inflation. Under the stimulus of massive change, economists look out on a host of possibilities. Will technology bring mixed blessings? Will the earth survive the large scale of industrial pollution already experienced? Has the environmental degradation gone too far to be rescued? The modern economy, therefore, is different in that our market can no longer chug in its own steam as before.

While the classical political economy vision of economics was penetrating and generalizing, modern economists focus on a narrow scope while making their analyses. They focus on their comfort zones and go ahead to make amazing analyses which, however, do not stand independently, since the market is affected by many aspects of society including social trends, technology developments, and government policy. This, in turn, makes it hard to predict the possible future in the market. They tend not to be courageous enough to commit themselves to their opinions when it comes to prediction. This leaves the world with Adam Lowe’s conclusion about economics being more useful for market control than predictions.

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Based on the fact that the current market is almost unpredictable, I still see modern economics as relevant and useful to today’s society. Major decisions in banks, big firms, and even governments are based on what modern economists think. They influence decisions like which country has the potential to pay a loan, which bank should be bailed out, and such.

Economics, being rooted in human behavior, cannot be summed up as a list of mathematical formulae. Economic exchange works like a single building block in the social picture as a whole. While economics is a fascinating study of what it means to be human, it is just but one view of a complex and dynamic picture of our world. While the worldly philosophers based their study extensively on capitalism, modern economists are more about numbers and mathematical formulae (Smith 19). They focus on the things like fiscal policy, increasing taxes, and reducing government expenditure to alter aggregate demand. Today’s economics is more for policymaking than anything else.

Despite agreeing that economics is a study of human nature, behaviors, and attitudes, modern economists still conclude their contribution with mathematical formulae as solutions to prevailing situations. And while their findings are found to be satisfactory to the point that they are awarded Nobel prizes, the classical political economists were more of better solvers. Capitalism was a practical subject to analyze, as it involved studying people and their habits, attitudes, preferences, and lifestyles in general. Modern economics is, simply, a science that deals with numbers and scientific details that would not apply to a non-economist. The study has now been tailored to suit the needs of the prevailing governments such that the working class has become ignored. I, therefore, concur with Heilbroner, that what the world needs today are worldly philosophers like Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Karl Marx, John Stuart Mill, and Adolph Lowe among others.

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