Friday, 21 February 2014

Aristotle, and Economics

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Book cover of an edition of Oikonomikos from 1830.
The Economics (Greek Οἰκονομικῶν, Latin Oeconomica) is a work that has been ascribed to Aristotle. It is usually attributed, by modern scholars, to a student of Aristotle, or to a student of his successor Theophrastus.[1]
The title of this piece is derived from the Greek word oikos meaning household. However it is still based on the origin of economics that is commonly known today. This term refers to household management and how the roles have been created that members of the household should have. In a broad sense the household is the beginning to economics as a whole. The natural, every day activities of maintaining a house is essential to the beginning of the economy. From farming, cleaning, cooking to hiring workers and guarding your property the household becomes the center for modern understanding of a society. In this text, the two books explore the true meaning of economics, while showing that there are many different aspects of it.
Book I
Book I is broken down to six chapters that begin to give background of what economics is. The text starts out describing that economics and politics differ in two major ways. One, from the subjects which they deal with and two, the number of rulers involved. Like an owner of a house, there is only one ruling being in the economy while politics involve many rulers. The one thing that both of the sciences have in common is they both have a household or city and are trying to make the best use of what they have to thrive. A household is made up of man and property. Next the use of agriculture on a man’s land is the most natural form to make a good use for this property. In respect to the man and the household, the man should next find a wife. Following, children should come next because they will be able to take care of the household as the man becomes old. These are known as the subject matters to economics. The subject of the duties of a wife is the next important issue that is portrayed. A wife should be treated with respect by a man and she will help him bring about children. A man has to be modest of the sexual encounters with his wife and not dwell on sexual experiences. The wife should be nurturing and attend to the quiet aspects of the household. Her duties should remain on keeping up the inner part of the household. The male should have a set of laws instilled in him on never doing wrong to his wife. Next, the male involved in his agriculture will need slaves to help him perform his duties. A slave should be treated with food for his work but, well disciplined. It is his duty of a man however to oversee every aspect of his land for this is his. The quality of his land should never be left to others alone because naturally people do not respect a man’s property as he does. In the light of a true economist a man needs to represent four qualities in the relation of wealth. Acquisition of land and guarding it are key factors to maintain wealth. He needs to use his property wisely to have things he can sell to produce actual wealth from his land.
Behind this first book, Aristotle’s work shows the preface of getting into the basic formation of an economy. With every man performing these duties a system will emerge of buying and selling other properties and maintaining a happy life style instilled in a civilization. With these basic guidelines man can accumulate wealth and stimulate a form of economy.
Book II
The second book begins with the idea of there being four different types of economies. The four consist of the Royal Economy, the Satrapic Economy, the Political Economy, and the Personal Economy. Aristotle states that he who intends to participate in the economy needs to know every characteristic of the part of economy they are involved in to be successful and make the economy work as whole.
EconomySpecialtiesAdditional Info
Royal Economy – Most important and the simplest -consists of the kingCoinage, imports, exports, expendituresUp to the top management of the king to decide value of coins struck, advantages of the markets and other commodities
Satrapic Economy—the medium between the economies -involves the provincial governorSix kinds of revenues: from land, from peculiar products, from merchandise, from taxes, from cattle, and from all other resources- governor officials work with the Royal officials -most important source of revenue; land then scarce resources, and then merchandise
Political Economy—Most varied and easiest -“the economy of the city”- truly the economy of the city -economy at a smaller level-sources of revenue involve merchandise, scarce resources, and taxes
Personal Economy—Least important, very varied -relates to the individual-least important because income and exchange of money is small-revenue consists of land, property and investments -very diverse opportunities that establish the flow of money, no specific aim
All the economies have one specific thing in common. No matter what is done, expenditures cannot exceed income. Aristotle saw this as an important issue even in the beginning of the notion of ‘economy’. Today this is a huge problem for our economy because debt seems to be reaching all-time highs. The rest of Aristotle’s second book involves historical events that created very important ways in which an economy began to function more efficiently and where certain terms arose from that we use today. The main aspect is the flow of money through any economy and certain events. War, and more specifically overall protection of countries is where many aspects of loans, debt, increase taxes, and intriguing investments became important. In times of war an increase of money to pay for the war was needed. So, places like Athens needed to either borrow money from other places or be given men (mercenaries) at specific financial deals. Other events like paying for sea explorations and schooling also increased the different types of money exchanges further stimulating economies. In all, Aristotle’s book on economy shows an idea of what actually was going on in his economy from the macro levels all the way down to many specific micro levels in which still stand to be relevant today.

The third book is only known from Latin versions, not Greek, and deals with the relationship between husband and wife.


  1. Jump up ^ Pomeroy, Sarah B.(1995). Oeconomicus: A Social and Historical Commentary, p. 68. Oxford University Press. Preview. ISBN 0-19-815025-3, 1995).
  • Armstrong, G Cyril, "Introduction to Oeconomica", Aristotle XVIII, Loeb Classical Library 

See also[edit]

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