The First Milestone In The History of Economics
N P R mm-hmm do you ever wonder we're economics. Came from yes or is that just us might just be also probably yes so the first ever work of economics that we know of was an ancient Greek poem from the Eighth Century BC it was called works and days by the poet. Hess Yod and and it wasn't anything like the more famous ancient Greek poems from that time like the Iliad or Odyssey poems about war and conquest Trojan horses and revenge. And seafaring thing. Yeah Hennessy. It's works in days was a different kind of poem. Here's how Stephen Matama. Historian of economic thought. Duke University describes it. It's not an epic tale. The you know there's no adventure there's no you know lovely young maiden waiting at the other end of the journey. It's just has. She had lecturing his brother. Tell him to quit being such a jerk nagging. Lovely young maiden isn't waiting at the end of my journey. It's the worst. So here's what was going on. Has Kids brother. Percy's was like the original slacker. The two brothers had inherited this biggest state from their parents but proceeds had blown his half of the wealth and was coming after US S. yet half bribing local Greek officials to give him more of it. Just had responded by doing what any of us would do lawyered up. No he invoked the mears's ears use and then wrote a long poem about the virtues of hard work as my second shaming Percy's and those corrupt local officials. That's right a Greek Greek poet telling his brother to stop being so lazy. freeloader is the first ever milestone in the history of economics the very first place where the kind of analytical reasoning reasoning used in economics is found. Stephen says what he's trying to do in part at least is explained to his brother. Y work work rather than a life of idleness is the appropriate way to live in the world. That we've been left in Stephen Just wrote a new book called the economics. gimmicks book from xenophon Decrypt Currency Two hundred fifty milestones in the history of economics. And the first of those milestones is has the odds works and days and the ideas that has got presents in his poem representing obviously primitive form of economics. But those ideas are still recognizable as concepts that are fundamental to economics today this message from NPR sponsored show Bonnie out may taste taste just like milk. It's creamy frothy and great with coffee and cookies but without the dairy because it's not milk it's almost milk new Shabani Viney owed support also comes from you know the capital one assistant that catches things that might look wrong with your credit card. Send you an alert and helps you fix them another way. They're are watching out for your money when you're not what's in your wallet. SEE CAPITAL ONE DOT COM for details ladies and gentlemen a passage. From God's poem works in days formerly the tribes of men on earth lived remote from ills without harsh toils and the grievous sicknesses insist that are deadly to me. Yeah one of the stories that Halcion tells in works and days is about why hard work is needed. If men want to build up their wealth yes he was referring just to men and not a super progressive eight century so give him a pass but there was a former time according to this mythology when food and other things were abundant and the earth provided all that men could want but then prometheus a titan tricked Zeus King of the Gods and stole the use of fire from the gods so that men could use it. Zeus rights had responded angrily by sending to Earth Earth a terrible affliction to set against the fire. Shall you've been affliction which will all delight as they embrace their own own. Misfortune and his fortune was a woman. That's how I said he wasn't a super woke writer specifically a woman named Pandora who's jar or box unleashed terrible things upon all mortals. She opened it. One of those hardships. Was that for people to get what they wanted. They would have to work for it. Food for instance. Seattle rights was now concealed by the Gods so people would have to toil in the fields. If they wanted something to eat in other words the gods had introduced scarcity to the world and scarcity is the first team we're going to discuss from the poem. Stephen Magma EH author of Economics Book says that the Economics Definition of scarcity though is different from the way that normal people use it when they mean a shortage of something that might run out when the economist talks about scarcity. What he's really talking about is is available? Resources are limited relative to humid watts. Scarcity is economics is one. Oh one the idea that the world has finite resources so we have to make choices about how to use those resources like land is a resource so if you use land to ride forces or I don't know throw keg parties whatever your also choosing not to use as farmland and crops won't grow in here has yet is using the concept of scarcity versity unleashed by Pandora's jar to lecture. His brother Percy's on why hardwork is a moral virtue after Percy's had blown his half of the family money and perseus squandered. A whole bunch of that now has hit saying you gotta work. Not only that you should have been working before. We don't look kindly as a society. Heidi on people who just want to consume. You need to earn your way. He's arguing and if you don't you're not going to be well. Viewed by the people around you which brings us to the second economic theme and has the odds poem shame namely the role of shame in a market economy. Stevens says this kind of societal disapproval can help economy work better. If it creates social norms of fairness and trust and Pepsi writes about the importance of property rights the idea that if if you earn something yourself you get to keep it for yourself or you know you can also voluntarily trade it for something else. Without property rights. People might not work as hard because then the stuff they make could be taken from them. This was an early iteration of the idea that the law and also a sense of shame can reinforce good social norms and respect respect for property rights and this is good for a whole economy. That's true of countries to this very day. Stevens says Percy's has his brother is trying to cheat Hess. You've you've his own share of the inheritance right. He's not respecting Hess. She's property rights and so there's that sort of personal lesson to tell with the much broader more general implications which brings us to the third big economic theme in works in days the role of envy in the economy. Has He writes that when you look at the wealth of others and see that they have worked hard for that wealth then it might lead you to work hard to attain that same wealth has he had refers to this form of envy as strife and says it is good for mortals. But Stephen says economists know that strife by different name when he uses the word strife the economist reads the word competition. And there's good competition and there's destructive competition and what he's emphasizing here of course is is the good competition right so for Halcion the Vatian to work hard or at least part of it is. It's a keeping up with the Joneses effect right that I want half what that person has and so I'm going to work hard so I can be like her for keeping up with like. I Dunno Demosthenes Affect Jones of back. Then uh-huh Percy's was envious of Hessy's wealth and Hessy was trying to convince Percy's of a better alternative a more ethical alternative to satisfying satisfying his envy then to seize se. It's half of the wealth work hard build the wealth yourself and the Gods will bless you and this is an underlying theme in works and days as the peaceful competition is better than destructive seizing or conquest. This can apply to countries as much as it applies to feuding brothers from ancient. Greece has said writes quote vote. Violence is bad for a lowly man. Not even a man of worth can carry it easily. And it's an economically sound lesson but Stephen ads that economic growth. It can take a long time and a lot of work whereas theft and conquest or always tempting. 'cause they're easier you just take somebody take it and so there's something kind of sad about the fact that he had wrote all this back in the eighth century BC his conquest imperialism. Seizing unearned wealth. These were still the norm until at least a couple of hundred years ago and they are still with us now in some places. Oh yeah it took a very long time to learn that lesson And One can question if it's ever really really been fully learned or if it's just circumstances have you know sort of tamp down. The urge for conquest or modern weaponry has done so halcion. Sei economic analysis with all its references to the muses and the Gods was you know it was primitive because he was manifest time but in understanding the importance of stability ability and peace for economic prosperity. A lot of ways I think he was ahead of our time. This episode of the indicator was produced by Darius Rafi on our editor is Paddy Hirsch. Our intern in fact checker Brittany Cronin and the indicator is a production of N._p._R..