chapter  2
22 Pages

Early Greek economic thought

WithJohn T. Fitzgerald

This chapter provides an overview and survey of early Greek economic thought. The earliest Greek economic theorists were concerned primarily with the management of the people and property that comprised a private household (oikos), though they occasionally also gave attention to the economy of the polis. The focus on the household is seen, for example, in Xenophon’s famous Oeconomicus, and he was followed in this regard by Pseudo-Aristotle (Theophrastus) (Oeconomica, book 1), the Epicurean philosopher Philodemus (On the Household Economy), and the Neopythagorean philosopher Bryson (Oikonomikos Logos = Management of the Estate). Beyond the household, attention was also given to various economic issues that the polis faced, such as the sources and limitations of municipal revenue, the problem of urban poverty, the economic impact of war and peace, and the debate involving the roles of private enterprise versus governmental economic action. These broader concerns are the subject of Xenophon’s Poroi (Ways and Means).