History of economic thought

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The history of economic thought deals with different thinkers and theories in the subject that became political economy and economics from the ancient world to the present day.


  • The economic policy issues that we debate today—trade policy, inflation, the proper role of government, the eradication of poverty, and the means of raising the rate of economic growth—have been discussed by economists for more than two centuries. Many of today’s economic policies—both the good ones and the bad—are the result of the ideas of those past economists. And many of today’s debates about economic policy can be understood only by those who have at least some familiarity with the ideas of earlier economists.
    The giants of economic science during the past two hundred years have been men concerned with the critical policy issues of their time. They studied the working of the economy in order to advocate better economic policies. But despite their concern with policy, they were not polemicists or politicians but men who sought to persuade their contemporaries in government and in the broader public by analysis and evidence that would meet the standards of professional debate.
    • Martin Feldstein (1989), Foreword to New Ideas from Dead Economists by Todd Buchholz.
  • The writer of a history of economic thought must have, above all else, some principles of selectivity. Over the past two hundred-odd years , many hundreds of economic thinkers have written thou sands of books on economic theory and capitali sm. The contemporary intellectual historian, in the space of one book, can theref ore present only a limited number of the most important ideas of the most important thinkers .
    • E. K. Hunt, History of Economic Thought: A Critical Perspective (3rd ed., 2011), Preface
  • I define the subject matter of the history of economics to be economics which is not read to master present-day economics (although possibly it is read to learn the path by which we have reached the present).
    • George Stigler, "Does Economics Have a Useful Past?", History of Political Economy (1969)
  • Economics, I thus believe, has a useful past, a past that is useful in dealing with the future.
    • George Stigler, "Does Economics Have a Useful Past?", History of Political Economy (1969)
  • While it is tempting to think of the history of economics as the history of a succession of great thinkers who advanced the quantity and quality of analysis in this field, seldom did these pioneers create perfected analyses. The gaps, murkiness, errors and shortcomings common to pioneers in many fields were also common in economics. Clarifying, repairing and more rigorously systematizing what the giants of the profession created required the dedicated work of many others, who did not have the genius of the giants, but who saw many individual things more clearly than did the great pioneers.
    • Thomas Sowell, Basic Economics, 4th ed. (2010), Ch. 25. The History of Economics.

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