Economic Thought can be traced into antiquity. Justin Ptak, A Harvard graduate and former member of the Ludwig Von Mises Institute wrote a paper that discussed some of the early thinkers of Economics prior to Adam Smith who is formerly identified as the “Father of Modern Economics”.
According to Ptak, the first Economist was Hesiod who first presented the idea of Scarcity in the 8th century B.C. This is significant because the underlying ideology in the study of Economics is that resources are scarce and if we can allocate those resources efficiently then we can be made better off.
Ptak also mentions other notable Greek Scholars such as Democratis, Xenophon, and Aristotle. He notes Aristotle for his contribution of thought on Private Property. In “The Republic” Plato advocated for communism in the ideal city. Aristotle refuted this by stating that ownership of property by an individual gives incentive for progress. This contributes to one of the most essential assumptions that the study Economics is based on, that is, people are self-interested and respond to incentives.
Adam Smith would not have been able to develop his argument on the Division of Labor in his famous “Wealth of Nations” without the western thought Aristotle presented almost 1500 years previously.
Although Economic thought can be traced into antiquity, the truth is the development made within that last 200 years far surpasses the progress made in the previous 9 centuries. But the fact remains that its roots lie in the thought of those early philosophers.
According to my Professor Dr. Sims, Economics has its roots in statistics. He claimed in the beginning of the semester that all Academia can be boiled down into three categories: Literature, Philosophy, and Statistics. This was a bold argument but he claimed that in economics we were not searching to find ultimate truth. Rather, it is a quest to make a best guess given circumstances. If Dr. Sims is right then according to Eli, true Economic thought really started to develop with statistics within the last 70 years. Now whether or not this is a valid statement is difficult to argue but it gives us insight on what Economics really is and where we can look to for its beginnings.