The intellectual odyssey that laid the foundations for Western civilization began in classical Greece. Unfortunately, Greek thinkers failed in their attempt to grasp the essential principles of the spontaneous market order and of the dynamic process of social cooperation which surrounded them. While we must acknowledge the important Greek contributions in the areas of epistemology, logic, ethics, and even the conception of natural law, the Greeks failed miserably to see the need for the development of a discipline, economic science, devoted to the study of the spontaneous processes of social cooperation that comprise the market.
What is even worse is that when the first intellectuals emerged, so did the symbiosis and complicity between thinkers and rulers. From the beginning, the great majority of intellectuals embraced statism and systematically undervalued and even criticized and denigrated the society of trade, commerce, and crafts that flourished around them.
It may be too much to ask that, from the very dawn of philosophical and scientific knowledge, the Greeks would comprehend even the basics of political economy, a discipline that is still among the youngest of all the sciences and seeks to study a reality as abstract and difficult to understand as the spontaneous market order. However, it is worth noting that the Greek philosophers, like today’s intellectuals, could not avoid the scientistic conceit of believing themselves qualified to impose their own points of view on their fellow citizens via systematic government coercion. History repeats itself over and over, and even today we have progressed very little in this sense.
The Political-Historical Context
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