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Impact Of Influential Economic Ideas

Throughout the history of nations, economic ideas, notably those of Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and John Maynard Keynes, have had a profound influence on politics and society. Economics has influenced the emergence of political systems, political ideology, and the societal organization of production and distribution. The political and economic systems of democratic capitalism and socialism owe their existence to the ideas of Adam Smith and his followers and Karl Marx, respectively. Recognizing this fact, Keynes, in a famous passage from chapter 24 of General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, states: "The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist."

Adam Smith's invisible hand of competitive markets, self-interest, and division of labor gave rise to the American style of individualistic market capitalism. Smith's notion of the natural tendency of an economic system to establish equilibrium through the pursuit of self-interest and competitive markets became the foundation of liberal economics in the nineteenth century. Likewise, Marx's analysis of capitalism, his prediction of its ultimate demise, and the triumph of socialism and communism became the foundation for the socialist economic systems of the former Soviet Union and other Eastern European, African, and Asian countries. His idea of the inevitability of the historical evolution of societies from primitive society to feudalism to capitalism to socialism, and ultimately to communism due to the internal conflicts resulting from the exploitation of workers, led to socialist ideas of centralization, planning, and public ownership of resources.

The commitment by governments to macroeconomic policies that ensure full employment and economic growth; the establishment of social security systems; and even deposit insurance guarantees in the banking system are all by-products of influential economic ideas of Keynes. Keynes argued that the answer to the existence of the Great Depression was insufficient aggregate demand and recommended increase in public demand by the government as a means of increasing total demand and output. Since then, discretionary macroeconomic stabilization has become a policy goal of many countries.

Much of the distinction between political conservatism and liberalism is based on economics and in this regard, the differentiation lies on the belief of the role of government versus the market and what type of government intervention, if any, will bring about the most optimum outcomes. In the United States, for instance, liberal politicians tend to favor government spending over lower taxes, while conservative politicians tend to favor tax reductions over government spending as fiscal policy measures against economic recessions.


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Emmanuel Nnadozie

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Dysprosium to Electrophoresis - Electrophoretic TheoryEconomics - Historical Development, Major Theories, Themes, Global Organization And Orientation, Impact Of Influential Economic Ideas