Economic Thought Through the Ages

IS_EH_ETTA — with David Gordon

Cost: $49   Length: 6 Lectures
Format: Independent Study
Status: Open for enrollment

An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought, the capstone of Murray Rothbard’s career, is one of the greatest works of intellectual history written in the twentieth century. It is a massive book, over one thousand pages of small print, and students often find it hard to read. This course, the first of a two-part series, covers the first volume. Students who take it will gain a thorough knowledge of some of the key themes of the book.

People with three different interests will find this course of value. First, if you want to learn Austrian economics, it is essential to grasp how this system grew out of previous economic thought. Austrian economics developed the insights of the Spanish Scholastics, in particular the subjective theory of value, and reacted against the classical economics of Adam Smith and his followers. Rothbard’s book is an unrivaled source of insight on these vital topics.

Second, if you are interested in the thought of Murray Rothbard, you need to read An Austrian Perspective. It contains his views on many topics either not otherwise available or not discussed elsewhere in so much detail. These include the key mistake in Aristotle’s economics, why Adam Smith is overrated, the place of religion in economic development, and the importance of Cantillon and Turgot.

Third, if you are interested in history, you will find in Rothbard’s book a treasure trove of insights. How did the idea of natural law develop? What role did Catholics and Protestants play in the development of capitalism: is the Weber thesis correct? Was Machiavelli a teacher of evil? How did the modern state arise? What was the basis of mercantilism?

Here is a general outline for the course:

Topic 1: Greek and Medieval Economic Thought: The Fallacy that Exchange Requires Equal Value and How the Middle Ages Broke Free From It. Rothbard’s Method of Historical Inquiry

Topic 2: The Spanish Scholastics: How They Developed the Subjective Theory of Value and Monetary Theory. Their Role as Precursors of Austrian Economics

Topic 3: The Rise of the Absolute State: How the Divided Sovereignty of the Middle Ages Was Replaced by the Centralized State 

Topic 4: Mercantilism: How the State Controls the Economic System

Topic 5: Cantillon and Turgot:  The Real Founders of Modern Economics. Their Main Subjectivist Insights

Topic 6: Adam Smith’s Counterrevolution: Abandoning the Subjective Theory of Value. Smith’s Compromises with the State.


All readings for this course are free, available online, and provided to students in a fully-hyperlinked syllabus.

Independent Study

Independent study courses are courses that were presented live in the past. These courses are now offered at a discount to anyone who wants to study independently. All courses include lecture recordings, slides, a complete hyper-linked syllabus, automatically-graded quizzes, and a discussion forum. Professors are not available for academic support for these independent study courses.

Sample Certificate of Participation

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