Not many people are aware of the fact that the person who has laid the foundations for our current economic system, Adam Smith, was a philosopher. Smith, who published the most famous economics/philosophy-related book in 1776 (The Wealth of Nations), believed in self-interest and the free market – two of the most essential elements of the capitalistic system and the political philosophy as we know it these days.
But, this is not a shocking revelation at all. Philosophy, after all, is connected to all fields of science and to any aspect of life. Much like economics, that is pretty much is happening everywhere, including rural areas around the world.
Still, the philosophy of Adam Smith and Karl Marx, and even John Maynard Keynes is simply not the same as the broad conception people around the world have these days. Today, there are other issues and a global economic system that create lots of new problems. So what is the new philosophy of economics? And does it still exist?
The new philosophy of economics
Both philosophy and economics are abstract theories that are man-made and heavily based on assumptions or trial and error. Further, it would be fair to say that both of them are endless but at the same time are also subjective to a certain time, place, region, and culture.
The meaning is that the theories of Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and Darvin are still relevant these days, even 200-300 years after they have been created. Meanwhile, things changed over time and Smith’s theory about the free market was much easier when the world’s population was around 800 million people, there were fewer products and services, and the world was less connected in terms of trade and communication (languages, culture, etc.)
What’s more, the narrative was quite different back then. Societies were very isolated and disciplined to their leaders. In a way, philosophers were the people who provided advice and guidelines to the leaders (those were the kings or any type of emperors). Even Hitler considered Nietzsche as his spiritual mentor.
Nowadays, the story is entirely different. Individualism has become the norm in more societies, and philosophy is somehow related to being ‘nonsense’ or a waste of time.
Still, now, we are dealing with other major important conflicts within the economic fields. Those are, for example:
- The clash between individuals and large companies
- The right to protect privacy
- Climate change versus global growth
- Too big to fail
- Greediness versus the wealth of a society
- The role of governments in the economic system (cryptocurrencies as a solution)
- Economic inequality
Economy and philosophy 2.0 – Everyone is a philosopher
The truth is that in the modern world, everyone is a philosopher. It’s nearly impossible to see the world as a whole adopting a new economic system following a book publication or a speech made by a ‘philosopher.’ We have different codes and morals now, and less admiration for intelligent people, or in other words, philosophers.
On the other hand, economists and companies owners are less concerned with abstract issues. They look at numbers, growth, and stock values. They become enemies of the public, of employees.
The good thing is that the gap narrows, meaning there’s a shift from the old method in which one person (say Adam Smith) decides the economic system to an entire population that dictates the next way an economy work.
Some would say that technology is the new philosophy. Perhaps it’s good. I mean, technology is bad for many things like relationships, communication, reliability, and even manipulating the stock market. But it’s certainly good for one thing – it strengthens the collectiveness and at the same time, the individual.
Nowadays, everyone is a philosopher. And that means there are higher chances the economy will go in the other way around than what it used to be so far if people as a collective will be the main driver of the economy. Or maybe not, well, you are your own philosopher.
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