By Jim Stanford
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Extra info for Economics for Everyone: A Short Guide to the Economics of Capitalism
And it certainly doesn’t mean that we should grant undue attention or influence to economists. But it does mean that we will understand a great deal about our history, our current social reality, and our future evolution as a species, when we understand more about economics. What is economics? Economics is a social science, not a physical science. (Unfortunately, many economists are confused on this point! ) Economics is the study of human economic behaviour: the production and distribution of the goods and services we need and want.
Later in the Middle Ages, this trade sparked the emergence of a whole new class: merchants, who earned an often-lucrative slice of the surplus by facilitating this growing trade. These merchants would play an important transitional role in the subsequent development of capitalism. This is a ridiculously short review of economic history. Yet it still conveys some crucial lessons that are relevant today: • Human beings learn by doing. As they work at something for a while, they identify and implement ways to do it better.
It could also help to keep peasants and workers in line, as they endured the painful shift from feudalism to capitalism. As we will discuss in Chapter 19, a strong central state was also crucial to the successful development of capitalism in subsequent countries, too (like America and Japan). • Resources Conveniently, Britain had ample supplies of coal and iron needed for the new industries. Water-power in rural areas was also important in the early days of the Industrial Revolution. The availability of resources shouldn’t be overemphasized, however: many countries with abundant resources failed to develop quickly, while some countries (like Japan) successfully developed with very few resources.