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Cooking the Books: Beyond Economics

This year is also the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. Although not the main theme, or even a minor one, it is clear from the characters’ behaviour and occasional asides (at least in the first two series) that it’s a money-free world. Set in the 23rd and 24th centuries, scarcity no longer exists as anything material needed to meet human needs can be produced by ‘replicators’. This prompted one trekkie, Manu Saadia, to write Trekonomics: the Economics of Star Trek that appeared earlier this year and which sparked a discussion on ‘post-scarcity economics’.

From Political Economy to Vulgar Economics

The history of economic research came up as an independent science in the seventeenth century. However, that didn’t happen all of a sudden. Long ago since ancient times, the process of rudimentary conceptualization and formation of political economic ideas had begun cropping up. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Hindus and other peoples were already acquainted with such economic categories as commodity, exchange, money, price, loan interest, commercial profit, and others. There are very interesting ideas and data in ancient Egyptian papyri; the code of Hammurabi, the ruler of Babylonia; the Vedas of Ancient India; Homer’s Odyssey and other works of the ancient Greek poet; the writings of Xenophon, Plato, Aristotle and other philosophers of Greek antiquity, and so on. However, what the ancients knew about economic categories was just embryonic.

Why Study Economics?

We are sometimes asked why we should spend our time studying economics, and told that there are enough problems and evils in Capitalism for us to attack without wasting our time on such a dry-as-dust subject as economics. We reply, in the first place, by saying that we do not find economics dry-as-dust, but, on the contrary, we find it fascinating, as it is the only way by which the world we live in can be explained. Secondly, it is only be a knowledge of economics that we can explain the poverty and exploitation of the working class, and, what is far more important, how that poverty and exploitation can be ended.

The economics we study is that first of all laid down by one of the founders of scientific Socialism, Karl Marx. The first sentence of the first chapter of the first volume of his monumental work "Capital" says:—

Book Reviews: 'Gerrard Winstanley - The Digger’s Life and Legacy' & 'Remaking Scarcity - From Capitalist Inefficiency to Economic Democracy'


Gerard Winstanley: The Digger’s Life and Legacy, by John Gurney. Pluto Press, 2013 £12.99

This is an excellent new book providing a brief history of the life and times of Gerard Winstanley, the seventeenth century utopian communist. Enough historical context and biographical detail is provided to get to grips with the subject without becoming too immersed in academic debates and a sense is given of the contested nature of Winstanley’s legacy.

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