Monday, September 17, 2007

Discussion Starter

Since I moved to Virginia back in mid-August, my reading has fallen off a cliff. (I did manage to read Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows, but I don't have any insights on that...yet.) It has only recently gotten restarted because we are still emptying book boxes at the new house; which brings me to the subject of this post.

I picked up an older book in my library, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich, and Some Are So Poor by David Landes. I was especially interested in Landes' book because of a newer book by Gregory Clark, A Farewell to Alms. Early in Landes' book, he quotes Hippocrates, and the quote has some potential for use in the classroom.

"Where there are kings, there must be the greatest cowards. For men's souls are enslaved and refuse to run risks readily and recklessly to increase the power of somebody else. But independent people, taking risks on their own behalf and not on behalf of others, are willing and eager to go into danger, for they themselves enjoy the prize of victory."

Now we can discuss the evolution of monarchy from the time of Hippocrates until the present, but I think in this case, we can substitute tyrant, dictator, or some other adjective referring to one with absolute power (as was in Hippocrates' time). Agreeing to that, focus on the second sentence and apply it to economic systems. Does an open, market-driven economy have the effect described? Is that good or ill? What alternatives are there if one is to efficiently promote growth and change?

Please share what you (and your students) think.

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