In the beginning, there were the classical economists—most famously Adam Smith and David Ricardo—who wrote about a mostly preindustrial economy. A little bit unfortunately for them, the Industrial Revolution turned out to be far and away the most important thing to ever happen in economy history. So you got Karl Marx, who in many ways was trying to deploy classical ideas in an Industrial Revolution context, and you got the "marginal revolution" and the development of the modern economics today.
But as rich countries shift more and more into a postindustrial economy, I think many of the distinctive posits of old-fashioned classical economics are relevant again.
In particular the treatment of land and natural resources as something important and importantly different from "capital" has a new relevance today. Some of that is simply because thanks to the environmentalist movement we care about natural resources in a way that the public figures of the high industrial revolution didn't. But it's also because, paradoxically, the rapid fall in transportation and communications prices has made location matter more than ever. Digital communication turns out to be more of a complement to than a substitute for face-to-face communication. And the ability to transport physical goods across vast distances cheaply has created an economy in which a much larger share of the population works performing face-to-face services (cooking and serving food, running cash registers, providing health care, teaching kids, policing the streets, fixing the plumbing) than in producing physical goods.
TODAY IN SLATE
More Than Scottish Pride
Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself.
What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture
Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You
Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows
Why Do Some People See the Virgin Mary in Grilled Cheese?
The science that explains the human need to find meaning in coincidences.
Happy Constitution Day!
Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.