Western Civilization Economic History

Foundations of Western Thought

Centuries of Progress
Colonial Imperialism to a Democratic Republic
Political Economy Flourished
Development of Western Civilization


Prelude: Pre-History 1      
Aristotle began Western Civilization
The Dark Ages
sometimes called
The Middle Ages  9/2/23

Greek Civil Republic  Begins "the Public Good"

Western Christendom and the "Salvation Quest"

1500 began a three century transformation period
 to new and changing economic circumstances.
 Tribal Instincts give way to a developing central state. 2
Medieval European Institutions were crumbling.
Nobility, craft gills, and cities were losing economic clout.

Humanism/Humanities Revive Greek Philosophy

18th Century Enlightenment
Individual-Organizational Freedom Creates Industrialization

Romanticism Creative Individualism1

Industrial Revolution
Science and the Search for Balance
Class "cast" Structure Ends




Developmental Characteristics


A Fight for Individual Property Rights


Human Rights vs. Property Rights

Philosophy Humanism stresses individualism opposes Christian Church penance Science joins Humanism and Christianity as most dominate  philosophical influences
Key Feature Free Will opposes Predestination as a lifestyle option   First Revolution 2nd Industrial Revolution   Free Trade and Globalization
Innovators Erasmus influenced Luther T_More defines utopian socialism Alexander Graham Bell     Mark Zuckerberg
Key Inventions Guttenberg Press3 Financial Revolution Steam Engine Steel, Chemicals, Electricity    Transistor,  Internet, Genetic Engineering
Economic System Feudalism Mercantilism /Bullionism. Laissez-faire Capitalism

managed currency/credit

Democratic Socialism   Free Market Capitalism

Economic Theory

Manorialism had Lords with legal economic power supported financially from his landholdings with legal obligatory contributions of the peasantry.

Tariffs  increased powerful, helped private  "infant" industries. Trade was limited with industrial specialization providing growth.

Private property, individual liberty

backed by a constitutional
Property/Contract Rights
eventually yield to human
See Lochner v. NY
Free Markets Rule
GATT Globalism
WTO aid Agriculture
Surplus Agriculture + Gold +Luxuries   Diseases Cured, Basic Necessities Preventive Medicine Retirement

Church + Monarchy +Guilds +Traders + Merchants

+ Corporations Wealthy Few + Politicians + Interest Groups + Social Media moguls
Control Method

Eternity in Hell or Heaven+ Physical punishment

+ Economic Rewards   + Political Rewards  + Self Interest
Work Structure Wool Weaver Households Cotton Factory Workers Unionized Manufacturing Workers  

Surfs + Farmers + Guilds  +Bankers +Importers

   + Corporations  

+ Individuals


+ Military Spending 

    + Education Spending
Oligarchs Provided


 + Infrastructure  

+ Sanitation + Health

+ R&D + Universal Education

+ Education + Security



  + Trade Unions   + Government Replace Unions  

+Social Networks

Key Asset Land + Gold Natural Resources + Transportation  
Energy Source

Humans Animals, Water, Wind

  + Steam 

+ Electricity

+ Oil + Atom      + Nature
Economic Catalyst


England's Hegemony Begins   English Cotton mfgt avoided monopoly constraints allowing innovation based on science
Key Exports

Spices Tea Silk from Orient

  Wool, cotton

Industrial Revolution

  + Nature
Key Exporters

India, China

  + England

+ US + Germany

See1  Related Links Civilizations: Past, Present, and Future,  1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed,  
History 2.0: Western Liberal Democracy is a Big and Fat Lie!
, History 2.0: Human Race, 500 years of European colonialism
3 min video


Our 21,000 Mile March Out of Africa







Principles by Ray Dalio
Promotion for the New Changing World Order




2 Individualism Slowly Replaced Lineage Based Patriarchal Tribalism

Christian Institutional Interests caused the banning of popular marriage customs. Cross cousin marriage, levirate marriage to a brother's widow, adoption, divorce and concubinage were outlawed. Church Doctrine was not the reason. These limitations were strategies to control property lineage. Women were allowed by church law to own property meaning that because widows often had no heirs, property went to the church.

Church land holdings would double by the end of 9th century and eventually reached 30% in most Medieval Western Europe. The Catholic Church was an iatrical part of the social system because there was no developed state. This control of property went unnoticed until the reformation though Pope Gregory VII had some temporary success of curbing  rent-seeking and corruption with his Gregorian Reforms. One of his most successful tools, clerical celibacy,  was adopted after 1000 violent year.

Individual Property Rights developed and undermined the linage property rights required for a patriarchal tribal order. Early Feudalism enhanced social ties once provided by tribalism/kinship and provided greater physical protection.



 A Moneyed family relationship eventually replaced the Patriarchal family kinship required by tribalism. Social Mores and family rules, governed by the church, were slowly change by the feudal political process. The resulting individualism would precede the state development. Marx was wrong as 16th century capitalism developed where free property already existed and not because of  wealthy unresponsive bourgeoisie.

Clan based tribal competition for power was minimal but there was a feudal based blood nobility to consider. Vassalage was a contract with common law requirements for both sides. It was an agreement between individuals. Individual with human dignity. Political control over local governmental functions was based on centrally controlled royal court. Feudal law was more flexible and permanent under feudal contracts.

The rise of state power required an educated centralized legally trained bureaucracy. It developed a sustained system of precedents known as stare decisis. Religion was essential to this process of law development.

The King was not above Catholic Church law. He was not above common law. Equal fair application of justice increased a monarch's legitimacy and fostered early state development. This process was different elsewhere.  Much later, the French Revolution began the process in France. Europe coalesce under the Rule of Law happened even later. India and China used religion, not law, to check  political power. In the Middle East, religion never coalesced into a single centralized institution outside the state.


Editor's Note: The United States had a monopoly on Power after the fall of  the Communist Soviet Union. The US could of economically helped Russia, instead she organized a battle for influence over newly created Eastern Europe. Allowing Russia to be part of the world order may have helped maintain world political balance. Instead, neocons disgraced the Russian people which eventually led to Putin's attempt to provide political balance.

Is Putin a once in a generation leader?  Trump is Going After China and Maybe Putin. Is Trump a once in a generation leader?

Capitalism and Human Nature/

Capitalism had quite a tough path toward acceptability as making money was viewed as unseemly, a deadly sin.

In medieval times, the dominant intellectual tradition was one of sin and the avoidance of sinful behavior. Lust for power or wealth were unambiguously bad things.

Even in a feudal society, such passions were acknowledged by society as, in some sense, legitimate, but the view didn’t have any authority.

In the Renaissance, the authority of these self-denial concepts began to recede. Hirschman talks about Machiavelli representing a different ideal (of sorts) that was emerging.

3 Bohemian Reformation originated with Jan Hus began the reformation. Occurring before the printing press: It was obscure.  Hus would not recant his Heretical beliefs and in 1415,  he was burned at the stake, Luther' attack on indulgence [tax?] and demand that church doctrine be backed by scripture angered Rome. The Sack of Rome 1527 resulted from anti-Roman feelings and a desire to sack and pillage the Holy City. Rome tried to answer with the Counter-Reformation. Years of carnage finally ended with the Peace of Westphalia which effectively ending the European wars of religion. The Theological-Political-Treatise from Spinoza's was a systematic critique of Judaism and all organized religion in general. It was similar to the Bible critiques as manner as did Erasmus and Luther. Errors in the Latin Vulgate Bible use by Roam were at the center of philosophical discussions. Luther successes at the Diet of Worm began  modern Germany and some say  it began the modern era of  consciousness.



Political Economy Flourished


The 13th-Century Pact
That Influenced the U.S. Constitution



It's Been a Good 500 Years
















18th Century Growth Curves

Four Major Empires Ruled


Medicine Helped









The Factors of Hegemony



Most People Prospered, Especially Lately


Why Wealth Grew




Science and Capitalism Helped





Ancient invaders transformed Britain, but not its DNA (New Scientist)


A 1789 Brain Drain Begins US Industrial Revolution



Political Economy Helped

It Was Slow at First

View image on Twitter

Capitalism Increased Progress

175 Years of Liberal Economic History

It's Always Been Dangerous

Harvard's Thucydides 16 Case Files
30 second video

Larger Graphic



A timeline of pandemics from the Black Death to HIV/AIDS
that ravaged human populations and changed history.



See Timelines of world history




Prelude: Aristotle's Analysis     Gutenberg Provides a Catalyst

Philosophers Analyzed the Economic Transition  

#2 Economist Could Not Agree

#3 175 Years of Economic History



Aristotle Saw Trends and 
  Aristotle Predicted Modern Western Civilization

See Aristotle, Politics    Book 1   Book 2   youtube book 1   youtube book 2.

Guttenberg Press Provides a Catalyst

Editor's Note The reformation moved economic recourses away from Rome in a secular direction








A Portuguese carrack,
as depicted in a
map made in 1565.

Carrack Sailing Ships

Reformation, Enlightenment, Scientific Revolution dominated the 19th century.










#2 Western Philosophers Analyzed the Western Economic Transition.

Traditions in Transition1

Source Thinking About Capitalism

The pre-modern traditions of civil republicanism and spirituality from ancient Greece/Rome and Christianity were suspicious of commerce. The Roman Catholic Church relegated this sin to the Jews.

In reaction to an era of religiously based civil war Thomas Hobbes’ Challenge these traditions. Hobbes’s great importance  lies in his on this-worldly happiness as the goal of government and for his early explorations of  self-love in human affairs; His abandonment of the notion that  government is to guide us to some shared purpose, some highest ideal, be it civic virtue or religious holiness.

Holland commercial success led to a new emphasis on commerce in relation to national power. Moral status of increased material well-being enhanced by luxury was questioned by Rousseau and other  moralists of the civic and Christian tradition. They argued that material progress had increased inequality, undermined virtue, and actually made people less happy.


Adam Smith believed the goal of the market economy was to make possible an ongoing rise in the standard of living of the vast majority of the population. A competitive market channeled self-interest in socially beneficial directions. Increased productivity making commodities less expensive an  “invisible hand” channel self-interest toward socially desirable outcomes.

Smith thought that certain functions including national defense, the provision of law, and what we now call “infrastructure.” can only be provided by government. Smith felt some commercial processes like processes like division of labor increase productivity had negative effects, which intellectuals like him had to analyze and that government should eliminate.

Smith thought rule of law and the right institutional conditions could lead a capitalist society  toward better people who were better off.

 The Middle Ages in 3 1/2 minutes video

Edmund Burke offered a conservative analysis of hazards from capitalism .Monopoly power of the British East India Company search of gain  and unrestrained by the inherited culture of England, were riding roughshod over traditional Indian society. Burke then argued that the French revolution was propelled into dangerous radicalism of radical intellectuals and newly rich entrepreneurs who were oriented toward risk and failed to appreciate the existing institutions of their society.

Justus Moser was a conservative who felt for whom the spread of international capitalism was a threat to existing institutions and traditional, hierarchical society where people knew their place. He  championed localism, particularity, historical institutions, hierarchy, limits, and boundaries. Commercialism was  destroying the traditional economy, society, and local culture.

G. W. F. Hegel saw a Prussian state trying to break down the legal restrictions on commerce to create a richer and more dynamic society. The great challenge of modern institutions is to provide us with enough choice to foster individuality, while linking us with others and with our cultural past to provide us with a sense of meaning and belonging.



Economist Could Not Agree

Alexander Hamilton the first secretary of the treasury of the United States, who made the classic case for the protection of “infant industries...” Adam Smith argued that free trade between nations always produced mutual benefits. Hamilton countered this tradition. He maintained the situation is different when some nations are less economically developed, Government must protect new industries.

Tocqueville characterized an equality of legal condition, one without the inherited hierarchies of European society. Americans were more anxious about their status and believe that they can change that status by getting rich.  He individualism and materialism, and the countervailing influence of republican institutions and religion. Short-sighted self-interest is transformed into what he called “self-interest rightly understood.”



Hayek explored the ways in which the market not only coordinates information but also leads to the discovery of new knowledge. In The Road to Serfdom (1944), Hayek also presented a theory of fascism as the socialism of the lower middle classes that hffad lost out to capitalist development. He developed a liberal critique of the welfare state and its premise that the economy ought to embody social justice.

He argued capitalism embodied few common purposes and allowed individuals for various goals. He criticized attempts to create equality of opportunity would lead to an ongoing expansion of the state and a diminution of the freedom of the individual.

Marx provides a searing portrait of the degradation of labor in the industrial factory would cause a revolt but he overlooked the trends that counteracted his theory. He foresaw a worker utopia but provided no directions for achievement.

Schumpeter focused on entrepreneurial capitalism was characterized by “creative destruction,” in which new products business activities displace older forms creates widespread resentment against capitalism.

Lenin felt the revolutionary consciousness of Marx required the direction of professional revolutionaries.

Shortly after the victory of the Bolsheviks, the Viennese economist

Ludwig von Mises believed without a market mechanism, socialism would founder on the problems of information and initiative

Schumpeter felt capitalism would give way to socialism not because of capitalism’s failures, but despite its economic successes. Intellectuals who thrived by offering radical criticism, would undermine capitalism.  His real message was that socialism would have few advantages while capitalism had  many advantages that its critics overlooked.

Marcuse argued that in advanced capitalist societies people were enchained by affluence, new consumer and were psychological manipulation. Superficial satisfaction replaced humane and fulfillment  alternatives

Bell, Daniel revived the “eroding foundations” argument in new forms. contemporary capitalism—based upon advertising, new forms of entertainment, and expanding credit—increasingly promoted hedonism and irresponsibility, undermining the work ethic, frugality, and deferred gratification on which capitalism depends.

Buchanan examined the tensions between capitalism and democracy by critiquing Keynesianism based public choice theory, while Olson explained how the logic of collective action could lead to economic stagnation.

Gellner explored how the development of capitalism also led to the development of nationalism which led to changes in personal identity. A world of nation-states from a world of empires resulted.


See Classical Economics and Its Forerunners

Marx Through Hayek Mises Institute Podcasts

Liberty And Economics 37 min video

Economics for Libertarians 1   37 Min  # 2  27 Min

Cameron Weber presents A Critique on Karl Marx

History of Economic Thought  97 min

350 Years of Economic Theory, Mark Thornton Mises Institute 55 min

"Fear the Boom and Bust": Keynes vs. Hayek Rap Battle  #2 27 min

Chicago School Thinking: Old, New from James Buchanan


Analyzing the U.S. Economy

Current One-Page Economic Studies
Middle Class Economics 
Income Inequality  
Safety Net
Treated Fairly?    
Capitalism & Good Management Lowered Wages   

Is Capitalism to Blame for Middle-Class Plight

Capitalism Not Cause of Middle-Class Plight 
Look Out the Window Economics
Economics Exposed
Everyone is on Welfare  
Is Financial Aid Welfare?  
College Tuition Not Going Up Rapidly

What Happened to US Economy
World Changed, Good Jobs Gone    
Great Recession 3 p& 1 p

US Economic Normality 1945-2015  
p 2
Rights and Wrongs of the Dismal Science Video
Post WW2 Competitive Adjustment

Economics Exposed

War on Terror    
U.S. Terror Episodes Since 1900   
Terrorism Against the West 1975-2015   
The Art of War    
Gun Violence Affects Police
U.S. Wars

Economic History
U.S. Economic History overview

Key Topics

1786 Shays Tax Rebellion Leads to a Constitution
Teddy Roosevelt Takes on the RR Trusts
1930s Government Safety Net Deficits,
Like War, Deficits, Prove Attractive

Boom, Bust, Boom: Jazz, Depression, Hiroshima

Recent Economic History

U.S. Economic History Since 1900 
US Economic Normality 1945-2015    page2
Great Recession
1p or 3 p

Interesting Topics

     Severe Recessions 2p 
History of US Banking

Recent Decades Ranked by Problems 2p
20th Century Decade Evaluation 10p

U S Banking History
American Unions




U.S. Political Economy

A Very Brief Political History of the United States

Western Civilization Economic History   

US Constitution
Building America's Constitution    
Constitutional History

U.S. Politics
Political Eras 1788-2016     

A Very Brief History of Elections   
20th Century American Education

US Political Eras
Political Eras One 1788 to 1892  
Political Eras Two 1896 to 2016 

Presidential Elections One 1778-1824 
Presidential Elections Two 1828-1852      
Presidential Elections Three 1856-1892       

Presidential Elections Four 1896-1928
Presidential Elections 1932- 1971
Presidential Elections Six 1976-2012  

U.S. Political Economy Videos
History of Economic Thought Video
History of Economics Progress 4 min video

Political Economy Textbooks
US Political Economy Basics
U.S. Political Economy Handbook
U.S. Political Economy

Political Economy Materials
Book Summaries
Presidential Courage   
Thomas Jefferson 
American Dynasty

Book Summaries Collection  
Political Economy 101
Government and Politics 101

US Political Economy Evolution

Political Economy One-Page Studies

 editor Walter Antoniotti      
Comments to antonw@ix.netcom.com 



Sundry Schematics

Witch Hunts Western World-Past Present





#History Timeline shows the main superpowers and dynasties over the last 5000 years.
These type of charts really help to understand who ruled at the same time on the other side of the globe.
Love it! Source:

Early Modernity Began With Roman Empire

Under Construction

Century                       Major Events
2nd and 3rd century

The team also found that lead emissions rose and fell along with wars and political instability, particularly during the Roman Republic, and took sharp dives when two major plagues struck the Roman Empire in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. The first, called the Antoine Plague, was probably smallpox. The second, called the Plague of Cyprian Plague of Cyprian, struck during a period of political instability called the Crisis of the Third Century The crisis resulted in such profound changes in the empire's institutions, society, economic life and, eventually, religion, that it is increasingly seen by most historians as

 defining the transition between the historical periods of classical antiquity and late antiquity.[1]

Species used until civil war then print



14th  Weather led to Great Famine of 1315 to 1317 leading to poor health and the Black Death and the beginning of the Hundred Years' War between England and France.
16 th
17th Little Ice Age    England's first Poor_1601
19th Small Pox Vaccine 1st of many Workers use politics to enter middle class
20th Middle east Break down of Ottoman Empire destabilized region, West takes Political and Economic control . Increase demand for oil made Arab nations more important and  West begins to  loses influence, Britons inability to create stability after WW1 as US government and business required austerity solve the post  (was deflation then inflation,



Primitive communism edit]

The First Stage: is usually called primitive communism. It has the following characteristics.

  • Shared property: there is no ownership between individual possessions. Instead, all possessions the tribe finds are shared to ensure its survival.
  • Hunting and gathering: there is no concept of ownership beyond individual possessions. All is shared by the tribe to ensure its survival. citation needed]
  • Proto-democracy: tribal societies have yet to develop large scale agriculture, and due to this, their survival is a daily struggle. citation needed]

Slave society edit]

The Second Stage: may be called slave society, considered to be the beginning of "class society" where private property appears.

  • Class: here, the idea of class appears. There is always a slave-owning ruling class and the slaves themselves.
  • Statism: the state develops during this stage as a tool for the slave-owners to use and control the slaves.
  • Agriculture: people learn to cultivate plants and animals on a large enough scale to support large populations.
  • Democracy and authoritarianism: these opposites develop at the same stage. Democracy arises first with the development of the republican city-state, followed by the totalitarian empire.
  • Private property: citizens now own more than personal property. Land ownership is especially important during a time of agricultural development.

Feudalism edit]

The Third Stage: may be called feudalism; it appears after slave society collapses. This was most obvious during the European Middle Ages when society went from slavery to feudalism.

  • Aristocracy: the state is ruled by monarchs who inherit their positions, or at times marry or conquer their ways into leadership.
  • Theocracy: this is a time of largely religious rule. When there is only one religion in the land and its organizations affect all parts of daily life.
  • Hereditary classes: castes can sometimes form and one's class is determined at birth with no form of advancement. This was the case with India.
  • Nation-state: nations are formed from the remnants of the fallen empires. Sometimes, they rebuild themselves into empires once more; this was the case with England's transition from a province to an empire.

Capitalism edit]

Marx pays special attention to this stage in human development. The bulk of his work is devoted to analyzing the mechanisms of capitalism, which, in western society, classically arose "red in tooth and claw" from feudal society in a revolutionary movement. In capitalism, the profit motive rules and people, freed from serfdom, work for the capitalists for wages. The capitalist class are free to spread their laissez faire practices around the world. In the capitalist-controlled parliament, laws are made to protect wealth.

Capitalism may be considered the Fourth Stage in the sequence. It appears after the bourgeois revolution when the capitalists (or their merchant predecessors) overthrow the feudal system. Capitalism is categorized by the following:

  • Market economy: In capitalism, the entire economy is guided by market forces. Supporters of laissez faire economics argue that there should be little or no intervention from the government under capitalism. Marxists, however, such as Lenin in his Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, argue that the capitalist government is a powerful instrument for the furtherance of capitalism and the capitalist nation-state, particularly in the conquest of markets abroad.
  • Private property: The means of production are no longer in the hands of the monarchy and its nobles, but rather they are controlled by the capitalists. The capitalists control the means of production through commercial enterprises (such as corporations), which aim to maximize profit.
  • Parliamentary democracy: The capitalists tend to govern through an elected centralized parliament or congress, rather than under an autocracy. Capitalist (bourgeois) democracy, although it may be extended to the whole population, does not necessarily lead to universal suffrage. Historically it has excluded (by force, segregation, legislation or other means) sections of the population such as women, slaves, ex-slaves, people of color or those on low income. The government acts on behalf of, and is controlled by, the capitalists through various methods.
  • Wages: In capitalism, workers are rewarded according to their contract with their employer. Power elites propagate the illusion that market forces mean wages converge to an equilibrium at which workers are paid for precisely the value of their services. In reality, workers are paid less than the value of their productivity — the difference forming profit for the employer. In this sense, all paid employment is exploitation and the worker is "alienated" from their work. Insofar as the profit-motive drives the market, it is impossible for workers to be paid for the full value of their labour, as all employers will act in the same manner.
  • Imperialism: Wealthy countries seek to dominate poorer countries in order to gain access to raw materials and to provide captive markets for finished products. This is done directly through war, the threat of war, or the export of capital. The capitalist's control over the state can play an essential part in the development of capitalism, to the extent the state directs warfare and other foreign intervention.
  • Financial institutions: Banks and capital markets such as stock exchanges direct unused capital to where it is needed. They reduce barriers to entry in all markets, especially to the poor; it is in this way that banks dramatically improve class mobility.
  • Monopolistic tendencies: The natural, unrestrained market forces will create monopolies from the most successful commercial entities.

According to Marx, capitalism has critical failings — inner contradictions — which lead to its downfall. The working class, to which the capitalist class gave birth in order to produce commodities and profits, is the "grave digger" of capitalism. The worker is not paid the full value of what he or she produces. The rest is surplus value — the capitalist's profit, which Marx calls the "unpaid labour of the working class." The capitalists are forced by competition to attempt to drive down the wages of the working class to increase their profits, and this creates conflict between the classes, and gives rise to the development of class consciousness in the working class. The working class, through trade union and other struggles, becomes conscious of itself as an exploited class. In the view of classical Marxism, the struggles of the working class against the attacks of the capitalist class will eventually lead the working class to establish its own collective control over production.

Socialism edit]

After the working class gains class consciousness and mounts a revolution against the capitalists, socialism, which may be considered the Fifth Stage, will be attained, if the workers are successful.

Socialism may be characterized as follows:

  • Common property: the means of production are taken from the hands of a few capitalists and put in the hands of the workers. This translates into the democratic communes controlling the means of production.
  • Council democracy: Marx, basing himself on a thorough study of Paris Commune, believed that the workers would govern themselves through system of communes. He called this the dictatorship of the proletariat, which, overthrowing the dictatorship (governance) of capital, would democratically plan production and the resources of the world.

Marx explained that, since socialism, the first stage of communism, would be "in every respect, economically, morally, and intellectually, still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges", each worker would naturally expect to be awarded according to the amount of labor he contributes, despite the fact that each worker's ability and family circumstances would differ, so that the results would still be unequal at this stage, although fully supported by social provision.