Portrait of Socrates: Socratic Economics and how to Avoid a New Economic Crisis

Niels Jørgen Lindtner

Student thesis: Master thesis


How do we avoid a new financial crisis like the one that erupted, so to speak, in 2007? If we bother ourselves with consulting some of the ancient Greek philosophers such as Plato and Xenophon, we learn that a sound and harmonic economy is always preconditioned by the presence of virtue. Without virtue any household, private or national, will deteriorate. From this perspective, therefore, financial - or more broadly speaking - economic crisis arise whenever people fail to act virtuously. So the message from across so many centuries long gone is that if we are to avoid a new economic crisis, we must – each and every one of us – live in accordance with the dictate of virtue. That is, we do not necessarily have to be good at calculating or drawing graphs in order to be good economists nor necessarily at good terms – for that matter – with great isms such as capitalism, communism or liberalism, no, the message is a different one: we must strive to become virtuous men and women ourselves! Therefore, it is that we – aspiring economists - find ourselves faced with the very same questions that Socrates, notorious for his outer ugliness and unequalled wisdom, dedicated the best part of his life exploring: What does it mean to be virtuous and how do one become that? His answer, to which his very life attests, is that economy should not be thought of or practiced as an abstract science, rather, economy is a question about the right way of living. The prime obstacle for the achievement thereof being ignorance. His life was ever a struggle to retain his intellectual liberty against false opinion; a master that pulls and tugs men hither and thither, but rarely to where men ought to be – like so many Americans in grand and luxurious houses they couldn’t afford; a catastrophe which came to be known as the housing bubble. In this master thesis, therefore, I will argue, that virtue is the very fabric that determines the highs and low of the economy, that no one will have a steady passage through life who does not possess virtue and that economic crisis will not go away before no man is governed by false opinion. Economics is not about money, it is about knowledge

EducationsMSc in Philosophy, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2017
Number of pages78
SupervisorsMorten Sørensen Thaning