Economic views of Xenophon

Economic views of Xenophon (440-355 B.C.)

He was the third and the last of the Greek thinkers.  He wrote several books.  His economic ideas are found in ‘Economicus’, and ‘Ways and Means to increase the Revenues of Athens’.  His views on division of labour can be traced from ‘Cyropaedia’. 

Primarily Xenophon was agricultural writer. He declared that, “when husbandry flourishes, all the other arts are in good fettle, but whenever land is compelled to lie waste, the other arts of landsmen and miners alike well nigh perish”. His love for agriculture did not deter him to approve manufacturers, and traders for enhancing the revenues of the state of Athens. In addition, he explained that state should build ships for transportation. He considered merchants and ship-owners were considered highly valuable citizens because they brought wealth to the state.  He also advocated silver mining for increasing the revenues. For this, he advocated for the organization of ‘joint stock companies’. Also, he explained that there were only two factors of production, namely, land and labour. In the words of Xenophon, “agriculture supplies good things in plenty, but she suffers them not to be won without toil”.  Xenophon was an inventor of ‘laws of return’. He held that agriculture was an industry that subject to law of diminishing returns, while silver mining yielded increasing returns.  Xenophon marked a definite advance over Plato’s idea that division of labour arose from differences in the ‘innate abilities’ of men. The roots of modern theory of division of labour can be found in Xenophon’s idea. Finally, He advocated large population for the prosperity of Athens.