As I see it, the major theories fall between two camps, those of the libertarian bent, who argue against government interference in economic affairs, leaving the markets to rise and fall on their own, and those who advocate government intervention, regulation, and even government ownership of production in order to secure equality of opportunity and wealth.
Virtually all economists support some form of "spreading the wealth," whether through taxation or through government regulation of wages, benefits, and labor laws. No serious thinker today argues against the redistribution of wealth for the good of society and for the health of the economy. Recent events clearly demonstrate the essentil need for government intervention when capitalism runs amok.
For a brief understanding of Economics, I recommend looking at the work of three giants: Smith, Keynes, and Marx. Milton Friedman is also a good source of the unfettered capitalism view, though he does a good job summing up the theories of those before him:
I like to start with Keynes, who is apropos today as governments try to come to the rescue of the markets. He is also interesting personally as an active member of Bloomsbury:
Duncan Grant with Keynes
The hippy guide to Keynesian economics
Forget those Depression rescue plans and focus on his vision for a more fulfilling life
Any discussion of economics has to include the thought of Adam Smith:
|Western Economists |
Finally, Marxian economics, minus his political arguments for communism and a violent revolution, is still valid today. Democratic socialism, practiced globally, especially in Europe, is essential to any comprehension of Economics:
Also, do read:
Spread the Wealth.