American Exceptionalism: Political Economy and Economic Laws

  • Lall Ramrattan
  • Michael Szenberg


This chapter looks at political economy and economic law. Before the Marginal Revolution of 1870, the field of economics was largely based on political economy and scholars such as Leon Walras, Stanley Jevons, and Carl Menger who tried to separate politics from economics. The principles of economic law that apply to America are founded on the enlightenment philosophies, natural laws, and moral philosophies that took root during the time of ancient Greece. Thus, we take a continuum approach between the ancient and newer perspectives. A break in that continuum is discerned by an attempt to transform the ancient view marked mostly by Georg Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. Hegel spoke of consciousness as freedom and as a perfect state for social harmony. His most well-known followers were Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels who tried to affect a paradigmatic shift from what was characterized by Adam Smith, the “father of economics,” as economic jurisprudence and theory of moral sentiments to socialism and communism. The American Exceptionalism view of the political economy and economic laws are founded on the early continuum views.

On the legal side, it is necessary to frame the issues of American law from a historical perspective. A legal ordering will go through some essential works of pre-Socratic philosophers and the Platonic and Aristotelian concerns with natural and moral laws. One then has some continuity with Roman law in the Regal and Republic periods, which includes essential contributions by Gaius, Cicero, and Justinian. We obtain much insight from the readings of the historians Gibbon, Spengler, Toynbee, and Hannah Ardent. The Schoolmen Augustine and Thomas Aquinas posited relationships between law, religion, and science. From there we then visit some paradigmatic change in ancient natural law by Grotius, Bacon, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Hume, Kant, Savigny, and Fichte. A rival paradigm in law was presented by Hegel and Marx.


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lall Ramrattan
    • 1
    • 2
  • Michael Szenberg
    • 3
  1. 1.UC Berkeley ExtensionBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.Holy Names UniversityOaklandUSA
  3. 3.Touro CollegeBrooklynUSA

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