What is Economics? Part 1/3


I remember well my first economics class: we dived straight in and learned to derive supply and demand curves. Then I became so immersed in trying to get my head around the different definitions of the money supply that it took me a decade to realise I didn’t buy into the whole mindset that I was being sold by the textbooks. But I was lucky enough to have great teachers who encouraged me to rethink it for myself, and that’s exactly what I’m (still) doing.

So here’s a different kind of introduction to economics – the kind that I wish I had had, and which would have saved me years of walking away from the subject, only to realise that you can’t walk away because its language and influence is everywhere around us.

It’s a three-part video, each one 10 minutes long, and I’ll be posting parts 2 and 3 in the next couple of days.

9 thoughts on “What is Economics? Part 1/3

  1. Ruth
    12 November 2013 at 15:04

    Thanks Kate – really enjoyed it, learnt something new and am looking forward to seeing what comes next.

  2. Robin
    12 November 2013 at 21:54

    Liked the quote from James Stuart and his definition of political economy. Very succinct. But no mention of Hayek or even Friedman, who have so influenced more recent thinking? Or maybe that is to come in future episodes?

    And I’d strongly support your comments about the need for a much broader context for understanding economics. There’s a need for a lot more holistic and systemic thinking as opposed to the reductionist and determinist approaches that seem to have predominated

    I also noted your reference to Newtonian physics and mechanical analogies. There’s some good material around on the need for post Newtonian thinking and the application of the maths of chaos theory. The economists have got a lot to learn from meteorologists and environmentalists when it comes to modelling. A touch ironic!

    Looking forward to the rest of the series

  3. Sarah Knott
    13 November 2013 at 03:49

    Thanks for the definition of political economy, Kate! And the nice articulation of the originators’ narrow world view. Elinor Ostrom, pictured here, remains much beloved in her former university and town.

  4. 14 November 2013 at 10:31

    If we are all economists because we live in an economy, then we must all be cosmologists because we live in the Universe…

    1. 14 November 2013 at 11:23

      Fair point, but if an economist is – as Xenophon first defined it – someone who practices household resource management, then I think we are all economists, for better or worse.

  5. 23 December 2013 at 14:01

    Another way to ask this is, “what is an economy?” I like Andy Kessler’s Definition (From “Eat People”):

    “There is only one definition of an economy I’ve ever been comfortable with: a system that increases the standard of living of its participants. Period. Everything else from credit to money supply to quarterly earnings releases to minimum wages is just a tool or else a meaningless characteristic of an economy. Without that “increasing living standards” thing, you and I would still be living in caves, chasing squirrels and shoveling shit and dying young from minor infections.”

    FYI, I am on twitter: @CBBApp