Paper Comments: "On the Definition of Economics" (by Backhouse & Medema)

INTRODUCTION.- "Economists are far from unanimous about the definition of their subject. Here are some definitions of economics from contemporary principles of economics textbooks:
  • "Economics is the study of economies, at both the level of individuals and of society as a whole "(Krugman and Wells, 2004, p. 2).
  • "Economics is the study of how human beings coordinate their wants and desires, given the decision-making mechanisms, social customs, and political realities of the society" (Colander, 2006a, p. 4).
  • "Economics is the study of how society manages its scarce resources" (Mankiw, 2001, p. 4).
  • "[Economics is the] social science that studies the choices that individuals, businesses, governments, and entire societies make as they cope with scarcity" (Bade and Parkin, 2002, p. 5).
  • "[E]conomics is the study of human behavior, with a particular focus on human decision making" (Gwartney, Stroup, Sobel, and MacPherson 2006, p. 5).
Thus, economics is apparently the study of the economy, the study of the coordination process, the study of the effects of scarcity, the science of choice, and the study of human behavior." (Read more)

COMMENTS: A very useful paper, that offers some clarification about a "general theory of economics" which is sometimes forgotten by students, teachers, economists and policy makers, specially in times when mathematical economics and finances seems to be the sole goal for some researchers. The last part, "the expanding of economic boundaries" should open the minds of those obtuse economic professionals, with the "economic analysis of non economic phenomena".


  1. So how is it the 44 years after the Moon landing society can ignore Demand Side Depreciation? There were 200,000,000 cars in the US in 1995. How much was the depreciation on the cars that year?

    Do economists have the intelligence to handle economics with complex technology? There were only 8,000 cars in 1900. Not much depreciation on cars then. There was probably more depreciation on horses.


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