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A possibly common perception of "economics" is that it is only concerned with money, that it is dull, and of relevance only to bean counters. Whether or not this is an accurate assessment of some sub-disciplines of economics, other aspects (generally classified as macroeconomics) are concerned with, or relevant to, broader issues of prosperity, political stability, social justice, motivation, and even the survival of humanity.

Another popular impression of economics is that it is politically conservative and supportive of capitalism and financial institutions. Whilst many economists may be right-leaning, it is not inherent in the discipline. Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes were economists. And economic analysis can be applied to systems other than monetary ones, such as the relationship between abortion laws and violent crime.[1]

The economist Tim Harford gives an accessible (and possibly amusing) explanation of some concepts in economics such as the theoretical 'perfect market', 'efficiency' and fairness, 'externalities', imperfect markets such as used-car sales and the US health system, unintended consequences of regulations such as the Merton Rule, the effect of import tariffs on exports, of trade and trade barriers on world development and poverty, and more.[2]

Of relevance to the issue of how we sustain human life on Earth, Harford addresses issues such as the environmental costs of transport of goods, the relationship between development and pollution and environmental degradation and climate change, whether free trade is better or worse for the world's poorest people, and how economic measures could determine the cost of decarbonising electricity and drive decarbonisation generally. Using the thought experiment of a conscientious consumer who wishes to minimise their carbon footprint by gathering infeasably massive amounts of data on everything they consider buying in order to make informed choices he shows how carbon pricing can achieve much the same effect without any effort, or indeed desire, on the part of the consumer to do the right thing.[3]

Behavioural economics (see Wikipedia) brings psychology into economic analyses. Perhaps the best known part of this field is nudge theory.

  1. See Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner [website]
  2. The Undercover Economist (ISBN 0-19-518977-9) (ISBN 0345494016) by Tim Harford published in 2005 by Little, Brown. See book description on Harford's website: [link]
  3. Adapt: why success always starts with failure (ISBN-13: 978-0349121512) (ISBN-10: 0349121516) by Tim Harford See book description on Harford's website: [link]