The Image

Born in Liverpool and trained at Oxford, Chicago, and Harvard, Kenneth Boulding was an accomplished economist. One of his foundational books is The Image (1956). . . . → Read More: The Image


Economists frequently run across criticisms of the assumption of rationality in economics, or of rational choice theory more generally. For the most part, the critics wholly misunderstand what the term “rational” means. In this column, I clarify. . . . → Read More: Rationality

Sustainable Developmental Growth

It is said that because of ecological limits to the carrying capacity of Earth, we need sustainable development. But development without growth is unthinkable. What we really need, to coin a phrase is sustainable developmental growth. . . . → Read More: Sustainable Developmental Growth

The Economics of Happiness

If Socrates had asked a student why we study economics, and he or she gave one of those obvious answers – “… to see how much money we are making,” or “… how much unemployment we have” – it is entirely likely the old philosopher would come back with, “Ah … but to what end?” . . . → Read More: The Economics of Happiness

Business Ethics: Scandals and Standards

Responding to corporate scandals, Congress passes more stringent legislation, corporations spew out voluminous ethics codes, and business schools integrate “ethics” into their curriculum. But what does economics say? . . . → Read More: Business Ethics: Scandals and Standards

Three Economies

Economics textbooks celebrate the free-market exchange economy. Too bad they fail to discuss two other important types of economy: the grants economy and the appropriation economy. . . . → Read More: Three Economies

To Trust or to Contract?

To trust or to contract is a falsely posed question. The real question is why do we sometimes resort to implicit contracts, sometimes to explicit, oral contracts, and sometimes to written ones? What determines which contracts we use when and what determines how elaborate our contracts are? . . . → Read More: To Trust or to Contract?

Economists Without Borders

Physicians without Borders is an international organization that sends medical personnel into war zones to assist victims of violent conflict. The physicians do better than Hippocrates (“first, do no harm”) himself. Not waiting for victims to be carted their way, they seek them out instead. Because suffering respects no borders, neither do these physicians. Hats off to them. Economists, likewise, are not fond of borders. . . . → Read More: Economists Without Borders

Physicians, Priests, and Economists

If the role of physicians is to attend to physical wellbeing, and that of priests, rabbis, and imans to attend to spiritual wellbeing, then the role of economists is to attend to material wellbeing. . . . → Read More: Physicians, Priests, and Economists

Money and Values

In last month’s column, we learned that the money you thought you had in your bank account is not, in fact, there. Modern money, I wrote, is a fantastic social fiction. “Money,” writes a contemporary Buddhist philosopher, “is a collective thought.” . . . → Read More: Money and Values

Values and Prices

Let’s assume that to you trees are vertical stalks of fiber, that a forest carries no more spiritual or aesthetic value than a parking lot, and that woodland creatures are uninteresting sacks of calories. Let’s assume, in other words, that you’ve done something rotten and God has turned you into an economist. So writes Bill McKibben. But the villain is McKibben, not the economist. . . . → Read More: Values and Prices

Simple Laws—From Thermodynamics to Supply and Demand

Former Saudi oil minister Zaki Yamani said: “Political decisions cannot permanently negate the divine laws of supply and demand.” The divine laws of supply and demand are especially stunning to behold in situations in which people do try to sidestep them. . . . → Read More: Simple Laws—From Thermodynamics to Supply and Demand