Unfortunately, economists often have to receive rebukes from laypersons who claim that economics regards people as greedy and selfish creatures unwilling to make a choice before they make sure that benefits of their actions exceed costs arising from them. And for this reason, a science like this isn’t suited to describe the intricate reality full of altruistic impulses.
That’s why, in defense of economics, we would like to refute common misconceptions about this study.
Our counter-arguments to the most widespread delusions people have about economics are as follows:
1) Pursuing personal gain isn’t the same as being selfish.
According to a science called economics, rational economic agents (households, businesses, public bodies, etc.) pursue their personal gain, since they compare benefits and costs resulting from their possible decisions before making any choice.
However, concepts such as the benefits and costs are interpreted in a broad sense by economists. The idea of the notions mentioned above varies from person to person, depending on his or her set of values. Those values might include both personal enrichment and happiness of all humankind or, as is often the case, a little of both.
Moreover, inner discomfort caused by the violation of moral norms should be taken into account as costs, since a person who gives you the shirt off his back does this because his moral satisfaction from this action exceeds inconvenience caused.
2) Consumption isn’t equivalent to obesity.
An increase in the size of a product produced by a country, or a “nation’s economic pie”, as economists put it, doesn’t mean that the citizens of the country are going to “drown” in the increasing number of material goods.
The point is that the growing proportion of a product produced by a certain society is intangible goods.
We consume pieces of music and art, scientific and philosophical studies and even religious theories the same way as we consume material things. The choice you make about what type of goods you would like to consume depends on your personal preferences.
The more a person immerses himself in the world of culture, education and self-development, the more pieces of the intangible part of an “economic pie” he consumes.
3) Things whose value can’t be measured are non-existent, yet monetary units are general-purpose meters rather than an ultimate goal.
Perhaps you have often had to listen to claims that life is priceless. Nevertheless, we often put this treasure at risk.
Buying cheap and low-quality goods, giving preference to inexpensive but unreliable vehicles, living in a polluted city center just because it is where your office is located or crossing the street against the light owing to reluctance to wait until you have the right of way are the striking examples of putting your life at risk.
Sometimes we think of an extra minute of waiting as something that is more valuable to us than our lives. Why are those few minutes saved placed above the risk of losing a life under the wheels of a car?
It’s all about a need to make a choice. As you might know, the amount of resources you have is limited. That’s why, in order to receive something, you first need to sacrifice something for it. In that sense, everything has its price. The thing you sacrifice is the price you pay for what you want to get.
Extra years of life, which we could have got had we moved to the countryside and lived in the fresh air, are often traded for material goods offered by urban life.
The value of additional years of life for each specific person can be equated to the amount of money spent on material goods during the person’s stay in a city.
Likewise, we can measure the value of any benefit, using money as a universal medium of exchange. It’s not good or bad. It’s just the same as measuring distance in miles and weight in pounds.
That’s pretty much all we wanted to tell you about the way economists actually view a relationship between material resources, money and economical agents’ decision-making. We hope that we have reached the role of refuting the most common delusions about an important science such as economics.