User talk:Firulaith

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Welcome! (We can't say that loudly enough!)

Hello, Firulaith, and welcome to Wikipedia! I hope you like the place and decide to stay. Here are some pages you might find helpful:

If you have any questions or problems, no matter what they are, leave me a message on my talk page. Or, please come to the new contributors' help page, where experienced Wikipedians can answer any queries you have! Or, you can just type {{helpme}} on your user page, and someone will show up shortly to answer your questions.

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We're so glad you're here!  Mm40 (talk | contribs)  21:27, 21 June 2008 (UTC)

Hello. Firulaith. Here are some other links that I have found helpful
--Thomasmeeks (talk) 23:24, 14 July 2008 (UTC)


Deletion of beginning portion of the economics definition[edit]

Below is a proposal to update the definition of economics. If economics is a social science it must study some aspect of human behavior. The proposed definition does not make any assumption of human behavior such as self interest, rationality or estable preferences. It only says it studies human behavior as a relationship between ends and scarce means, and that when the ends can be arranged in some order of importance, behavior assumes the form of choice. The words in quotation marks are from Lionel Robbings or titles of books.

Defining economics as "the social science that studied economic activity" is like saying that philosophy study philosophical thinking, and physics study physical phenomena, and history study historical developments. These definitions do not say much. Moreover, there is a fixation with the definition of economics giving by Jean-Baptiste Say in his "Treatise on Political Economy or, The Production, Distribution, and Consumption of Wealth", published in 1803, twenty six years after "The Wealth of Nations" , a seminal work writing by Adam Smith, which started economics as a social science. As Lionel Robbings pointed out one hundred and thirty years later: "it follows from the very nature of a science that until it has reached a certain stage of development, [the right] definition of its scope is necessarily impossible". Robbins thought that, by his time, the economic science "had become sufficiently unified for the identity of the problems underlying it various separate spheres of practical and philosophical enquiry to be detected"; consequently, he wrote a hundred and sixty pages essay on "The Nature and Significance of Economic Science". After forty years of angry criticism and spirited discussions by his peers, his views became widely accepted by main stream economists.[1]

Robbins method was simple. He sought for a definition that when applied to the main divisions of theoretical economics, it could "describe, exactly, the ultimate subject-matter of the main principles of the science". He found out that the prevalent classical definition of his time that define economics as the study of wealth, in Say's terms, failed to the test.

He clarified his assertion with two examples, one regarding the Theory of Wages and the other War. "Adam Smith, it will be remembered, distinguished between productive and unproductive labor, according as the efforts in question did or did not result in the production of a tangible material object". As a consequence, the classical definition excluded from the economic analysis the wages of opera singers, and, as quoted from Smith, the wages of "churchmen, lawyers, physicians, men of letters of all kinds; players, buffoons, musicians, opera singers, opera dancers, etc", for not leading to material welfare. "No less an economist than Professor Cannan [Robbins' teacher] has urged that the political economy of war is " a contradiction in terms" apparently on the ground that, since Economics is concerned with the causes of material welfare, and since war is not a cause of material welfare [but its destruction instead], war cannot be part of the subject-matter of Economics.

Robbings contested that the labor of opera singers, dancers, etc. must increase welfare because they are value, and their value is willingly paid by various "economic subjects". In the other hand, "the apparatus of economic analysis is used to illuminate many of the most urgent and the most intricate problems of a community organized for war... it is highly doubtful whether the organizers of war can possibly do without it.".

As my own example, leisure does not contribute to material wealth, according to the classical definition of economics, and in any case it diminishes it. But it is well established that leisure has value for those that enjoy it.

The first approach was to define economics specifying certain areas of human activity. By implication, economics analyzes everything that goes on in those spheres. Nothing farther from the truth. Economics only analyzes certain aspects of production, distribution and consumption of wealth. According to Robbins, economics is about choosing among alternatives. It does not study production as a process or the different techniques to produce a thing; neither study management nor production problems. What it says is that if there is more than one way of producing a thing, the least costly alternative is always chosen in the long run. In the consumption case, it says that among the different bundles of goods and services the consumers can buy with their income they will choose the one which provides them the most satisfaction. Distribution, is the remuneration paid to the owners of labor, capital and land; and, once production is determined (the what and how), so is it distribution (for whom), in the form of wages, profits, and rent.

As a result, economic analysis is not restricted to how wealth is produced, consumed, and distributed. Although wealth is a major topic, economic analysis can also be applied to education, crime, war and any other subject for which different options are taken into consideration by the concerning parties. Economics can study for example how individuals choose between labor and leisure, work and education, and saving and spending. It study how business decide on and pick out capital investment projects. It studies how governments prepare and decide on their budgets.

Here is a simple example of an economic analysis applied to the airline industry as an illustration of a topic different than wealth. Safety is a big concern of everyone who flies or contemplates it. We are nineteen times safer in a plane than in a car, according to Arnold Barnett, MIT professor of statistics and an authority in the subject. In order to save lives, a safety proposal for airline carriers may be under consideration; but if the proposal increases airline ticket prices or multiplies air travel inconveniences, it may end costing more lives than it saves, if it pushes enough people onto the road. Therefore, the way people make choices on their travel options (economics) must be considered in any airline security proposal.

Robbins wrote his essay for fellow economists. I present below a less arcane definition, closely based on Robbin's ideas, for consideration and review of the Wikipedia public. I should point out that this definition refers to economics as a pure science not as an applied science.

Economics is the social science that studies human behavior as a relationship between desired ends and versatile scarce means along with the public and private choices concerning the allocation of scarce resources to competing ends. Private and public choices are included in the definition, because, "when time and the means for achieving ends are limited and capable of alternative application, and the ends are capable of being distinguished in order of importance, then behaviour necessarily assumes the form of choice"[2]. First, economics studies how individuals and society decide on the use of their available means and courses of actions to attain desired ends and earn a living. This is because people and society have to procure goods and services for themselves -food, lodging, clothing, amenities and others- to satisfy their needs and wants, make ends meet, and stay alive and well. To do that, they busy themselves in solving the ever present problem or dilemma of choosing among alternate courses of actions and uses of their scarce resources. This is a major problem because, once a scarce resource is chosen for a purpose, it is expended, and it cannot be used for any other purpose; and, when a course of action is taken, it is costly to undue it. When people and society try to solve this problem they are economizing -going through a logical process of choosing among alternatives. This is the central issue in economics and the reason the science exist. And second, the allocation activity is a dynamic process changing and adjusting for every period according to the technical and social environment and the scarcity conditions of resources. Economics studies the successive series of allocation events as they move toward a steady state, what economists call equilibrium. Then, economics tries to discover the equilibrium conditions and evaluates the consequences and implications equilibrium has for the individual, for a segment of society and, in the aggregate, for society at large.

You may ask what about heterodox economics. These approaches are based on history, power, institutions, natural systems and uncertainty; and, in their relentless criticism of mainstream economics and its assumptions. Robbings regarded these approaches as different disciplines of the economic science and calls them either political economy, descriptive economics, applied economics and so forth and that they deal mainly with the social environment in which the economic subjects make their allocation decisions. An article of Wikipedia says: "Mainstream economists sometimes assert that heterodox economics has little or no influence on the vast majority of academic economists in the English speaking world. Heterodox schools of economics are also usually dismissed as "fringe" and "irrelevant" by prominent mainstream economists".[3]; and "David Colander, an advocate of complexity economics, argues that the ideas of heterodox economists are now being discussed in the mainstream without mention of the heterodox economists, because the tools to analyze institutions, uncertainty, and other factors have now been developed by the mainstream. He suggests that heterodox economists should embrace rigorous mathematics and attempt to work from within the mainstream, rather than treating it as an enemy".[4] Firulaith (talk) 21:01, 16 July 2014 (UTC)

At at earlier stage in the development of economics as a science (first 26 years), economics was defined and explained at length as the study of production, distribution, and consumption of wealth by Jean-Baptiste Say in his "Treatise on Political Economy or, The Production, Distribution, and Consumption of Wealth". This definition has prevailed to our time, save by substituting the word "wealth" by "good and services" meaning that wealth may include non physical objects as well. One hundred and thirty years later, Lionel Robbings noticed that definition no longer sufficed, because many economist had made theoretical and philosofical inroads in other areas of human activity. Then, he proposed a definition of economics as a study of an aspect of human activity, the one falling under influence of scarcity[5]?? that forces people to choose, allocate scarce resorces to competing ends, and economize (avoid wasting of scarce resources). As a result, the insufficiency was solved, and with an easy conscience, we may say education economics, safety and security economics, health economics, war economics, and of course, production, distribution and consumption economics.


  1. ^ Defining Economics: the Long Road to Acceptance of the Robbins Definition, Roger E. Backhouse and Steven G. Medema, "Lionel Robbins’s essay on the Nature and Significance of Economic Science", 75th anniversary conference proceedings, p. 209;
  2. ^ Robbings, Lionel (1935). An Essay on the Nature and Significance of Economic Science (Second ed.). Great Britain: Macmillan and Co., Limited. p. 14. 
  3. ^ Among these economists, Robert M. Solow names Austrian, Post-Keynesian, Marxist, and neo-Ricardian schools as on "dissenting fringes of academic economics". Solow continued that "In economics, nevertheless, there is usually a definite consensus — there is one now." Further:

    Marx was an important and influential thinker, and Marxism has been a doctrine with intellectual and practical influence. The fact is, however, that most serious English-speaking economists regard Marxist economics as an irrelevant dead end.

    (Solow 1988)

    George Stigler similarly noted the professional marginality of the "neo-Ricardian" economists (who follow Piero Sraffa):

    "economists working in the Marxian-Sraffian tradition represent a small minority of modern economists, and ... their writings have virtually no impact upon the professional work of most economists in major English-language universities." (Stigler 1988, p. 1733)

  4. ^ David Colander, 2007. Pluralism and Heterodox Economics: Suggestions for“Inside the Mainstream” Heterodoxy
  5. ^ The conception we have adopted may be described as analytical. It does not attempt to pick out certainkinds of behaviour, but focuses attention on a particular aspect of behaviour, the form imposed by the influence of scarcity.

July 2014[edit]

Information icon Hello, and thank you for your contributions to Wikipedia. I noticed that you recently added commentary to an article, Economics. While Wikipedia welcomes editors' opinions on an article and how it could be changed, these comments are more appropriate for the article's accompanying talk page. If you post your comments there, other editors working on the same article will notice and respond to them, and your comments will not disrupt the flow of the article. However, keep in mind that even on the talk page of an article, you should limit your discussion to improving the article. Article talk pages are not the place to discuss opinions of the subject of articles, nor are such pages a forum. Thank you. – S. Rich (talk) 22:33, 16 July 2014 (UTC)

Hi. I hope you don't mind my adding a references subsection. This will allow other editors to see more clearly what you are referring to in your discussion about economics. Thanks. – S. Rich (talk) 22:40, 16 July 2014 (UTC)


This help request has been answered. If you need more help, you can ask another question on your talk page, contact the responding user(s) directly on their user talk page, or consider visiting the Teahouse.

How I can do a talk request to dicuss a topic of an article. I already created a section in the talk page of the article, but I feel that nobody knows it is there, and that I want to discuss it.

Firulaith (talk) 18:02, 18 July 2014 (UTC)

I think you are referring to Talk:Economics. One problem with your proposal is the length. Take a look at WP:Too long; didn't read. (And it is difficult to discern your commentary from the proposed changes.) The other problem is WP:original research (as mentioned by TRPoD). The third problem is content – for example, you mention Colander. How does that article fit into the proposed definition? To sum up, I think posting some discrete, well defined and well sourced proposals would help. Tell the community what text needs changing, why, and how. – S. Rich (talk) 19:32, 18 July 2014 (UTC)

Talk:Economics – a word to the wise[edit]

A small bit of caution. When you are editing a talk page, do not change any comments made by other editors. I have not reviewed your edits – I just want to make sure you are aware. For more guidance, see WP:TPYES and WP:TPNO. Thanks. – S. Rich (talk) 00:20, 19 July 2014 (UTC)

ArbCom elections are now open![edit]

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