Review: How to Think about the Economy
Per L. Bylund
How to Think about the Economy: A Primer
Mises Institute, 2022.
“It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.’ But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance.” —Murray N. Rothbard.
Economics, like physics, is in essence a simple science. It has a subject matter that covers a very wide scope—in physics, the scope is the whole universe, and in economics, all human choices. And just as there are many natural laws that govern the physical universe, there are laws that govern human interactions. Often the physical laws can be stated in simple mathematical formulas, and likewise, economic laws can be stated in words that act as “formulae” or simply rules. Of course, the task of the physicist is to understand what the symbols of the formula mean, what is the domain of their applicability, and what is the range of things they can explain. In Per Bylund’s primer, we are offered that for the field of economics: An exposition of the science in a way that clarifies the social laws that govern our interactions.
Of course, the first task of any scientist is to define his field of inquiry. And though many scientists bicker about what their field actually studies, they have to agree upon certain ideas and themes that they are mostly concerned with. From the first page, we are introduced to economics as a discipline that studies “human actions and interactions” (p. 15) and stresses the Austrian inclination toward methodological individualism in treating individuals as the smallest acting units in an economy. This, as opposed to considering economics as a science of how to organize the production and distribution of goods, or the focu
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