3.1.2.4 Examples of Complex Economic Issues

Some complex economic issues also involve other dimensions of power.  One of the objectives of this book is to simplify them by considering each dimension separately – as described earlier (2.7).  There can easily be misunderstandings over economics because the subject can be considered from two perspectives, as described in the glossary of the book Economics by Samuelson and Nordhaus:

“”Normative economics considers ‘what ought to be’ – value judgments, or goals, of public policy.  Positive economics, by contrast, is the analysis of facts and behavior in an economy, or ‘the way things are.’”

There is confusion in using the term ‘economics’ in both these ways, sometimes leading to heated debate between economists about what constitutes good policy.  This book examines positive economics in this chapter by examining how wealth is created and distributed, and it defers discussion of the moral, legal and political aspects to later chapters – as illustrated in these examples of complex economic issues:

●  Welfare payments can be discussed as part of government spending in the context of the economy (3.2.3.3), as a moral question of socio-economic rights (4.2.4.3), and in terms of their political acceptability (6.7.1).

●  Measures to combat climate change can be considered in economic terms (3.5.7), as a moral issue (4.3.5.3), and as a political question about the extent to which people would support spending public money (6.7.5).

●  Economic assistance to people in other countries (3.5.8) can also be considered from moral (4.3.5.1) and political (6.7.6) perspectives.

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This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/3124.htm.