What is the economy for? Further thought for 2018

In my earlier piece on ‘What is the economy for?’ I should really have mentioned the economist Steve Keen’s idea of what the economy is for, which is “to provide for all the population”. This very succinct summary certainly conveys clearly the idea that it is not to provide for any one group in particular.

My only quarrel with Keen’s definition is that I take the view that the economy as such was not set up by anyone with a purpose. But his definition is broad enough to suggest it might have simply entered the general thought process by osmosis (and practice) rather than be specified by anyone in particular. But I’m increasingly coming round to the view that we should insist on calling the economy the ‘political economy’  – just as it was for John Stuart Mill.

This gets across that, whilst an economy will exist as long as we live in a society of specialists rather than generalists, politics is what creates the detail and precise method of working for the version of the economy which it creates on behalf of us all.

That means it is certainly not “the economy stupid.” Politics creates its workings. So Bill Clinton should have more accurately said, it’s “the politics, stupid”. And when thinking of the economy the thought that we need to keep to the fore throughout 2018 (and beyond) is that the economy is – and always will be – a ‘political economy’.



  1. Charles Adams -

    Agree with that. You cannot separate politics and economics. We make the rules.

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