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The purpose of studying economics is not to acquire a set of ready-made answers to economic questions, but to learn how to avoid being deceived by economists. ~ Joan Robinson.
The whole notion of the free market, laissez-faire capitalism, globalization is a very thin rationale for unmitigated greed by a tiny oligarchic elite. And they have made sure that that ideology is taught in universities across the country. And people, especially economists, who deviate from that ideology have been pushed aside, and become pariahs. And yet the driving ethos of that ideology is really to justify the hoarding of immense amounts of wealth by a very tiny percentage of the upper ruling class. ~ Chris Hedges
It is the expensiveness of our pleasures that makes the world poor and keeps us poor in ourselves. If we could but learn to find enjoyment in the things of the mind, the economic problems would solve themselves, ~ John Lancaster Spalding

Economics is the social science that studies the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. The term economics comes from the Greek for oikos (house) and nomos (custom or law), hence "rules of the house(hold).

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  • In fact, without any exaggeration, the current mechanism of money creation through credit is certainly the "cancer" that's irretrievably eroding market economies of private property.
    • Maurice Allais, in La Crise mondiale d'aujourd'hui. Pour de profondes réformes des institutions financières et monétaires (1999), p. 74


  • Most of the presidential candidates' economic packages involve 'tax breaks,' which is when the government, amid great fanfare, generously decides not to take quite so much of your income. In other words, these candidates are trying to buy your votes with your own money.
    • Dave Barry, "The Bucks Drop Here", Washington Post Magazine, February 9, 1992
  • See, when the Government spends money, it creates jobs; whereas when the money is left in the hands of Taxpayers, God only knows what they do with it. Bake it into pies, probably. Anything to avoid creating jobs.
    • Dave Barry, "On the Sidewalk to Ruin" ,Washington Post Magazine, February 23, 1992, p. 36.
  • Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.
  • How is property given? By restraining liberty; that is, by taking it away so far as necessary for the purpose. How is your house made yours? By debarring every one else from the liberty of entering it without your leave.
    • Jeremy Bentham, "A Critical Examination of the Declaration of Rights; Article II" in The Works of Jeremy Bentham, Vol. II (1839), p. 503.
  • These guys believe that a 350 billion dollar tax cut will stimulate the economy, and they are full of shit. Because they don't know what stimulates the economy. The economy goes up, it goes down, it goes up, it goes down, it goes up, it goes down, nobody knows why the fuck it happens. And I know this because I took economics, and I'd explain it to yea'... but I flunked that course. Not my fault. They taught it at 8 o'clock in the morning. And there is absolute nothing that you can learn out of one bloodshot eye. After I failed my second test, I grabbed my teacher by the front of the shirt and said 'Are you *trying* to keep this shit a secret?'
  • The blunt truth about the politics of climate change is that no country will want to sacrifice its economy in order to meet this challenge.
  • The dictionary defines "economics" as "a social science concerned chiefly with description and analysis of the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services." Here is another definition of economics which I think is more helpful in explaining how economics relates to software engineering.
Economics is the study of how people make decisions in resource-limited situations.
This definition of economics fits the major branches of classical economics very well.
Macroeconomics is the study of how people make decisions in resource-limited situations on a national or global scale. It deals with the effects of decisions that national leaders make on such issues as tax rates, interest rates, foreign and trade policy.
Microeconomics is the study of how people make decisions in resource-limited situations on a more personal scale. It deals with the decisions that individuals and organizations make on such issues such as how much insurance to buy, which word processor to buy, or what prices to charge for their products or services.
  • Barry Boehm "Software engineering economics." Software Engineering, IEEE Transactions on 1 (1984): 4-21. p. 4.
  • The president, the secretary of state, the businessman, the preacher, the vendor, the spies, the clients and managers—all walking around Wall Street like chickens with their heads cut off—rushing to escape bankruptcy—plotting to melt down the Statue of Liberty—to press more copper pennies—to breed more headless chickens—to put more feathers in their caps—medals, diplomas, stock certificates, honorary doctorates—eggs and eggs of headless chickens—multitaskers—system hackers—who never know where they’re heading--northward, backward, eastward, forward, and never homeward—(where is home)—home is in the head—(but the head is cut off)... Beheaded chickens, how do you breed chickens with their heads cut off? By teaching them how to bankrupt creativity.”


95% of Economics is common sense deliberately made complicated. ~ Ha-Joon Chang
In my youth it was said that what was too silly to be said may be sung. In modern economics it may be put into mathematics. ~ Ronald Coase
  • Emas non quod non opus est, sed quod necesse est. Quod non opus est, asse carum est.
    • Buy not what you want, but what you have need of; what you do not want is dear at a farthing.
    • Cato; as quoted by Seneca the Younger, Epistles, 94. Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 216.
  • 95% of Economics is common sense deliberately made complicated.
    • Ha-Joon Chang, in a lecture at the RSA about his book 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism, September 2010.
  • The more opportunities there are in a Society for some persons to live upon the toil of others, and the less those others may enjoy the fruits of their work themselves, the more is diligence killed, the former become insolent, the latter despairin g, and both negligent.
  • Magnum vectigal est parsimonia.
    • Economy is a great revenue.
    • Cicero, Paradoxa, VI. 3. 49. Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 216.
  • I just don’t trust any of it. Every time I read something about how there’s been another ridiculous climb of the Dow Jones, there’s a part of me that goes, “This can’t be good.” None of this is real money. You know what I mean? It’s not like there’s actually more of anything. It’s just ideas. When people are getting richer and richer but they’re not actually producing anything, it can’t end well.
  • In my youth it was said that what was too silly to be said may be sung. In modern economics it may be put into mathematics.
    • Ronald Coase, The firm, the market and the law (1988) Chapter 6. A remark on "The problem of social cost" (last sentence).
  • Capitalism is the exploitation of man by man; Communism is the exact opposite.
    • Coluche, "Les syndicats et le délégué," Coluche : l'intégrale, vol. 3, "1989 chez Carrère".


  • Capitalism is the exploitation of man by man. Yes? Well socialism is exactly the reverse.
    • Len Deighton, Funeral in Berlin (1964; repr. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1966) p. 145
    • Described there as a joke current in 1960s Czechoslovakia.
  • So-called macroeconomics has never been real economics but rather an endless series of engineering-type models purporting to guide politicians in centrally planning an economy. In the bizarro world of macroeconomics all capital is the same, and all workers are the same, as one big lump, expressed as 'K' and 'L' in the models. Relative prices and their role in allocating resources in a market economy are mostly ignored, while 'economic aggregates' are said to influence 'the' price level.
    In macroeconomics it is taken as a given that markets are incapable of allocating resources in an acceptable way; that's why there is supposedly a need for macroeconomic central planning in the first place. No such 'failures' are assumed on the part of the macroeconomic central planners.


  • Money, which represents the prose of life, and which is hardly spoken of in parlors without an apology, is, in its effects and laws, as beautiful as roses.


  • A penny saved is two pence clear,
    A pin a day's a groat a year.
    • Benjamin Franklin, Necessary Hints to those that would be Rich. Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 216.
  • Many have been ruined by buying good Pennyworths.
    • Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanac. Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 216.
  • The great virtue of a free market system is that it does not care what color people are; it does not care what their religion is; it only cares whether they can produce something you want to buy. It is the most effective system we have discovered to enable people who hate one another to deal with one another and help one another.


  • People are generally ignorant of modern science and they know it. They are even more ignorant of the basic principles of economics, but they think they know more than they do. Therefore, they despise and fear economists, who are easily pilloried as other-worldly academics who throw around big equations but couldn't meet a payroll or punch a time clock if their professional future depended on it. Conservatives and liberals alike cherish basic principles of economics that are as stupid and inane as intelligent design and flat-earth-ism. We need a dozen more books like this excellent contribution by Diane Coyle.
  • Cut my cote after my cloth.
    • Godly Queene Hester, Interlude (1530). Expression said to be a relic of the Sumptuary Laws. Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 216.
  • Presented with the prospect of its own eternity, capitalism-or anyway, financial capitalism-simply explodes. Because if there's no end to it, there's absolutely no reason not to generate credit-that is, future money-infinitely. Recent events would certainly seem to confirm this. The period leading up to 2008 was one in which many began to believe that capitalism really was going to be around forever; at the very least, no one seemed any longer to be able to imagine an alternative. The immediate effect was a series of increasingly reckless bubbles that brought the whole apparatus crashing down.
  • I’m not saying that arguments based on rationality are necessarily wrong in particular cases. (I can’t very well say that, given that I wrote an article on why it can be rational to vote.) I’m just trying to understand how pop-economics can so rapidly swing back and forth between opposing positions. And I think it’s coming from the comforting presence of rationality and efficiency in both formulations. It’s ok to distinguish economists from ordinary people (economists are rational and think the unthinkable, ordinary people don’t) and it’s also ok to distinguish economists from other social scientists (economists think ordinary people are rational, other social scientists believe in “culture”). You just have to be careful not to make both arguments in the same paragraph.


  • The calculations and models are every day a confirmation, beyond the academic libraries and government dossiers, of the utopia of political reaction.
  • Economics is more disciplinary than any other discipline, and it has been ever since its origins.
  • Economics is, in essence, the study of poverty.
  • A reconsideration of the discussion in which I took an active part more than 40 years ago has left me with a rather depressing view of the somewhat shameful state of what has become an established part of economic science, the subject of ‘economic systems’. It appears to me that in this subject political attractiveness has been preserved by the flimsiest of arguments. The kindest thing one can say is that some well-meaning people have allowed themselves to be deceived by the vague and thoughtless language commonly used by specialists in the theory of these issues.
  • The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.
    • Friedrich Hayek, The Fatal Conceit : The Errors of Socialism (1988), p. 76.
  • The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate hut at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.
    • Henry Hazlitt, Economics in One Lesson (1946), Ch. 1. The Lesson
  • Give not Saint Peter so much, to leave Saint Paul nothing.
    • George Herbert, Jacula Prudentum (1651). Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 216.
  • Serviet eternum qui parvo nesciet uti.
    • He will always be a slave, who does not know how to live upon a little.
    • Horace, Epistles, I. 10. 41. Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 216.
  • If one's point of view is that of the anarchist, he is led inevitably to make his war upon individuals. The more sensitive and sincere he is, the more bitter and implacable becomes that war. If one's point of view is based on what is now called the economic interpretation of history, one is emancipated, in so far as that is possible for emotional beings, from all hatred of individuals, and one sees before him only the necessity of readjusting the economic basis of our common life in order to achieve a more nearly perfect social order.
  • Without question, the causes, which produce on the one hand long hours and overemployment, result on the other hand in short periods of work, underemployment, or unemployment.


  • Over the years and against conventional wisdom, utopians sustained a vision of life beyond the market. … Georg Lukács set forth a theory of the “old and new culture” in which he argued that the socialist economy was not the goal; it was simply a precondition for humanity to advance to a new and humane culture. Most radicals do not understand that political power and economic reorganization is not the end-all, stated Lukács. The goal is not a new economic order, but freedom from an obsession with economics.


  • The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas. Not, indeed, immediately, but after a certain interval; for in the field of economic and political philosophy there are not many who are influenced by new theories after they are twenty-five or thirty years of age, so that the ideas which civil servants and politicians and even agitators apply to current events are not likely to be the newest. But, soon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil.
    • John Maynard Keynes, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, Ch. 24 "Concluding Notes" p. 383-384



It is no coincidence that the novel and economics science were born at the same time. Economists are tellers of stories and makers of poems. ~ Donald McClouskey
  • Economics is the study of how society manages its scarce resources. In most societies, resources are allocated not by an all-powerful dictator but through the combined actions of millions of households and firms. Economists therefore study how people make decisions: how much they work, what they buy, how much they save, and how they invest their savings. Economists also study how people interact with one another. For instance, they examine how the multitude of buyers and sellers of a good together determine the price at which the good is sold and the quantity that is sold. Finally, economists analyze forces and trends that affect the economy as a whole, including the growth in average income, the fraction of the population that cannot find work, and the rate at which prices are rising.
    • N. Gregory Mankiw, Principle of Economics (6th ed., 2012), Ch. 1. Ten Principles of Economics
  • It is no coincidence that the novel and economics science were born at the same time.
    • Donald McClouskey, Storytelling in Economics (1990).
  • To have peace and not war, the drift toward a war economy, as facilitated by the moves and the demands of the sophisticated conservatives, must be stopped; to have peace without slump, the tactics and policies of the practical right must be overcome. The political and economic power of both must be broken. The power of these giants of main drift is both economically and politically anchored; both unions and an independent labor party are needed to struggle effective.
  • Since the state must necessarily provide subsistence for the criminal poor while undergoing punishment, not to do the same for the poor who have not offended is to give a premium on crime.
    • John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy (1848), Book V, Chapter XI, §13.
  • Economics takes a while to learn, even if much of it is in a way quite simple. It is simple to be wrong as well as to be right, and it is none too easy to distinguish between them.
    • James Mirrlees in: Anders Barany, ‎Nobelstiftelsen (1996). Les Prix Nobel. p. 353



  • Even if the days of 1928 and early 1929 could be brought back again, the economic situation would be utterly indefensible on moral grounds. The greedy scramble for private gain and special privilege, the gambling spirit and the ruthless determination to gain wealth by means fair and foul, the callous indifference to how the other half lived or at most the throwing of a few crumbs of philanthropy, the bitter exploitation of the weak and the brutal suppression of the workers as they attempted to organize in defense of their minimum rights, the cruel assumption that there must always be a wide gulf between the rich and the poor, the willingness to send unnumbered victims to their doom on the battlefield in defense of vested interests—all these and countless other evils are inherent in the economic order which held sway in 1929. God forbid that we should have any desire to return to that living hell!
  • In three ways unemployment would be reduced. First... by greater equalization of purchasing power and consequent stimulus in the form of effective demand. Second, by utilizing the national credit and socialized industries for the creation of new industries and the extension of existing ones. ... Social ownership and operation of the basic industries, and especially socialized banking and credit, would greatly facilitate the task of shifting the masses of unemployed into productive channels. Third, if necessary, by shortening working hours and dividing the available work among all the people.
  • The consolidation of financial and industrial power in the hands of a small section of the people leads inevitably to more and more intense congestion of money.
  • Men did not make the earth. ... It is the value of the improvements only, and not the earth itself, that is individual property. ... Every proprietor owes to the community a ground rent for the land which he holds.
  • Kyle Broflovski: Listen, this is all you need to know: the economy is not a supernatural all-knowing entity. The economy is just an idea, made up by people, thousands of years ago. The economy is not real. And yet, it is real. Nowadays they'll give credit to practically anyone who applies for them. [pulls out an envelope] I applied for this yesterday to prove a point. It is an American Express Platinum card. [from Kyle's position, one can see hundreds of people listening to him] It has no spending limit. [cries of shock rise from the crowd] Do not be afraid! This is only plastic. It's just something made up by people. Truly meaningless until we put our faith in it. Faith is what makes an economy exist. Without faith, it is only plastic cards and paper money.
  • To balance Fortune by a just expense,
    Join with Economy, Magnificence.
    • Alexander Pope, Moral Essays (1731-35), Epistle III, line 223. Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 216.



  • By robbing Peter he paid Paul, he kept the moon from the wolves, and was ready to catch larks if ever the heavens should fall.
    • François Rabelais, Works, Book I, Chapter XI. Robbing Peter to pay Paul. Westminster Abbey was called St. Peter's! St. Paul's funds were low and sufficient was taken from St. Peter's to settle the account. Expression found in Collier's Reprint of Thomas Nash, Have with you to Saffron-Walden, p. 9. Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 216.
  • The purpose of studying economics is not to acquire a set of ready-made answers to economic questions, but to learn how to avoid being deceived by economists.
    • Joan Robinson, “Marx, Marshall And Keynes” (1955), Occasional Paper No. 9, The Delhi School of Economics, University Of Delhi, Delhi.
  • The first theory is that if we make the rich richer, somehow they will let a part of their prosperity trickle down to the rest of us. The second theory … was the theory that if we make the average of mankind comfortable and secure, their prosperity will rise upward … through the ranks.
    • Franklin D. Roosevelt, campaign address, Detroit, Michigan (October 2, 1932); in The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1928–1932 (1938), p. 772.
  • Too often in recent history liberal governments have been wrecked on rocks of loose fiscal policy.
    • Franklin Delano Roosevelt, request to Congress to effect drastic economies in the government (March 10, 1933); in The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1933 (1938), p. 50.
  • 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.


  • Let us begin with a definition of economics. Over the last half-century, the study of economics has expanded to include a vast range of topics. Here are some of the major subjects that are covered in this book:
  • Economics explores the behavior of the financial markets, including interest rates, exchange rates, and stock prices.
  • The subject examines the reasons why some people or countries have high incomes while others are poor; it goes on to analyze ways that poverty can be reduced without harming the economy.
  • It studies business cycles — the fluctuations in credit, unemployment, and inflation — along with policies to moderate them.
  • Economics studies international trade and finance and the impacts of globalization, and it particularly examines the thorny issues involved in opening up borders to free trade.
  • It asks how government policies can be used to pursue important such as rapid economic growth, efficient use of resources, full employment, price stability, and a fair distribution of income.
This is a long list, but we could extend it many times...
The competitive price system adapted from Samuelson, 1961
  • The field of economics is not exempt from the consequences of chaos and complexity. Marketplaces are indeterminate; value is subjective; and outcomes are subject to interpretation. Economic forecasting is just as nebulous, being based on the probability of statistical information that may or may not be accurate.
    • L.K. Samuels, In Defense of Chaos: The Chaology of Politics, Economics and Human Action, Cobden Press (2013) p. 16.
  • Economics is the study of how societies use scarce resources to produce valuable goods and services and distribute them among different individuals
  • I remember how happy I felt when I graduated from Berkeley many years ago. But I thought the graduation speeches were long. I will economize on words.
    Economics is organized common sense. Here is a short list of valuable lessons that our beautiful subject teaches.

    1. Many things that are desirable are not feasible.
    2. Individuals and communities face trade-offs.
    3. Other people have more information about their abilities, their efforts, and their preferences than you do.
    4. Everyone responds to incentives, including people you want to help. That is why social safety nets don’t always end up working as intended.
    5. There are tradeoffs between equality and efficiency.
    6. In an equilibrium of a game or an economy, people are satisfied with their choices. That is why it is difficult for well-meaning outsiders to change things for better or worse.
    7. In the future, you too will respond to incentives. That is why there are some promises that you’d like to make but can’t. No one will believe those promises because they know that later it will not be in your interest to deliver. The lesson here is this: before you make a promise, think about whether you will want to keep it if and when your circumstances change. This is how you earn a reputation.
    8. Governments and voters respond to incentives too. That is why governments sometimes default on loans and other promises that they have made.
    9. It is feasible for one generation to shift costs to subsequent ones. That is what national government debts and the U.S. social security system do (but not the social security system of Singapore).
    10. When a government spends, its citizens eventually pay, either today or tomorrow, either through explicit taxes or implicit ones like inflation.
    11. Most people want other people to pay for public goods and government transfers (especially transfers to themselves).
    12. Because market prices aggregate traders’ information, it is difficult to forecast stock prices and interest rates and exchange rates.

  • Economists have never allowed their analysis to be influenced by psychologists of their time, but have always framed for themselves such assumptions about psychical processes as they have thought it desirable to make.
  • Sera parsimonia in fundo est.
    • Frugality, when all is spent, comes too late.
    • Seneca the Younger, Epistolæ Ad Lucilium, I. Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 216.
  • Have more than thou showest,
    Speak less than thou knowest,
    Lend less than thou owest,
    Ride more than thou goest,
    Learn more than thou trowest,
    Set less than thou throwest.
    • William Shakespeare, King Lear (1608), Act I, scene 4, line 131. Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 216.
  • Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.
  • The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.
  • Another difference between Milton and myself is that everything reminds Milton of the money supply. Well, everything reminds me of sex, but I keep it out of the paper.
    • Robert Solow, on Milton Friedman's ideas and his own, in a series of papers at a 1966 conference, also published in ‪Price Controls‬ (1992) by Hugh Rockoff; also widely paraphrased as "Everything reminds Milton Friedman of the money supply. Everything reminds me of sex, but I try to keep it out of my papers".
  • Economics is not simply a topic on which to express opinions or vent emotions. It is a systematic study of what happens when you do specific things in specific ways. In economic analysis, the methods used by a Marxist economist like Oskar Lange did not differ in any fundamental way from the methods used by a conservative economist like Milton Friedman.
  • Many economic fallacies depend upon (1) thinking of the economy as a set of zero-sum transactions, (2) ignoring the role of competition in the marketplace, or (3) not thinking beyond the initial consequences of particular policies.
    • Thomas Sowell, Basic Economics, 4th ed. (2010), Ch. 25. The History of Economics
  • It is the expensiveness of our pleasures that makes the world poor and keeps us poor in ourselves. If we could but learn to find enjoyment in the things of the mind, the economic problems would solve themselves.
  • The first and the purest demand of society is for scientific knowledge: knowledge of how the economic system works. Knowledge of the consequences of economic actions. Knowledge of the causes of unemployment, of the effects of various taxes, of the sources of income inequality. Whether one is a conservative or a radical, a protectionist or a free trader, a cosmopolitan or a nationalist, a churchman or a heathen, it is useful to know the causes and consequences of economic phenomena.


  • The faith... that riches are not a means but an end, implies that all economic activity is equally estimable, whether it is subordinated to a social purpose or not.
  • Economy, the poor man's mint.
    • Martin Farquhar Tupper, Proverbial Philosophy, Of Society, line 191. Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 216.


  • Economists are being indoctrinated into a cardboard version of human nature, which they hold true to such a degree that their own behavior has begun to resemble it. Psychological tests have shown that economics majors are more egoistic than the average college student. Exposure in class after class to the capitalist self-interest model apparently kills off whatever prosocial tendencies these students have to begin with. They give up trusting others, and conversely others give up trusting them.
    • Frans de Waal, Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are (2006), p. 243.


  • Economics is a subject that really relates to core aspects of human well-being, and there’s a methodology for thinking about these things. This was a very appealing combination to me. Market systems are capable of massive breakdowns that can result in long, devastating periods of high unemployment. And I felt that economists had really learned something about how to address that.

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