If anyone believes that Economics is an independent subject rather than a subset of politics, he/she/it must not be paying attention. Folk with historical acquaintance know that Economics was originally called: “Political Economy.” That was the subject of which Adam Smith et al wrote. Only later did ambitious proponents disentangle the subject from politics so that “Economics” could stand on its own.
Of course, that independence is illusory and a mere scam. The reality is still, “Political Economy.” A telling lesson in that truth was taught recently by no less than Jerry Brown of California, “Governor Moonbeam”.
The Left Coast Legislature recently took a brief time out from counting its delta smelt, a little fish now by law replacing the agricultural bounty of the state’s central valley to hasten into being the newly fashionable $15 hr. minimum wage for the state, albeit over the next four years. Never mind that the states’s historical growth by attraction has reversed, with both people and businesses declining in numbers for the first time ever. The workers are (somehow) entitled, who cares whether the employers have the money?
Following the usual hoopla, the legislation passed the state legislature and wended its way to Governor Brown’s desk. For the umpteenth time, the good Governor earned his sobriquet “Moonbeam:” he stated for the record that the wage increase in these times made no economic sense. Duh! When too many can’t find work, is not a rational time to make labor more expensive, right? Even Governor Brown sees that. And says so. And went right ahead and signed the new law anyway. See, it was bad economics but the veteran politician knew that it was good politics. Voters will believe that the Governor and his party are truing to help. (Most voters are public school grads, after all.)
And it provides a salient lesson for our opening theme, too. Economics does not stand alone; it is a helpless subset of politics. Always has been; always will be. One may study and teach all the economics that one has the energy to foster but in the end, one will live with not economics, but politics. (Reality Sucks!)
Which is why the question: “How many economists are needed to change a light bulb?” is answered: “None. After the light burns out, economists will sit around in the dark.”
Admittedly, we are not economists …