The Human Element

I want to expand upon something I said yesterday, namely “But, at the end of the day, we are talking about humans.”

I think one of the biggest flaws with modern economics is that it has lost sight of this one simple fact.  Most commentary coming from prominent people in the news on both sides of the aisle tend to treat humans as mere pawns, to be moved about at a whim to fulfill some political or social goal.  I think about discussions here in the US and in Europe to build walls to keep immigrants out, or plans (such as Obamacare) that target the relatively poor to help the relatively rich, or schemes (such as minimum wage or trade tariffs) which harm society’s most vulnerable to accomplish some political goal, and it distresses me.

Even when the politics are removed, people are treated as statistical numbers.  Discussions of income revolve around pre-determined and static quintiles and ignore movement of actual people.  Discussions of purchasing habits focus on demographics and ignore the idea that people grow up or tastes change.  Discussions on cost/benefit analysis on different policies focus on “statistically significant” or “non-negligible” outcomes, and ignore the minority who are actually hurt.

Among other reasons, I am a free market economist because it is the only method I see that still treats people as people and not obstacles.  Free market supporters recognize that people have hopes and dreams and desires, not only for themselves but for their families and loved ones; that society isn’t broken down into gods and clods, where the gods direct the clods.  We realize that people are not so stupid as they need to be lied to for their own good, but can make their own choices.  We realize that poor people, especially in other countries, are not burdens to society, or an invasion force of welfare queens, but that they are people who’ve every right to a better life.

The human element is what is forgotten in today’s modern economic discourse.  I see it as my job to bring it back.