Is Economics Just Politics?

in politics •  last month 

Just yesterday I was challenged on this question. For all my life, I've been thinking, almost intuitively in fact, that it was obvious that economics was just a reflection of politics. Then I was challenged by someone that said "What your writing is economics. It's not political science."

My usual retort to such a statement is well, "What is the term political economy all about then?"

I think, for the lay person, that retort is enough. Politics is economics. Economics is politics. And then we can move on to the next topic over beers.


But to an academic, this debate is fodder for a career. If economics and political science turn out to be two sides of the same coin, why not just put them both in one department? In the belt-tightening era to almost certainly come to academia as a result of the COVID-19 Crisis, think of all the money endowments could save!

Kidding aside, I think this question is an interesting one and a worthy pursuit. Maybe I could be convinced that they are indeed separate pursuits. If you have any opinion, please include a detailed explanation below and I will reward with a full upvote!

Depending on the response, I might even make a community about this topic. Assuredly, there is more to talk about here. But for now, I think I will just leave it to be crowdsourced.

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Did you know that Economics and Politics etymology senses are related? A definition of oïkonomia (economy) would be the organization of the house while one of Politikos (politics) would be the study of a city's organization, of social interactions, and the use of power to regulate it. Politics would be Economics but on a bigger scale!

If economics and political science turn out to be two sides of the same coin, why not just put them both in one department?

Obviously the two fields overlap. Politics define the rules adopted to make the economic wheel works a certain way. Economics are the rules that make the economic wheel works. The main difference here is that political science intent to make the economy works according to a vision, to beliefs and though, to people. There is this notion of power in action to organize the state, just like you organize your home. In a way, political economics is the study of the economical rules that make people live peacefully together.

I would say that economics are the maths, while politics are philosophy. You discover the rules and think about how to apply it according to your vision.
Now, I don't think Political Science and Economics should be put in the same departments since they are not dependant. You can do economics without thinking of political sciences. In the same way, you can study political sciences from a geopolitical perspective, or a psychological one.

This is a great response! To me, though, there are two branches of economics: one that is full of maths, as you say; the other reliant on history and stories and... philosophy.

The mathematical economics is one that I always tend to reject, mostly because it seems like the maths are all based on some mythical "perfectly rational" human being, the likes of which, by the way, I've never met! So my approach is more that of the historical school of economics, the anti-Austrians if you will. But it's still economics!

I agree! Thinking that people are rational is more of a tale than anything else! But we can study data to understand how people act economically according to the situation!
That would give us ...

Not sure what this cartoon means, but... is it like the Spiderman meme?

It's the fusion from Dragon ball z!

I thinks they are different disciplines - of course related though. A term like the "political economy" is the application of economic thinking to politics. In that sense economics is is about the flow of "value" whereas politics is about the process of social change. I think there's a tendency to over apply economic concepts in trying to value things it was never meant to though. It's dangerous territory when the economic modelling starts embedding moral judgements, like the value of a human life. That's when the politicians are ceding their morality to the technocrats.

Or is it the application of political thinking to economics?

You see how this goes round and round?

Sounds like you want to make your life difficult. Heh.