Economics: The Study of Us

BY Paul Solman  October 18, 2011 at 11:47 AM EST

A market trader in Kota Bharu, Malaysia. A market trader in Kota Bharu, Malaysia. Flickr Creative Commons photo courtesy jamesmellor.

Paul Solman answers questions from NewsHour viewers and web users on business and economic news on his Making Sen$e page. Here’s Tuesday’s query:

Name: Christian Kontoh

Making Sense

Question: In your own words, explain economics how you understand it and with practical example in the expression.

Paul Solman: These words aren’t my own. Would that they were. They come from English economist Alfred Marshall, the teacher of John Maynard Keynes, who wrote the first “modern” economics textbook in 1890, “Principles of Economics.” I used his quote at the start of a course I’ve been teaching on political economy at my alma mater, Brandeis University. I repeat the definition at the start of almost every class:

425px-Alfred_Marshall_CROPPED.jpg“a study of mankind in the ordinary business of life; [economics] examines that part of individual and social action which is most closely connected with the attainment and with the use of the material requisites of well-being. Thus it is on one side a study of wealth; and on the other, and more important side, a part of the study of man.”

British economist Alfred Marshall in 1921. Photographer unknown. Photo part of the public domain and via Wikimedia Commons.

This entry is cross-posted on the Making Sen$e page, where correspondent Paul Solman answers your economic and business questions _Follow Paul on Twitter._