Searching news sites for the word “economy” gives you all the expected results. Jobs, companies, GDP of course, and articles about banks and the government. So are these things The Economy? When the government talks about stimulating The Economy what economy are they talking about?
The Economy is increasingly a stock phrase for commerce, buying, selling, wealth and, above all, business. But these things aren’t really The Economy. They’re factors in it, indicators of it and outputs from it, but they’re not actually The Economy.
The first book on economics that I ever read was a short paperback. It was light on Keynes, calculus, game theory and graphs. In fact it was pretty light on all the things I might now associate with economics. But it was a great introduction, and I learnt that economics is essentially the study of limited resources. No mention of money, business, tricky mathematics or banks (they were to come).
If economics is the study of limited resources then The Economy must just be our most limited, and therefore precious, resources. At its most basic it’s a collective term for the land, the time we have available and, above all, people.
So, it seems a little disconnected, the way the news talks about The Economy, like it’s just companies and money. These things aren’t the real economy. Stimulating business, the money supply and the markets is just an abstraction. Real economic stimulation comes from thinking about the important resources.
Putting land and time aside for now, economic stimulation really comes down to how you look after the people. It comes down to helping them (us) get what they (we) need, like inspiration, confidence, self-worth, happiness, belief in others, and a good reason why they (we) should go out and do things. Like build a better economy.