Edited by Michael Szenberg and Lall Ramrattan
Chapter 3: Thinking about Economics
3. Thinking about economics* Carolyn Shaw Bell The way I think about economics consists of things I learned years ago before knowing anything about economics as well as all the ways I have been learning since. I find that my way of thinking, which I assert is ‘thinking like an economist,’ applies to a wide range of issues and concerns in my life. But I do not, repeat NOT, agree one whit with some definitions of economics as an all-powerful way of thinking which can be applied to solve any problem in life, obviating the need for any other field like sociology or psychology or managerial decision-making. What then is economics all about, to me? The first economic issue of which I was aware may very well have shaped my entire career, a good bit of it concerned with definitions and data. I grew up in Framingham, Massachusetts, then a relatively small town dominated by the Dennison Manufacturing Company, where my father was an executive. Although Framingham was more than just a ‘company town,’ many of its high-school graduates found employment in the Dennison’s office or factory jobs and the thriving retail sector supported by Dennison paychecks included food stores in several districts and a flourishing ‘downtown’ with hardware stores, national chain outlets, specialty shops, a few restaurants, banks and movie theaters. At home, I was used to my parents discussing things I didn’t fully understand and so was able to reply, with some assurance, when a fifth-grade...
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