Rediscovering the Missing Element of the 'Dismal Science'

with John D. Mueller

This next Liberty Law Talk is with John Mueller, author of Redeeming Economics. Modern economic thought focuses on production, exchange, and consumption. Much of Mueller’s focus, however, is on final distribution, or the notion that a great deal of our economic activity is really about providing benefits or gifts to those we love. Mueller returns to Aristotle to articulate why this missing element is so important for understanding economics. In his Politics, Aristotle described the economy by using a household model oikos, the root of our word economics, where agents distribute goods to increase the flourishing of family members and friends. Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Aquinas, and the Scholastic school, as noted by Joseph Schumpeter in his History of Economic Analysis, refined and developed this notion of final distribution as a prime component of economic analysis. Our conversation turns to this missing element and seeks to understand what it adds to economic thought and what has been lost by its omission.