Some say that economics is the study of “but then what?” — the idea that in complex systems the first order effect — “more teachers means more education by definition!” is not the full effect. A good economist is the original hacker — looking ahead at the full consequences to the extent that it is possible. Another way to think of the insights in this essay is to understand that in a complex system there are underlying forces (the desire for anonymous trouble-making, the desire for power, the temptation to undermine goals that impose costs on certain actors) that are very hard to defeat and when ignored, lead to lots of disappointment. Bottom line is that I really like the hacker idea and maybe without knowing it, you are thinking like an economist.

Written by

I host the weekly podcast, EconTalk and I'm the co-creator of the Keynes-Hayek rap videos. My latest book is How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store