Everyone needs to be an economist

“You’ve got some economists and some folks who think they’re economists. By the way, these days everybody thinks they’re economists,” President Obama joked at a White House ceremony late last week renewing his demand that Congress act quickly on his economic recovery package which was finally passed.

If only everyone were an actual economist, or at the very least understood the basics, perhaps we wouldn’t be in the insane financial crisis of this global magnitude we’re in now. Of course, that is a huge “IF” considering economics is viewed as one of the most boring sciences which most people confuse with financial witchcraft or some biased political agenda.

But the primary purpose of economics deals with scarcity and how to best allocate our limited resources such as time and energy to create surpluses and avoid shortages from scarcity. This inescapable reality is not politically partisan and hardly confined to the realm of stocks, bonds, interest rates, credit default swaps or anything else that too many people erroneously believe is only relevant if you’re planning a career  of screwing over the “little guy” by working on “Wall Street”. Economic principles are just as useful to a third grader after school who wonders how best to utilize their time if they need to get their homework done, watch some TV, play some Xbox, or sort out their allowance before going to bed.

Which brings up a most crucial “if”. IF we actually taught our children basic economics and a sound financial education in school for more than just a half semester elective in their senior year of high school instead of 8 to 10 years of MacBeth, Beowulf, The Great Gatsby and a slew of other English lit classics that are hardly as relevant to the life they are about to enter in the modern “real world”, they would infinitely better understand the difference between a job and a career, and how to utilize their talents in the most mutually beneficial way for themselves and society that doesn’t involve living paycheck to paycheck or pointlessly indebting themselves to credit cards with 14% interest rates.

While economics can be (OK, is) boring, it’s just as relevant, if not more so than any other subject we could teach our children that pertains to their future. Particularly a future that doesn’t require career politicians and a systematic bureaucracy telling them how their allowances will be spent and condescendingly chiding them when they question why the rush for an additional $780 billion “stimulus” package that actually involves more expansion of government and its unintended consequences at the cost of further devaluing our dollar and our futures.

Oh, if only.