What is Economics? According to Dr Carmelo Ferlito, the economists’ community is no more wondering about the scope and the meaning of the discipline. This paper suggests to reflect again on what economics is; in fact, an increased self-awareness can help in better developing expectations about what economists can do and what they cannot do.
To do so, the author, placing human action as purposeful behaviour at the core of economic analysis, has expanded the traditional scope of economics (economizing and equilibrium) to include not only decisions within a given means/ends framework, but the definition of such a framework itself. In doing so, the role of active minds in interacting with the surrounding reality in the realm of real time was emphasized. This framework brings as a consequence a non-deterministic approach, based on the recognition of the dispersed and everchanging nature of the knowledge possessed by individuals. The future, therefore, should be understood as radically open-ended.
Who – or what – is an entrepreneur? Behind which mask – or masks – does he hide his true face? Although we can easily understand how entrepreneurs represent the vital element in economic life, it is pretty difficult to find an adequate treatment of entrepreneurship in contemporary economics textbooks. In modern microeconomics, we find a sophisticated theory of the firm, in which an enterprise is often presented as profit maximizer or cost minimizer; similarly, different forms of market organization are discussed depending on the number of firms acting there. However, these discussions fail to appreciate the fact that at the very heart of the firms, we find the entrepreneurs, or – at the very least – entrepreneurship. It is almost as if the contemporary theory would introduce us to many entrepreneurial masks without attempting to discover the actual entrepreneur’s face.
One of the common mistakes urban planners make is to assume that you can impose a deliberately constructed pattern onto a cityscape and expect people to adjust their behavior to it in just the way you want them to. It doesn’t work that way, especially with big plans involving large numbers of people, no matter how beautiful or efficient the design may be. To quote Jane Jacobs: “A city cannot be a work of art”.
So how do we avoid turning the results of urban design into taxidermy and killing off a city by planning? I think the short answer is that we avoid it by recognizing that there’s a tradeoff between the scale of a design and the degree of spontaneity, complexity, and intricacy in the resulting social order that the design allows.