Economic Imperialism Comes at a Considerable Cost

The moment you (over-)extend the use of market rhetoric, for example, by widening¬†“entrepreneurship” to “social entrepreneurship”, you have to introduce a redundant term–e.g. “business entrepreneurship”–to clarify that you are using the original, narrow sense of the term–e.g. “entrepreneurship”. Another example: “psychic income” calls for “money income”, formerly known simply as “income” (Gary Becker). This problem has always haunted economics. An early example: “opportunity cost” calls for “monetary cost” formerly known simply as “cost” (Friedrich von Wieser).

Unfortunately, many terms–such as “cost”–get *lost* in the mix. People are often unclear as to whether they mean a net loss in money or utility. Perhaps the greatest problem is that the man on the street–and most leftists–assume that you mean the narrow sense of these terms when you may in fact have intended the wide sense. It leads to tension and confusion, as you find yourself and others equivocating between the wide and narrow senses. For example, when you mention “cost” you may be referring to loss in utility (the wide sense), while others may assume that you are referring to merely loss of money (the narrow sense).

As far as rhetoric and (mis)understanding go, economic imperialism comes at a considerable cost. ūüėȬ†¬†We need to reframe and re-express the logic of choice in a way that avoids the¬†pitfalls of overextending market-based terms.