The danger of Economics 101 in public discourse

Understanding the limits of basic economic theory will help raise the level of public discussion on policies - especially during Budget season

As the economics adage goes, there are unlimited wants but limited resources. In any discussion of the Budget, we are constantly reminded of the trade-offs at stake and the values that underpin our social contract as a society. For instance, we may hear that universal social spending would produce unintended negative effects on work incentives or that they are fiscally unsustainable.

These economics-sounding arguments are often accepted without question, much like how we are expected to accept scientific claims produced by scientists.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 20, 2019, with the headline 'The danger of Economics 101 in public discourse'. Print Edition | Subscribe