How many ways are there to think about an economy? More specifically, how many ways are there to think about the economy of the United States?
In general terms, an economy is made up the processes by which resources are identified, developed and distributed. Some resources are natural, such as ores, minerals, and crude oil. The second category of natural resources might include vegetation such as corn, wheat and other grains soybeans and vegetables. A third category of natural resources might be such livestock categories as beef, pork, poultry and fish.
The fourth category of resources is classed as “infrastructure.” This category comes in the form of buildings, roads and rail lines, and equipment.
The fifth category, most recently defined is “human resources.” That category is personally abhorrent to me. Even though the categorization of humans as an economic resource is not a new idea, the use of enslaved people and children as disposable labor has been going on for centuries, such use of human labor as a “resource” has been disgraceful. Much of the writings of Charles Dickens were in response to the practice of child labor.
For a time, western economies decried the use of slaves and children as disposable, except for the use of prisoners for such labor. Even then, prisoners have not been seen as “disposable.”
In an economy responsive to religious and humanist philosophies, the idea of humans as a disposable resource is very distasteful. The resources of an economy should be in the service of the constituent members of the society served by the economy.
The third function of an economy lies in the distribution of its resources. My view of the matter is that the best economy is one where the processes of economic distribution ensures that every member of the society has access to adequate and healthy food, water, air and shelter.
To the extent that resources allow for more than these basic needs, those resources should be used to ensure adequate if not equal opportunity and access to education, healthcare and the opportunity for all to express their unique gifts, talents and abilities in the pursuit of our common goal.
The concentration into a few hands of both resources and the benefits accruing from them stands in direct contradiction to all principles which lay the foundation for a “more perfect union.”