INTRODUCTION

Although I trained and qualified as a Chartered Accountant rather than an economist, as far back as I can remember I have been drawn far more powerfully to economics as a subject worthy of in-depth study and exposition. Indeed, for many years I managed to sneak articles on economics into my monthly contributions to “Accountancy” Magazine, until my editor steered me back to producing material considered more relevant to accountants, such as the complex nonsense of accounting standards, heinous auditing lapses, professional ethics, corporate crime or ineffective regulation – all good stuff, but never my first choice of subject matter.

My periodic “blog” essays on economic topics over the years have, however, proved immensely popular among members of my ever-expanding subscriber list, who are always encouraged to disseminate my modest efforts without restriction. As a result I have no idea how many people now read this material, but virtually all the feedback is encouragingly positive.

For me, economics has never been a subject of purely academic interest, and I have found that the most effective way of making sense of its fascinating array of interlinked ideas is simply to write about them. The discipline of writing on, say, the role of government in a soundly functioning economy, forces the mind to focus on the issues without being influenced or constrained by dogma.

Part of my fascination with the subject arises from the observation that prevailing economic theories are plagued by their own internal contradictions and are subject to factional divisions that would not exist if rational principles were to applied to such arcane and ill-understood issues as, for instance, trade and credit cycles.

I have also noted, with increasing frustration, that the majority of ‘leading’ economists, notably those of a political persuasion, suffer from a fatally myopic condition that allows them to identify a “fix-it” expedient to deal with, say, the housing shortage, while blinding themselves to the full consequences, for society as a whole, of their proposed solutions – solutions that invariably amount to simply throwing more money at the problem, whatever it may be. Nor are winners of a Nobel Prize in economics in any way exempt from this condition!

My “Economic Perspectives” series of essays have addressed a variety of issues, usually highly topical at the time of writing, but in each case I have attempted to relate the particular issue to the abiding and unchanging principles that guide my writings – and when in need of correction, I can rely on one of my own mentors to step in and gently point the way.

This text was inspired by an invitation from a study group to give a lecture on economics to a largely untutored and uninitiated audience. Having just re-read Henry Hazlitt’s “Economics in One Lesson”, I bravely titled my lecture “Understanding Economics in One Hour”, and it was the positive feedback from that talk that inspired this brief publication