The award yesterday of the Nobel Prize for Economics to Elinor Ostrom represents something of a back-to-basics, firstly in that it is the first award to a woman, and secondly in its topic: the management of common property resources by communities.
There's a common misconception that equates economics with money. Not so. The circulation and (ultimately) accumulation of money is the topic of a rather dull subset of economics: finance.
I'm not a trained economist. But my economics teacher, Pedro, has told me a couple of interesting things:
- The origin of the word Economy is 'household management'. (by the way...look at how recent that coinage is. It hasn't been synonymous with 'finance' for very long at all!)*
- Quote (and I've stolen this repeatedly from him): 'Economics is about decision making. Usually we use money to keep score.'
- Do I spend money on school shoes for the kids, or can I afford to eat myself?
- Is it more important to take the kids to the cinema to see the new Pixar or to pay the electricity bill on time?
- Should I keep having sex with that drunken bastard who sometimes hits me but who also brings home money?
Isn't it amazing how ordinary women manage these complex, long-term planning decisions on a daily basis, all without the aid of the theories, spreadsheets, computer models and the like that financiers can't seem to manage without?
* This I already knew. It's the topic of 'A History Maker' by the great Glaswegian pedestrian, Alasdair Grey. The book is set in a futuristic time of plenty wherein the men occupy themselves by running around playing at Battles, while the women stay at home and TCOB. How very unlike our own time.