The Fundamental Flaw in Economics

How ‘Homo economicus’ forgot what species he really is

Anna Mercury
5 min readSep 11, 2023
Photo by Guillaume de Germain on Unsplash

Last week, I got the joy of watching a dear friend defend his PhD dissertation. Now, like the mother of an honor’s student, I can proudly slap a bumper sticker on my van that reads, “My Old Roommate Is a Doctor of Philosophy in Ecological Economics.” You hear that? Doctor.

My friend is, of course, brilliant, but I must admit, his title is quite stupid. It’s not the Doctor part that bothers me; it’s the rest of it. A Doctor of Ecological Economics? That’s like being a Prince of Carbonized Carbon, a Prophet of Existential Existence. It’s like corn-on-the-cob. Mitch-all-together.

Economics is the study of how we use and distribute resources, how we turn those resources into goods and use those goods for services.

The resources, upon which the whole field of economics relies, can only ever come from ecosystems.

Housing markets can’t exist without the lumber to build houses, which comes from trees. The restaurant industry can’t exist without food, which is made of plants and animals. The screens we’re both looking at right now are made of glass, which is sand, soda ash and limestone. Even the Metaverse relies on natural resources.