What is an economist? We could say that an economist is a person who studies economies, but that answer leaves us with an even more difficult question: what is an economy?

We have all seen stores, farms, factories, and banks, as well as workers, employers, and government personnel. They would all seem to be part of an economy, but so too is a nursing mother who is rearing the next generation of workers. Schools, churches, and neighbors also help to shape the way people work. They may affect workers’ productivity just as surely as machines do. By the same token, an influence as nebulous as culture in general is a major economic force, even when it is not sold in the form of commodities, such as movies or recorded music. In short, we are hard pressed to find anything that we can exclude from the economy out of hand. This line of reasoning leads to the conclusion that the economy is an all-encompassing subject.