Economics, Home Economics,
and Political Economy
John T. Tetley
[Reprinted from The Gargoyle, December, 1962]
A reader of The GARGOYLE asks: "Are Economics, or Home Economics
and Political Economy one and the same thing? Will you please publish
your answer in your paper next month? I think the answer might be
appreciated by many students."
Perhaps others have experienced, as I did in an opening session of a
Henry George school class. The course had been advertised as one in
Fundamental Economic Principle; however, at the close of the initial
session a young lady student said to me, "I thought this was to
be a course in Home Economics."
Economics is an extremely broad subject. The word itself in the
Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, is defined - "A -- pertaining
to household management." B-l. Housekeeping. 2. The science of
household, rural and especially political economy."
Under "Economy" the above mentioned dictionary -- 1.
Management of expenditure: originally of household, later of any
expenses. 2. Political Economy originally the art of managing the
resources of a people and of its government (Adam Smith) later the
theoretical science of the laws of production and distribution of
wealth (McCulloch) 1767."
Now, if the young lady had a concept of "economics" as
being management of the household and considered such to be "Home
Economics" she was justified in assuming that which we termed "Fundamental
Economic Principles" as being the principles of home economics.
Further it might be concluded, accepting the excerpts from the
dictionary, that our reader could consider "Home Economics"
and "Political Economy" one and the same thing.
However, I believe today, the common usage of "Home Economics"
is that which deals with household or home management, and I do not
think Home Economists refer to their field as "Economics",
but rather use the full term -- Home Economics.
Henry George in his book Science of Political Economy presents a
lengthy explanation of the terms Economics and Science of Political
Economy. This careful analysis of the terms might well be briefly
George wrote, the word ECONOMY comes from the Greek meaning, house
law, or in a wider sense, adaptation of means to an end -- a system by
which natural wants are satisfied involving production and
Political, George said infers a relationship to the body of citizens
or state -- the body politic. Political Economy therefore is a
particular kind of economy. In the literal meaning of the word it is
that kind of economy which has relation to the community or state; to
the social whole rather than to individuals.
He went on -- the tendency became to abbreviate and use Economic when
Politico Economic is meant. This combined with the confusion of human
law, which deals with the body politic and with natural law which
deals with the body economic, led to the term Political Economy. The
French Physiocrats, said George, used Political Economy to distinguish
the branch of knowledge with which they were concerned, from politics
and called themselves Economists.
The confusion which the Physiocrats tried to point out continued at
the time George wrote -- the term political economy conveying the
impression of a particular kind of politics rather than a particular
kind of economy.
The word political implies civil government, human sovereignty,
political division, nations. It is not the body politic but the body
social or body industrial -- the body economic -- the whole of
civilization with which the Science of Economics is concerned. So,
suppose we leave "political" put of Economics, and leave
Economics out of politics. Then we may segregate "Economics"
-- "Home Economics" - and "Political Science" or "Science