Human Nature and the Economist’s Mission

I just finished up this great book called “Created for Greatness – The Power of Magnanimity” by Alexandre Havard, and it got me thinking to a lot of things. One of them in particular based on the quote:

One cannot serve man if one does not know who man is. One can only serve man in light of the truth about man.

We so often have this idealistic idea about humanity, about what we think man should be. Other times, we have this complete shifted and hopeless idea of humanity, either in the frame of self-pity, or in the edge of despise for our own existence. Honestly, none of those do us any good. In one way or another, we’ve all chosen paths in our lives that leads us to serve humanity, to serve ourselves. Our professional lives formalize our service to society – which need not to be bounded by only serving this way – but despite all of that, most of us don’t spend nearly enough time trying to understand our own existence, our own nature beyond the narrow-minded descriptions I’ve given in the beginning of this paragraph…which according to the quote I cited above means we’ve been doing a poor job at our service to humanity.

davincishutterstock_21574306Reading this in a way comforts me. Understanding human behavior, the decision-making process of our species and developing strategies to deal with our discoveries, seeking to guide humanity into the best possible path is essentially the economist’s job, my job. It is sad though that from time to time, all this mission and purpose gets lost in so much math. Economists forget from time to time that are the assumptions and a few abstractions from reality that allows us to use math – which then provides an immense contribution into understanding behavior and incentives…but it is also necessary not to lose track of the big picture, our purpose for it all: understanding human nature under this particular aspect that is our responsibility, in order to best serve humanity.