I was asked recently what I thought the difference between economics and political economy was.
I explained that in my opinion when an economist stands in front of a car they think:
How can we make this thing work with the tools that we have got?
A political economist standing in the same position thinks something quite different. They ask four questions. The first is:
Do we need a means of transport?
Then they ask:
Is this the best means of transport available to us?
After which they muse on:
How can we improve on that best option?
Befoe finally considering:
What new tools might we need to achieve these goals?
Economists and political economists are very different indeed in that case.
In the case of the specific political economist that we are talking about the difference is that the economist understands economics an the political economist doesn’t.