Economics is a martial art

A scream for help from the alleyway; what do you do? Move in cautiously but quickly? Or hold back because you worry that the whole thing might get messy?

Do you fret that you haven’t yet published the perfect model of these kinds of social dynamics and that until you do, you might do more harm than good? Or that you won’t have the credibility? Credibility for what, for standing up to street hoodlums?

Do you let someone else look into this? Who, people not as well-trained and not as physically fit as you? People without your punching and kicking abilities and your instincts honed from years of practice in a safe training environment?

Do you stand on the sidelines and criticize those trying to help for not dispatching the hoodlums faster?

What if you realize the scream is your mom or your kids or anyone else who looks to you to protect them? What do you do?

They’re not asking for perfect certainty and total rigor. They just want to be safe again. You can’t tell them this isn’t really what you were trained for, that you are much more a kicker whereas these hoodlums will likely be better dealt with by grappling or boxing. You are there, you are physically fit, you have a reaction time faster than those of others around you. That’s all they expect of you. That’s all that should matter.

So too in economics.

You don’t have to be the world’s top martial artist street fighter. Or the world’s deepest thinker on economic policy. You don’t have to expect to come out of every street situation or every economic policy encounter unscathed, whether physically or in reputation.

You just have to do a bit of good in the world. And the more of you there are, the more the bad guys lose.

(Photo credit: Cung LE is a Vietnamese-American kickboxer and mixed martial artist. Following the fall of Vietnam, he came to the US where bullying forced him to learn to fight. In March 2008 he became Strikeforce Middleweight champion by TKO when a sequence of powerful kicks ended up breaking his opponent’s right arm.)

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