The economy derives its meaning only from its uneconomic purpose

A German-Swiss philosopher Karl Jaspers wrote in his book The Future of Mankind, where he examined the perplexing human situation in its political, economic and historical aspects:

“We must realize that neither the economy nor any of its forms are absolutes. The economy is not the standard for all that we are and can be. It is indispensable – as water is to life, which instantly ends without water; but it is not life any more than water is. The economy derives its meaning only from its uneconomic purpose. It is pervaded by the motives it serves.” 

Jaspers, Karl. 1961. The Future of Mankind. University of Chicago Press. P. 176.


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  1. This is a nice philosophical statement, but does not help to solve practical economic questions, e.g. housing problems and the proportion of rent to wages in metropolitan service regions. The economic motive of rent-seeking pervades all economies, but it cannot be evaluated as one of uneconomic purpose.

    • Probably this statement does not help to solve practical economic questions; but, in my view, it definitely helps to accentuate the ontological embeddedness of the economy in a broader socio-political world. Then, I believe, those are equipped with this understanding will eventually be more proficient in solving practical economic questions.

      • OK ! As human life-time is limited and value preferences have to be made, people should carefully check their economic choices.

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