BIG IDEAS: Economic Jargon

You're probably familiar with the metaphor of the economy as a machine--phrases like "jump-starting the economy" or "economic engine," or the idea that the economy is something that is currently broken and in need of repair. Feminist economist Nancy Folbre says that the words we use to describe the economy are more important than we might realize, and in this podcast on Economica, she suggests an alternative metaphor:

"The [new terminology] that I’ve suggested ... is the economy as a beating heart. There are mechanical replacements for hearts, so it’s not that they don’t have certain processes which can be a little bit reminiscent of the machine metaphor. But the heart is also much more organic. And key to the idea of a heart metaphor is circulation. That is you have to keep the resources moving around to keep the economy healthy. So you bring in ideas of health. You bring in ideas of circulating and keeping things moving ... the heart is also the location of care and responsibility, so you bring in that aspect as well. ...We need to look at the fact that what we want from an economy includes a lot of things that aren’t measured in GDP. We want an economy that also allows us to spend time with our children. And for children to have interaction with care and caregivers."

What do you think? What kind of metaphor would you suggest for the way the economy works, or should work?

Economic Jargon, Nancy Folbre [Economica: Women and the Global Economy]