Until very recently, the 'dismal science' was concerned with the allocation of the most basic resources: above all, food. In Europe, bread was the usual symbol. There were enough bread riots in Paris alone in the 18th century to enter the history books: the Women's March on Versailles on October 5th was arguably the tipping point of the French Revolution in 1789. Today, in rich countries, it is hard even to imagine such a march. Adequate nutrition, at the least, is widely available; unless, perhaps, you are overly proud, mentally ill or grievously oppressed. Or unlucky or the victim of a "mistake" by social services.
Likewise, the sums and rookeries of the 19th century are gone and rough sleepers are a tiny percentage of the UK population of 60,000,000. The best figures available suggest that there were under 4,000 in 2015. Six thousand would be 0.01%, so while 4000 is still far too many, it is hardly the biggest economic problem facing the country.
As a result, economics in the rich West nowadays is understandably more concerned with the fair sharing of resources. The trouble is, few people agree about the meaning of “fair”. The question of “fairness” applies also to the distribution of global resources, a question which I address somewhat less here though I still occasionally mention it.
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