There are numerous stereotypes about economists. Two are common. The first is that all we think about and study is money. The second is that economists are more selfish than the average person.

Both stereotypes are wrong. My wife, who is not herself an economist but has been married to one for almost forty-one years, has a great answer to the first claim. When people find out that I’m an economist and then say, “Oh, he must study money,” she answers, “No, he studies human behavior.”

But I want to focus on the second claim because I think it’s the opposite of the truth. My observation is that the average economist is less selfish than the average person and that there’s a good reason for it: the study of economics causes us to think about consequences beyond the ones that are obvious. Moreover, the scholarly literature that some people think shows that students who learn economics become selfish doesn’t actually show that.

These are the opening 3 paragraphs of my latest Hoover article, “Economics Isn’t Selfish,” Defining Ideas, May 30, 2024.

Later in the piece, I discuss a controversy that broke out a few years ago about some academic work that one of the co-authors claimed, incorrectly, demonstrated that economics students are more selfish than other students.

Read the whole thing.