Charities are now working to give people in poor countries access to the Internet. But shouldn't we spend that money on providing health clinics and safe water? Aren't these things more relevant? I have no intention of downplaying the importance of the Internet, but its impact has been exaggerated.
A lot of things that we cannot buy and sell in markets used to be totally legal objects of market exchange - human beings when we had slavery, child labour, human organs, and so on. So there is no economic theory that actually says that you shouldn't have slavery or child labour because all these are political, ethical judgments.
In the 19th century, a lot of people were against outlawing child labour, because to do so would be against the very foundations of a free market economy: 'These children want to work, these people want to employ them... what is your problem? It's not as if anyone has kidnapped them...'
Many financial and industrial companies have been bailed out with the public's money, but very few of those who had run those companies have been punished for their failures. Yes, the top managers of those companies have lost their jobs - but with a fat pension and mostly with a handsome severance payment.
Markets are, in the end, man-made devices for utilitarian purposes, not a force of nature that we should not try to resist. If they end up serving the interests of only a tiny minority, as is increasingly the case, we have the right - and indeed the duty - to regulate them in the interest of greater social good.
Imagine if all those kings and dukes hadn't commissioned those crazy cathedrals, paintings and music... we'd still be living in sticks and mud. Because none of those things made any economic sense. Human beings' capacity to 'waste time' is a miracle - but that's exactly what art is for.
People always think they're in the middle of a revolution while they tend not to realize the enormity of a change that has happened in the past. The telegraph was a revolution, but who looks at it that way these days? The telegraph sped up the transportation of messages over long distances by a huge factor.
Gone are the days when the upper classes were terrified of the angry mob wanting to smash their skulls and confiscate their properties. Now their biggest enemy is the army of lazy bums, whose lifestyle of indolence and hedonism, financed by crippling taxes on the rich, is sucking the lifeblood out of the economy.
Patent monopoly creates a lot of problems. It allows the patentee to charge the maximum to consumers. This may not be a problem if the patented product is a luxury item, like parts that go into a smartphone, but can violate basic human rights if it involves things such as life-saving drugs.
Economics should be defined in terms of what it is about. It should be about how people produce things, how people exchange them, how people earn income, how they pay taxes, how the government provides infrastructure with tax revenue, and how it conducts monetary policy. The subject has to be defined in terms of the object of inquiry.