What is the economy to you? Econ hw help

I just started an economics class because it’s required to graduate at my high school, and today’s homework is to ask what ‘the economy’ is to an adult in my life. I figured I’d ask here, see if I can get an interesting perspective.
So, what does the economy mean to you?
Thanks for your help!

That’s a great prompt! To me, as a 31 year old adult, the economy has been two things - 1, referenced constantly in the media, by politicians and by business owners as almost a God-like entity that can be doing poorly or doing well, but how they assess its health is often detached from everyday people who are truly what constitute a so-called “economy” or “market”. For example, fluctuations in the stock market are often used to describe the health of our economy. But most everyday people do not participate directly in the stock market. And therefore, 2, it’s also the primary site where dramatic imbalances of power & material well-being are played out as a result of policy (or lack thereof) yet also the primary site where we’re encouraged to be most active (but only as passive consumers in the market, instead of as citizens with power to transform the economy).


I really like hwittmeyer’s reply. I’ll add that the assumption in the west is that the economy must grow in order for people to thrive. But as hwittmeyer points out, the economy can be doing just fine while people are unemployed, homeless and suffering; the economy generally only measures how well those with more than enough money are doing.

At the same time, for that economy to thrive, we must continue to consume, and that requires continued extraction of raw materials, which includes drilling, fracking and mining, which is often done in the global south, and it often destroys natural habitats and the lives of the people who live there. Even if mining isn’t involved, extraction requires CO2 emissions necessary for the extractrion, for the transportation of raw materials to the factories that process them into something useable, then often transportation to other factories where they can assembled, then transportation to distribution centers and then to our homes, all at a time when we need to cut our emissions in half in just 8 years in order to have a chance for you, Reed, to have a survivable biosphere to live in. The planet’s resources are finite, but the economy can’t respect those boundaries, because the economy only looks for profit, and there’s not profit in recognizing finite boundaries.

By the way, what I think we should be offering students like you is a green curriculum, but for the most part, we’re not. Please forgive my self-promotion, but there’s more about that here:

To me personally, it’s something that controls my life without my input. It’s a big, spidery, concept that I feel I am supposed to care deeply about, but which does not have an interest in me.

For example, the “economy” decides if I have to take out debt, if I can get a job, if I can buy a house, when I can have children (or even if I can have them at all). As a teenager, it can appear that adults make those kinds of decisions of their own free will and according to their wants and needs. As we get older, however, we see that many things that seem like “decisions” are actually made because something called the “economy” has made only one choice available.

For example, you might want to buy a house. You may be a good candidate for a house. But it’s really not your choice. The “economy” makes that choice for you.