I was asked recently what I thought the difference between economics and political economy was.
I explained that in my opinion when an economist stands in front of a car they think:
How can we make this thing work with the tools that we have got?
A political economist standing in the same position thinks something quite different. They ask four questions. The first is:
Do we need a means of transport?
Then they ask:
Is this the best means of transport available to us?
After which they muse on:
How can we improve on that best option?
Befoe finally considering:
What new tools might we need to achieve these goals?
Economists and political economists are very different indeed in that case.