I was trained mostly in economics, but lately I have been more of an entrepreneur. The mindsets could not be more different, and they color the way I respond to arguments such as the one I blogged about recently.
One of the key concepts you learn in Econ 101 is tradeoffs. Basically, if you get more of one thing, you generally have to take less of another thing to compensate. Diagram I below shows a curve called a Production Possibility Frontier. The idea is that if you are anywhere on the curve, you face a tradeoff. For example, if you are at B, you can have more production, but in return you must do less maintenance. (Note that "production" and "maintenance"are just example variables. We could substitute "work output" and "free time with family" if we wanted.)
Optimistic economists assume that we are at point D, not point A or B. If you are at D, then you can have both more work output and free time if you work more efficiently. Much of the work I did as an economist at the World Bank was helping advise countries on how to get from point D to somewhere on the possibility frontier. But we didn't know how to get to point C, which lies beyond the frontier. We noticed that the curve does shift outward over time, as in Diagram II below, but we didn't really understand why, and could not come up with policy prescriptions to make it happen.