Man cannot live alone. Even if we think we are independent, we need something to eat. Most of the food we eat is made and delivered (at least to the nearby grocery store) by somebody else. Nobody ever builds a house alone or manages to maintain the necessary farm equipment without any help. We conduct our lives through interactions with others.
Such interactions include “solid” (or firm) interactions, such as those between parents and their children, and less firm interactions, such as those between colleagues in a company. Both of these types are face-to-face interactions.
In addition, there are interactions with invisible persons. In present-day society, we interact with many people in the world through the marketplace. The rubber used for your shoes may come from Indonesia; the person who collected the rubber is connected to you even if you do not realize it. The president of the United States may wear similar shoes.
Economics is a discipline that analyzes these relationships or connections. There is a wide variety of such connections. In some societies, people obtain what they want by force. In other societies, people create a community that prevents such force, and strong ties are established between the community members. In yet another society, people may rely on weak ties in the marketplace. We would like to analyze these societies.
Further, this book carefully studies disability-related issues since this is one of my research fields. Disability is a mirror that reflects the distortions of society, because people with disabilities are the ones who suffer first if something goes wrong in society. For example, in the great earthquake of Eastern Japan, wheelchair users were stranded because elevators did not function. Moreover, people with intellectual disabilities were forced to move from one facility to another.
We can understand society better by analyzing disability-related issues. In particular, the viewpoints of people with disabilities are indispensable when we study the market. This is one of the reasons that this book discusses these issues.
Of course, people with disabilities are not the only ones who suffer from the vicissitudes of life and struggle in the doldrums accompanying societal problems. All people, from children to elite businesspeople, have to adjust to their society, and they feel that life is difficult.
This feeling may stem from the fact that you do not have access to the right market. The lack of a market leads to a lack of alternatives and opportunities.
Thus, let us endeavor to find the right market for you. You may create one if you cannot find it. First, though, let us explore together.
(Written by Akihiko Matsui, Professor, Graduate School of Economics / 2018)