Katonomics 16: Crocodiles and alligators

Have you ever wondered what, if anything, is the difference between economics and business studies?  If so, read on.  In the latest instalment of this lovely series on economics for IP enthusiasts, the ever-invaluable Doctor Nicola Searle, resident Katonomist to this weblog, explains, in her own inimitable manner, how tell the two disciplines, and their respective practitioners, can be distinguished from one another, even on a dark night and without recourse to DNA tests. This is what she says:
"The Market Genus: A field guide to Economics and  Business Studies 
Like crocodiles and alligators, members of the Economics and Business Studies disciplines are scaly creatures that are difficult to distinguish. Given recent changes in the economic climate, these animals’ main food supply of money is under pressure and they face a lean period. In the interests of the health and safety of IPKat readers, your resident Kattenborough has prepared this field guide.

Introductory notes

Upon sighting a member of the market genus, prod it gently with a stick. Does it grab the stick, measure it and declare it is growing at a rate of 3.5%? If so, you have identified an economist. If it examines the stick and presents you with a case study of how the stick is managing its bark supply outsourcing, then you have found a member of the business studies species. In both cases, proceed cautiously.

General description

Economists are homogenous in their appearance. Males and females have button-down shirts and woolly jumpers that they shed in the winter. In more urban settings, the species may attempt to camouflage with suits. The Business Studies species is more heterogonous and exhibits a preference for black. Suits are observed in both urban and rural settings for business studies. Deviation from these norms results in being ostracised from the community.


The market genus suffers from a gender imbalance that has led to inter-genus breeding. Estimates put the share of female economists at 25-30%. (The readership of The Economist is 87% male and 13% female with an average age of 47).  Business studies has a better gender balance, with a roughly 40% women and 60% men (based on student postgraduate numbers).


Economists are found in business and industry (65%), academia (20%), government (10%) and other roles.

Identifying the habitat of the business studies species is difficult as they readily adapt to their environment. They roam business and industry, academia, government and other areas. Perhaps philanthropic readers would sponsor an electronic tagging program to improve identification?

Field notes

Unlike professions, membership to the market genus is unregulated. There are no formal qualifications to determine membership. Economists with degrees in physics or mathematics are not uncommon, as are members of business studies with philosophy or psychology backgrounds.

This map of academic disciplines places these noble species on different branches. Economics, identified as a social science, has sub-branches that include econometrics, game theory, human development theory, labour economics, microeconomics, macroeconomics and resource economics. Business studies, defined as a profession/applied science includes accounting, business ethics, finance, industrial and labour relations, information systems, management and marketing. However, both fall under the remit of the Economic and Social Research Council. (ESRC).

To over-simplify, Economics is about choice and Business Studies is about organisation. Economics looks at the production, consumption and distribution of goods and services. In contrast, Business Studies look at how a firm operates in terms of organisation, management, finance and marketing.

To further over-simplify, Economics uses theoretical models and quantitative methods, whereas Business Studies uses theory and qualitative methods. Tensions between the species exist as they compete for resources. Business Studies argue that economists put values on everything whereas economists complain that Business Studies lacks objectivity. Economists are accused of forgetting the “social” in “social science.”

Economics can be divided along two lines. The first is macroeconomics and microeconomics. Macroeconomics looks at the economy as a whole (e.g. unemployment, inflation, exchange rates, growth). Microeconomics looks at firms and individuals (e.g. prices, supply, national economic policies.) There is overlap, but generally macro looks at big and micro looks at small.

The second division is theoretical versus applied. Theory in Economics looks at economic models, expressed in mathematical terms, which begin with assumptions, change something and predict outcomes. For example, a theoretical economist might analyse the consequences of a change in copyright term. Applied economics tests theory empirically with mathematical analysis of data. For example, how did the lengthening of copyright term in the US affect firms? Economics is often identified with theoretical macroeconomists and, in particular Keynesian economics. In reality, economists in the wild are more diverse.

Business Studies is more difficult to categorise as it incorporates a wider range and diversity of sub-disciplines. Management, for example, is closely related to sociology. Accounting is about the processing and communication of financial information. Marketing looks at how businesses identify, satisfy and keep customers.

Business Studies also has an applied versus theoretical division. Theory in Business Studies may examine underlying market structures and can take a philosophical approach. This theoretical paper looks at the business ethics of American business intellectual property claims from a developing country perspective. Applied business studies looks at the application of theory in real situations, often via collection of qualitative data. This applied paper presents 13 case studies of IP protection strategies in China.

To illustrate using IP, Economics examines IP as a policy, as an incentive to innovate, and its impact on choices the economy. Katonomics covers topics in economics of IP. Business Studies looks at IP from an organisational perspective. For example, Business Studies examines best practices in IP management in an industry; or looks at how Human Resources uses IP to incentivise employees; or how IP is incorporated into balance sheets. Domestic potential of the Market Genus Keeping either species of the market genus as pets is ill advised. These creatures are known for their voracious appetites and heads may grow to sizes that cannot be accommodated in domestic situations. IPKat readers would do well to maintain a safe distance when approaching specimens in the wild.

Your resident Kattenborough hopes you found this useful.  However, it is written from a Katonomics perspective. What might she have missed?".
Katonomics 16: Crocodiles and alligators Katonomics 16: Crocodiles and alligators Reviewed by Jeremy on Monday, May 07, 2012 Rating: 5


  1. Neither of these species understands IP. The economists look from a theoretical perspective and focus too much on the competition issues. The business students focus on whether the benefits of IP can be measured; in many industries, the benefits are less quantifiable than employee efficience ratios and so are dismissed. In a few industries, the headlines of multi-million patent auctions grap the attention, and so IP is over-valued.

    One species has its head in the clouds; the other species is either in the accountancy sub-species (and has its head in a spreadsheet) or in the marketing sub-species (and has its head up its own arse). Neither species recognises the value of the small picture, details specialist who makes IP work for organisations.

  2. While it's relatively easy to think of the business studies animals as predators, as one only has to contemplate the damage assorted consulting firms have done to all sorts of pre-consultant organizations over the past couple of decades, I've never seen economists as such - perhaps I haven't been close enough.
    I'd revise the Introductory notes to say "If it examines the stick and tells you that if you only gave it one or two of your legs as a fee it would be able to advise you on managing your bark supply outsourcing, ..."


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