… is from page 4 of my colleagues Peter Boettke’s, Stefanie Haeffele-Balch’s, and Virgil Storr’s “Introduction” to their 2016 edited collection, Mainline Economics: Six Nobel Lectures in the Tradition of Adam Smith:
Arguably, there are at least three propositions regarding the nature of human action and the role of institutions that mainline economics critically adopt and advance: (1) there are limits to the benevolence that individuals can rely on and therefore they face cognitive and epistemic limits as they negotiate the social world, but (2) formal and informal institutions guide and direct human activity, and, so (3) social cooperation is possible without central direction. Stated another way, by relying on the emergent and human-devised rules of conduct, agents possessing both the capacities and the failings of the typical human being can nonetheless work together to achieve their individual and collective goals.
DBx: “Mainline economics” is distinguished from “mainstream economics” by being much less focused than is mainstream economics on merely what is going on within the current academic economics literature (which often gets sidetracked by fads) and more concerned about explaining observed social reality. Mainline economics is economics done in the tradition begun by Adam Smith.