Economists have a certain world view. Their economic training gives a different insight into issues that non economists might not appreciate or consider important. These are few examples of different approaches to economic issues. There are other examples of differences and perhaps these differences are not as significant as we might imagine; I would be interested in hearing the view of both economists and non economists (assuming of course a 'noneconomist' would read an economics blog..)
Rational / Irrational
Economic theory assumes people are rational and will make rational choices. Yet in the real world people often make decisions which can only be viewed as irrational from an economic perspective. E.g. Why would people choose to take out pay day loans at an interest of greater than 2,000% apr? Why would people pay more for a product that is identical to another cheaper product? This is perhaps a big difference, but also highlights a limitation of economics. This limitation is examined in behavioral economics
When watching a political debate or the views of voters, it always strikes me how little people consider the idea of opportunity cost. You can frequently here people say 'The government should save this hospital' 'The Government should provide more public transport' 'The government should reduce that tax'. However it is very rare that a pressure group or non economist will offer a way of funding the spending or tax cut; people often forget the opportunity cost of any economic decision.
e.g. how often do you here voters of politicians argue 'The government should increase spending on public transport; and this can be funded by imposing a political unpopular tax on cars. Furthermore, this tax is likely to overcome external costs and improve social efficiency.'
For an economist any decision on the governments budget imposes an unavoidable opportunity cost. Increase spending will lead to either higher tax or more borrowing. Non economists often forget the opportunity cost of economic choices.
Statistics vs Personal recollections
Non economists tend to put a greater emphasis on personal experiences and every day events. For example, many in the US feel the economy is already in recession because of the bad news on housing markets, subprime crisis and perhaps a personal experience of someone losing a job. An economist would be wary of giving importance to one off factors because they can give an inaccurate reflection of the overall picture.
The media often seek to exaggerate the 'housing crisis' and 'rocketing' price levels. For example, in the UK, newspaper headlines have recently focused on 'The biggest house price fall for 15 months' This sounds more impressive than another headline, which is perhaps more accurate . 'Monthly house price figures show annual rate of House price inflation falls from 6.5% to 5.3%' Both headlines are correct in some way; but arguably the first headline emphasises a certain aspect of the statistics for greater 'shock value'. Of course, this is not to say economists can't use statistics for exaggerated effect; I'm sure readers could give numerous examples. But, perhaps non-economists are more likely to use misleading statistics, especially in the media and political world.
Certainty vs Uncertainty
The joke goes, put 10 economists in a room and you get 11 different answers. If you are wondering where the actual punch line is, don't worry - it's not that funny. But, the point here is that economists are trained to see both sides of the argument. For every statement a good economist will feel obligated to add numerous caveats and other potential outcomes. A recession might occur, but it depends on X,Y,Z. A non economist is more likely to see issues in black and white. The economy is messed up - We're heading for a recession.
On the issue of imposing taxes on negative externalities, economists will justify tax and subsidies based on the issue of externalities. For example, an economist would say a congestion tax is justified because it internalises the external cost of driving into a city centre. Externality arguments can often be difficult to explain to non economists. If you mention a congestion charge to an average voter, there instinctive reaction would be 'not another tax on the motorist' 'this tax is unfair on low income groups'. This is not to say non economists cannot think in terms of externalities, but generally this is a low priority or doesn't immediately spring to mind
I got the inspiration to write this post after reading: