Where to begin.
Consider first this joke which does its best to sum up the problem:
A physicist, a chemist, and an economist are stranded on a desert island with no implements and a single can of beans. The physicist says, "Let's smash the can open with a rock." The chemist says, "Let's build a fire and heat the can first." The economist says, "Assume we have a can opener."
Now Wikipedia mis-tells this joke as being about "a can of food" (commoditizing the target down to complete in-consequentiality... in the manner of economists everywhere) and then mis-tells the joke in several significant ways.
Wikipedia begins the quoted joke with:
There is a story that has been going around about...
Now this is not the way a joke begins. This is the way a very bad re-telling of a joke begins.
I had an aunty once who would start a joke like this:
Oh, oh oh. I heard a joke. I heard it from George. You remember George? Yes, well he's got cancer now. But anyway. George told me this, or maybe it was Rupert. Rupert might've been the one who said it. Anyway. It was either George or Rupert or maybe Beryl with the hip.
This is probably the way an Economist would start a joke, even if they didn't know George, Rupert or Beryl, as they would assume it was an important part of the joke.
Tellingly (did I mentioned "Tellingly"?) Wikipedia doesn't show the solutions provided by the physicist and chemist, it simply glosses over those solutions by saying:
The physicist and the chemist each devised an ingenious mechanism for getting the can open
Which is very telling. And then, most alarmingly, continues with:
It derives from a joke which dates to at least 1970 and possibly originated with British economists.
As if to simply accept as an established fact that Economists could:
- Have a healthy sense of humour concerning their own short-sightedness
- Readily devise, as part of a joke, a practical and allegedly "ingenious" methods for opening a can of beans
- Readily devise, as part of a joke, TWO such methods.
Which entirely negates the point of the joke in the first place.
Has no one who works at Wikipedia ever met an Economist?
This joke did not originate with an economist. It may have originated with a chemist or a physicist, or any person with a real world skill for solving problems.