Definition: The phrase assume a can opener comes from a joke most economists can tell off by heart. There are multiple versions of the joke - the website Notes on Social Security Reform has one of the most common version:
" A physicist, a chemist and an economist are stranded on an island, with nothing to eat. A can of soup washes ashore. 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, "Let's assume that we have a can-opener..." "
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