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To understand this point, think back to the step-by-step process of finding the choice with highest total utility by comparing the marginal utility that is gained and lost from different choices along the budget constraint. As José compares each choice along his budget constraint to the previous choice, what matters is not the specific numbers that he places on his utility—or whether he uses any numbers at all—but only that he personally can identify which choices he prefers.

In this way, the step-by-step process of choosing the highest level of utility resembles rather closely how many people make consumption decisions. We think about what will make us the happiest; we think about what things cost; we think about buying a little more of one item and giving up a little of something else; we choose what provides us with the greatest level of satisfaction. The vocabulary of comparing the points along a budget constraint and total and marginal utility is just a set of tools for discussing this everyday process in a clear and specific manner. It is welcome news that specific utility numbers are not central to the argument, since a good utilimometer is hard to find. Do not worry—while we cannot measure utils, by the end of the next module, we will have transformed our analysis into something we can measure—demand.

Key concepts and summary

Economic analysis of household behavior is based on the assumption that people seek the highest level of utility or satisfaction. Individuals are the only judge of their own utility. In general, greater consumption of a good brings higher total utility. However, the additional utility received from each unit of greater consumption tends to decline in a pattern of diminishing marginal utility.

The utility-maximizing choice on a consumption budget constraint can be found in several ways. You can add up total utility of each choice on the budget line and choose the highest total. You can choose a starting point at random and compare the marginal utility gains and losses of moving to neighboring points—and thus eventually seek out the preferred choice. Alternatively, you can compare the ratio of the marginal utility to price of good 1 with the marginal utility to price of good 2 and apply the rule that at the optimal choice, the two ratios should be equal:

MU 1 P 1 = MU 2 P 2

Problems

Praxilla, who lived in ancient Greece, derives utility from reading poems and from eating cucumbers. Praxilla gets 30 units of marginal utility from her first poem, 27 units of marginal utility from her second poem, 24 units of marginal utility from her third poem, and so on, with marginal utility declining by three units for each additional poem. Praxilla gets six units of marginal utility for each of her first three cucumbers consumed, five units of marginal utility for each of her next three cucumbers consumed, four units of marginal utility for each of the following three cucumbers consumed, and so on, with marginal utility declining by one for every three cucumbers consumed. A poem costs three bronze coins but a cucumber costs only one bronze coin. Praxilla has 18 bronze coins. Sketch Praxilla’s budget set between poems and cucumbers, placing poems on the vertical axis and cucumbers on the horizontal axis. Start off with the choice of zero poems and 18 cucumbers, and calculate the changes in marginal utility of moving along the budget line to the next choice of one poem and 15 cucumbers. Using this step-by-step process based on marginal utility, create a table and identify Praxilla’s utility-maximizing choice. Compare the marginal utility of the two goods and the relative prices at the optimal choice to see if the expected relationship holds. Hint : Label the table columns: 1) Choice, 2) Marginal Gain from More Poems, 3) Marginal Loss from Fewer Cucumbers, 4) Overall Gain or Loss, 5) Is the previous choice optimal? Label the table rows: 1) 0 Poems and 18 Cucumbers, 2) 1 Poem and 15 Cucumbers, 3) 2 Poems and 12 Cucumbers, 4) 3 Poems and 9 Cucumbers, 5) 4 Poems and 6 Cucumbers, 6) 5 Poems and 3 Cucumbers, 7) 6 Poems and 0 Cucumbers.

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

References

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2015. “Consumer Expenditures in 2013.” Accessed March 11, 2015. http://www.bls.gov/cex/csxann13.pdf.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2015. “Employer Costs for Employee Compensation—December 2014.” Accessed March 11, 2015. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/ecec.pdf.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2015. “Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey.” Accessed March 11, 2015. http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat22.htm.

Questions & Answers

A woman has a television set which cost her $800 two years ago. A new set would cost her $1000 and she could sell her television set for $450. What is the opportunity Cost of keeping the old TV?
Murewah Reply
principle of effective demand?
Abubakar Reply
the is the situation in which the need of individuals exceed the available resource. increase in population rate and wrong decision making
esther Reply
what is the different between wants and demand?
Terkimbi
wants are what people desire to have but they can live without them and demand is a thing that is most wanted
Murewah
what are the demand pull inflation
Hijja
the higher the aggregate level of activity, the larger the proportion of areas and industries which experience excess demand for goods and labour of various sorts , and the more powerful is demand-inflationary pressure . Demand inflation is contrasted with cost inflation , in which price and wage
Murewah
increases are transmitted from one sector to another. These should be regarded as different aspects of an overal inflation starts , cost inflation explains why inflation once begun is so difficult to stop.
Murewah
what is the important difference between positive and normative economics
Umar
positive economics is the study of how an economy works in practice, as opposed to the theoretical study of how it should run in theory and normative economics is the party of economics that is concerned with how the economy ought to be run.
Murewah
positive economic deal with fact and also talks about how the economy actually is like while normative economic deal with value judgement and talks about how the economy ought to be like
esther
What is the difference between opportunity cost and choice
Murewah
opportunity cost are also known as forgun alternative why choice is to select one among alternative
Terkimbi
importance of economic
Zakaria Reply
satisfaction of human wants
Festo
economics is about to economise . discuss
Angel Reply
Underlines the efficiency aspect. Economise towards what: Economise factors to reach equal distribution of Material wealth or Just to operate optimally to Service demand, i. e. Run markets efficiently?
Homo
join the conversation
abba Reply
Hi I'm Ashnly Parker.
Murewah
what is terms of trade
Ibrahim Reply
different btn import and export
Angel
No question... This is nice
Gbenga Reply
hw can we solve problem of scarcity
Oigebe
scarcity is not necessarily a problem but a constant condition of the world. there are not enough resources to satisfy the unlimited wants.
Matthew
wee need to be cooperative
Zakaria
by unlimited resourses and abundant want
Angel
What is the economic problem
Murewah
inflation
Lazizjon
And what is demand pull inflation
Murewah
why do compute GDP?
steven Reply
can anyone shortly determine the word inflation.
Ibrahim Reply
Continous increase in the general level of prices or in the cost of living.
arshad
persistent increased in general price level
Machall
all correct...
paa
inflaction
Angel
rise in price.
Abubakar
deserving of money
Lazizjon
A persistent tendency for nominal prices to increase
Murewah
What is the problem of economic problem
Murewah
the father of economics
Reuben Reply
Adem smith
sj
Adem smith
Ajit
Adem smith sure
Adigwe
the father of economic regarding to adam Smith
Ibrahim
the father of political of economic and capitalism in his book and inquary in to the wealth of the nation.
Umar
Adam Smith his the father of economic
Mamudu
difference between injection and leakage
Asif
what is monopoly
Razak
Monopoly is a market structure where there is one firm who dominate the industry
wisdom
hi,, I am new here. please welcome me.
Mohammad
you are welcome
Adigwe
monopoly is the one characterized by a mkt power in which a firm is a price maker
Festo
Some member just ask questions but not answering so y this happen
Festo
Monopoly is a market where only one seller exists. No competition
Fred
how long does the patent right prevail the monopoly
Festo
no attempt
Zakaria
what is state farming
Sadiq
anybody to attempt
Festo
Hi, I'm a new member please will you welcome me
Murewah
different types of price elasticity of demand with the aid of graphs
Tshepo Reply
what about mean median and mode
Dike Reply
mode is the most occurred number and median is the middle digit
John
the mean is the sum of all the data divided by the number eg: 2+4+4+5+3+5+1 =24÷7
BEGE
economics
ghani
what is exchange rate
Festo
thanks guys
Runwell
What is Equilibrium?
Santos
that when supply equals demand. that's where the supply curve and the demand curve intercept.
Oladele
equilibrium is when the both side of the price is balanced
Asuquo
Thanks Asuquo Agwuu
Santos
what is paradox Of drift
doris Reply
***economicsdiscussion.net/income/concept-of-paradox-of-thrift-with-diagram-micro-economics/713
lungku
it's thrift not drift
lungku
so what is it sir
Festo
what are the causes of unemployment
Afful Reply
lack of job in the rural areas
Nicholas
High level of illiteracy
Muhammad
Unfulfilled government promises
Vee
this one no be problem waii
Nicholas
low rate of industrialisation
Mimi

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Source:  OpenStax, Principles of economics. OpenStax CNX. Sep 19, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11613/1.11
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