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Third, self-interested behavior can lead to positive social results. For example, when people work hard to make a living, they create economic output. Consumers who are looking for the best deals will encourage businesses to offer goods and services that meet their needs. Adam Smith, writing in The Wealth of Nations , christened this property the invisible hand    . In describing how consumers and producers interact in a market economy, Smith wrote:

Every individual…generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain. And he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention…By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it.

The metaphor of the invisible hand suggests the remarkable possibility that broader social good can emerge from selfish individual actions.

Fourth, even people who focus on their own self-interest in the economic part of their life often set aside their own narrow self-interest in other parts of life. For example, you might focus on your own self-interest when asking your employer for a raise or negotiating to buy a car. But then you might turn around and focus on other people when you volunteer to read stories at the local library, help a friend move to a new apartment, or donate money to a charity. Self-interest is a reasonable starting point for analyzing many economic decisions, without needing to imply that people never do anything that is not in their own immediate self-interest.

Choices ... to what degree?

What have we learned? We know that scarcity impacts all the choices we make. So, an economist might argue that people do not go on to get bachelor’s degrees or master’s degrees because they do not have the resources to make those choices or because their incomes are too low and/or the price of these degrees is too high. A bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree may not be available in their opportunity set.

The price of these degrees may be too high not only because the actual price, college tuition (and perhaps room and board), is too high. An economist might also say that for many people, the full opportunity cost of a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree is too high. For these people, they are unwilling or unable to make the tradeoff of giving up years of working, and earning an income, to earn a degree.

Finally, the statistics introduced at the start of the chapter reveal information about intertemporal choices . An economist might say that people choose not to get a college degree because they may have to borrow money to go to college, and the interest they have to pay on that loan in the future will affect their decisions today. Also, it could be that some people have a preference for current consumption over future consumption, so they choose to work now at a lower salary and consume now, rather than putting that consumption off until after they graduate college.

Key concepts and summary

The economic way of thinking provides a useful approach to understanding human behavior. Economists make the careful distinction between positive statements, which describe the world as it is, and normative statements, which describe how the world should be. Even when economics analyzes the gains and losses from various events or policies, and thus draws normative conclusions about how the world should be, the analysis of economics is rooted in a positive analysis of how people, firms, and governments actually behave, not how they should behave.


Smith, Adam. “Of Restraints upon the Importation from Foreign Countries.” In The Wealth of Nations . London: Methuen&Co., 1904, first pub 1776), I.V. 2.9.

Smith, Adam. “Of the Propriety of Action.” In The Theory of Moral Sentiments . London: A. Millar, 1759, 1.

Questions & Answers

an increase in demand (while supply remains constant) what will happen to deh graph?
Thabiso Reply
what is going to happen to the graph if there is an increase in demand, While supply remains constant .
What will happen to the graph if there is an increase in demand While supply remains constant?
price will increase high than automatically demand will decrease
equilibrium ?
what is demand
Sarkwah Reply
demand is the willingness to buy a commodity backed by the ability to pay.
demand is mere desire on commodity with ability to back up with purchasing power
Equilibrium is when there's an equality between quantity demanded and quantity supplied
Victory Reply
Again the consumer will be in equilibrium if the price of the commodity is equal to Marginal utility of that product
wat is the law of supply
Agnes Reply
It's what* -The law of supply states that price and supply is relative. As all factors are equal, if price increases then quantity of supply there for increases.
the law of suppy state that when prise is high, more commodity with be supply and when p is low less of the same commodity will be supply.
It states that, "other things being equal, move supplied at a higher price than at a lower price ".
it's state that the increased in prices will lead to decreased in supply
what is the theory of supply and the determinants of demand
And please what is change in quantity supplied?
guys why are you so quiet
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?
wants are what people desire to have but they can live without them and demand is a thing that is most wanted
what are the demand pull inflation
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
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.
what is the important difference between positive and normative economics
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.
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
What is the difference between opportunity cost and choice
opportunity cost are also known as forgun alternative why choice is to select one among alternative
importance of economic
Zakaria Reply
satisfaction of human wants
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?
join the conversation
abba Reply
Hi I'm Ashnly Parker.
what is terms of trade
Ibrahim Reply
different btn import and export
No question... This is nice
Gbenga Reply
hw can we solve problem of scarcity
scarcity is not necessarily a problem but a constant condition of the world. there are not enough resources to satisfy the unlimited wants.
wee need to be cooperative
by unlimited resourses and abundant want
What is the economic problem
And what is demand pull inflation
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.
persistent increased in general price level
all correct...
rise in price.
deserving of money
A persistent tendency for nominal prices to increase
What is the problem of economic problem
the father of economics
Reuben Reply
Adem smith
Adem smith
Adem smith sure
the father of economic regarding to adam Smith
the father of political of economic and capitalism in his book and inquary in to the wealth of the nation.
Adam Smith his the father of economic
difference between injection and leakage
what is monopoly
Monopoly is a market structure where there is one firm who dominate the industry
hi,, I am new here. please welcome me.
you are welcome
monopoly is the one characterized by a mkt power in which a firm is a price maker
Some member just ask questions but not answering so y this happen
Monopoly is a market where only one seller exists. No competition
how long does the patent right prevail the monopoly
no attempt
what is state farming
anybody to attempt
Hi, I'm a new member please will you welcome me

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