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Second objection: people, firms, and society should not act this way

The economics approach portrays people as self-interested. For some critics of this approach, even if self-interest is an accurate description of how people behave, these behaviors are not moral. Instead, the critics argue that people should be taught to care more deeply about others. Economists offer several answers to these concerns.

First, economics is not a form of moral instruction. Rather, it seeks to describe economic behavior as it actually exists. Philosophers draw a distinction between positive statements , which describe the world as it is, and normative statements , which describe how the world should be. For example, an economist could analyze a proposed subway system in a certain city. If the expected benefits exceed the costs, he concludes that the project is worth doing—an example of positive analysis. Another economist argues for extended unemployment compensation during the Great Depression because a rich country like the United States should take care of its less fortunate citizens—an example of normative analysis.

Even if the line between positive and normative statements is not always crystal clear, economic analysis does try to remain rooted in the study of the actual people who inhabit the actual economy. Fortunately however, the assumption that individuals are purely self-interested is a simplification about human nature. In fact, we need to look no further than to Adam Smith , the very father of modern economics to find evidence of this. The opening sentence of his book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments , puts it very clearly: “How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it.” Clearly, individuals are both self-interested and altruistic.

Second, self-interested behavior and profit-seeking can be labeled with other names, such as personal choice and freedom. The ability to make personal choices about buying, working, and saving is an important personal freedom. Some people may choose high-pressure, high-paying jobs so that they can earn and spend a lot of money on themselves. Others may earn a lot of money and give it to charity or spend it on their friends and family. Others may devote themselves to a career that can require a great deal of time, energy, and expertise but does not offer high financial rewards, like being an elementary school teacher or a social worker. Still others may choose a job that does not take lots of their time or provide a high level of income, but still leaves time for family, friends, and contemplation. Some people may prefer to work for a large company; others might want to start their own business. People’s freedom to make their own economic choices has a moral value worth respecting.

Is a diagram by any other name the same?

When you study economics, you may feel buried under an avalanche of diagrams: diagrams in the text, diagrams in the lectures, diagrams in the problems, and diagrams on exams. Your goal should be to recognize the common underlying logic and pattern of the diagrams, not to memorize each of the individual diagrams.

This chapter uses only one basic diagram, although it is presented with different sets of labels. The consumption budget constraint and the production possibilities frontier for society, as a whole, are the same basic diagram. [link] shows an individual budget constraint and a production possibilities frontier for two goods, Good 1 and Good 2. The tradeoff diagram always illustrates three basic themes: scarcity, tradeoffs, and economic efficiency.

The first theme is scarcity    . It is not feasible to have unlimited amounts of both goods. But even if the budget constraint or a PPF shifts, scarcity remains—just at a different level. The second theme is tradeoffs . As depicted in the budget constraint or the production possibilities frontier, it is necessary to give up some of one good to gain more of the other good. The details of this tradeoff vary. In a budget constraint, the tradeoff is determined by the relative prices of the goods: that is, the relative price of two goods in the consumption choice budget constraint. These tradeoffs appear as a straight line. However, the tradeoffs in many production possibilities frontiers are represented by a curved line because the law of diminishing returns holds that as resources are added to an area, the marginal gains tend to diminish. Regardless of the specific shape, tradeoffs remain.

The third theme is economic efficiency , or getting the most benefit from scarce resources. All choices on the production possibilities frontier show productive efficiency because in such cases, there is no way to increase the quantity of one good without decreasing the quantity of the other. Similarly, when an individual makes a choice along a budget constraint, there is no way to increase the quantity of one good without decreasing the quantity of the other. The choice on a production possibilities set that is socially preferred, or the choice on an individual’s budget constraint that is personally preferred, will display allocative efficiency.

The basic budget constraint/production possibilities frontier diagram will recur throughout this book. Some examples include using these tradeoff diagrams to analyze trade, labor supply versus leisure, saving versus consumption, environmental protection and economic output, equality of incomes and economic output, and the macroeconomic tradeoff between consumption and investment. Do not be confused by the different labels. The budget constraint/production possibilities frontier diagram is always just a tool for thinking carefully about scarcity, tradeoffs, and efficiency in a particular situation.

The tradeoff diagram

Two graphs will occur frequently throughout the text. They represent the possible outcomes of constraints/production of goods. The graph on the left has “Good 2” along the y-axis and “Good 1” along the x-axis. The graph on the right has “Good 1” along the y-axis and “Good 2” along the x-axis.
Both the individual opportunity set (or budget constraint) and the social production possibilities frontier show the constraints under which individual consumers and society as a whole operate. Both diagrams show the tradeoff in choosing more of one good at the cost of less of the other.

Questions & Answers

compare pakistan's economic conditions and development with other countries
Adnan Reply
please tell me about. GOAL AND INVESTMENT IN MACROECONOMICS
SHAKEEL Reply
1. Division of labour increases the quality of output 2. it brings about specializations where a worker has an advantage of his area of competence. 3. The pay you get help you to buy the goods and wants
Becky Reply
1. to make choice in the face of scarcity 2. specializations 3.division of labour
Becky
Human wants and needs are numerous but the resources available are limited in supply.
Becky
The maximum amount of ham the residents will consume in a month is 30000
Becky
it makes economic sense to her because she works to get paid. since she cannot produced vegetables,
Becky
A computer systems engineer only specialized in his field of study as a computer engineer not a painter. so he needs to get the service of a painter to paint his house and he will pay for the service of the painter
Becky
the kitchen will produce more meals because there is division of labour and area of expertise
Becky
division of labour without trade will not work because there is no training in a particular field
Becky
it also increase productivity
Asiedu
or increase productivity
Asiedu
how to print
Siti Reply
what is flow variable
Siyanda Reply
a flow is a quantity that can be measured over a specific period of time
Abhishek
is economics a social science or a pure science
Hilda Reply
social science
Sammy
social science
Babarali
social Science as a Subject and Pure science as a study
Abhishek
How to compute National income by using the expenditure approach
Bridget Reply
explain the method?
Sammy
hy
Sajjad
C+I+G+(X-M) C= Consumption Expenditure I= Investment Expenditure G= Government Expenditure X-M = Net Export
Abhishek
hw r u..?
Sharat
am good
lukimia
o nice
Sajjad
please I need a guardian on this topic
Albert
What do you need? Maybe we can help
Annisa
What's going on here?
Ivan
l need some information about macroeconomic
Sharat
First tell us what you already know about macroeconomic.
Ivan
any lecturer in here?
Albert
yes !! am here !! Lecturer of Economics And Statistics
Abhishek
Macroeconomics is too vast,so please be specific your question
niguse
I need help in statistics my lecturer is too fast at times I dont understand
Diana
Y=C+I+G+NX
Ayesha
Briefly explain whether the discipline of economics is a social science or pure science( normative or positive)
Okafor Reply
answer.... Economics is social science
Sammy
different between absolute advantage and comparative advantage
EDSON Reply
mathematical economics
masele Reply
show some questions under this topic
hassan
m
Om
why met worth is added with libilitys in the balance sheet
bijoy Reply
what are the implications of inflation targeting?
Alinaitwe Reply
maximize profit
Murry
What happens to the goods and money market if the government cuts public spending?
Harman Reply
then the government will be punished by the public
soul
GDP, INFLATION, UNEMPLOYMENT & PRODUCTIVITY and then write a paragraph on the behavior of each variable after analyzing them graphically.
AWY
what is international trade
Stella Reply
International trade is the exchange of capital, goods, and services across international borders.
Bilal
international trade is the exchange of goods and services across boundaries
Zamu
international trade is the exchange of goods and services of country and abroad
Uwase
international is the process of exchanges of value interm of goods and services along national frontier
Murry
Trade*
Murry
Increase knowdge and skill. it save time and cost. Increase high Efficiency of production .
betta Reply
List kinds of Elastcity of Demand
betta

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Source:  OpenStax, Macroeconomics. OpenStax CNX. Jun 16, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11626/1.10
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