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By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Discuss the importance of studying economics
  • Explain the relationship between production and division of labor
  • Evaluate the significance of scarcity

Economics is the study of how humans make decisions in the face of scarcity. These can be individual decisions, family decisions, business decisions or societal decisions. If you look around carefully, you will see that scarcity is a fact of life. Scarcity means that human wants for goods, services and resources exceed what is available. Resources, such as labor, tools, land, and raw materials are necessary to produce the goods and services we want but they exist in limited supply. Of course, the ultimate scarce resource is time- everyone, rich or poor, has just 24 hours in the day to try to acquire the goods they want. At any point in time, there is only a finite amount of resources available.

Think about it this way: In 2015 the labor force in the United States contained over 158.6 million workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Similarly, the total area of the United States is 3,794,101 square miles. These are large numbers for such crucial resources, however, they are limited. Because these resources are limited, so are the numbers of goods and services we produce with them. Combine this with the fact that human wants seem to be virtually infinite, and you can see why scarcity is a problem.

Scarcity of resources

The image is a photograph of two people who are homeless and sleeping on public city benches.
Homeless people are a stark reminder that scarcity of resources is real. (Credit: “daveynin”/Flickr Creative Commons)

If you still do not believe that scarcity is a problem, consider the following: Does everyone need food to eat? Does everyone need a decent place to live? Does everyone have access to healthcare? In every country in the world, there are people who are hungry, homeless (for example, those who call park benches their beds, as shown in [link] ), and in need of healthcare, just to focus on a few critical goods and services. Why is this the case? It is because of scarcity. Let’s delve into the concept of scarcity a little deeper, because it is crucial to understanding economics.

The problem of scarcity

Think about all the things you consume: food, shelter, clothing, transportation, healthcare, and entertainment. How do you acquire those items? You do not produce them yourself. You buy them. How do you afford the things you buy? You work for pay. Or if you do not, someone else does on your behalf. Yet most of us never have enough to buy all the things we want. This is because of scarcity. So how do we solve it?

Visit this website to read about how the United States is dealing with scarcity in resources.

Every society, at every level, must make choices about how to use its resources. Families must decide whether to spend their money on a new car or a fancy vacation. Towns must choose whether to put more of the budget into police and fire protection or into the school system. Nations must decide whether to devote more funds to national defense or to protecting the environment. In most cases, there just isn’t enough money in the budget to do everything. So why do we not each just produce all of the things we consume? The simple answer is most of us do not know how, but that is not the main reason. (When you study economics, you will discover that the obvious choice is not always the right answer—or at least the complete answer. Studying economics teaches you to think in a different of way.) Think back to pioneer days, when individuals knew how to do so much more than we do today, from building their homes, to growing their crops, to hunting for food, to repairing their equipment. Most of us do not know how to do all—or any—of those things. It is not because we could not learn. Rather, we do not have to. The reason why is something called the division and specialization of labor , a production innovation first put forth by Adam Smith , [link] , in his book, The Wealth of Nations .

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 .
Thabiso
What will happen to the graph if there is an increase in demand While supply remains constant?
Thabiso
price will increase high than automatically demand will decrease
takshaveer
equilibrium ?
Issum
is when the supply and demand are balanced
ISAH
what is demand
Sarkwah Reply
demand is the willingness to buy a commodity backed by the ability to pay.
Runwell
demand is mere desire on commodity with ability to back up with purchasing power
Terkimbi
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
daniel
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.
Nathaniel
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.
BEGE
It states that, "other things being equal, move supplied at a higher price than at a lower price ".
Murewah
okay
Agnes
it's state that the increased in prices will lead to decreased in supply
Asuquo
what is the theory of supply and the determinants of demand
Murewah
And please what is change in quantity supplied?
Agnes
guys why are you so quiet
Murewah
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

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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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