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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

what is meant by broadening the tax base?
Fiona Reply
What is scarcity.
Npoanlarb Reply
when there is adequate resources
Fiona
the represent inadequacy of resources relative to the needs of individuals
Moses
why our wants are limited
Npoanlarb Reply
nooo want is unlimited but resources are limited
Ruchi
and do to that there occurs scarcity and we have to make choice in order to have what we need if need be I will explain more
Madara
our wants are not limited but rather the resources
Moses
as we know that there are two principle of microeconomics scarcity of resources and they have alternative uses...
Ruchi
yes .....
Mathias
because our resources are limited./we have a limited resources.
Ijeoma
what is demand
Thank Reply
demand is something wt we called in economic theory of demand it simply means if price of product is increase then demand of product will decrease
Ruchi
inverse relationship between demand and price
Ruchi
in microeconomic
Ruchi
demand is what and how much you want and what's your need...
Shikhar
how can one be so with economics even while you have less knowledge in mathematics.
OKORO Reply
why is it that some products increases everyday by day
Chiamaka Reply
because demand is increase
Ruchi
because demand is increase
Patience
but how demand increases?
Aziz
Because of the Marketing and purchasing power of people.
AmarbirSingh
but how could we know that people's demands have increased everyday by day and how could we know that this is time to produced the products in the market. Is any connection among them
yaqoob
for normal good people demand remain the same if price of product will increase or not
Ruchi
see that some product which increases day by day is comes under normal good which is used by consumer
Ruchi
Seems hot discussing going here
Shamamet
If there are less products demand starts to increase for those products
Shamamet
Economics is really interesting to learn ....
Shamamet
see there is Inferior goods ands normal goods inferior good demand is rarely increase whereas as we talk about normal good demand will absolutely Increase whether price is increase or not
Ruchi
and demand for normal goods increase cause people's income as a while increases time to time
Abhisek
and it might also be that the cost of raw materials are high.
ATTAH
may be
Ruchi
obviously because demand is increasing.....and price is getting low.....
Shikhar
hmmm there is inverse relationship between demand and price
Ruchi
This is because the supply of those products in relation to raw materials are decreasing and they are also necessities. This crate shortage in the market, so sellers will rise the prices of those products.
Abdul
Importance of economics
Odunayomi Reply
the nature and significance of economics studies
Deborah
What is demand
Shuaib Reply
deman is amount of goods and services a consumer is willing and able to buy or purchase at a given price.
Sainabou
the willingness and ability of a body to purchase goods nd servicesbis called demand ,so if she/has ability but doesn't have willingness it's not a demand same if she or he has willingness but doesn't has ability it's not a demand too
Gul
Demand refers to as quantities of a goods and services in which consumers are willing and able to purchase at a given period of time and demand can also be defined as the desire or willingness and backed by the ability to pay.
Fadiga
Yeah
Mathias
What is Choice
Kofi
Choice refers to the ability of a consumer or producer to decide which good, service or resource to purchase or provide from a range of possible options. Being free to chose is regarded as a fundamental indicator of economic well being and development.
Shonal
choice is a act of selecting or choosing from the numerous or plenty wants.
Fadiga
demand is want and it is also what you need and able to afford a particular period of time... because demand changes with time.
Ijeoma
Demand refers to the ability of the consumer to pay for a particular product at a given price
Abdul
how does consumer make profit
Clifford Reply
by buying goods in bulk.
Ijeoma
Compare and contract the function of commercial bank and the central bank of Nigeria
Akwi Reply
what do think is the difference between overhead costs and prime cost
Abdoulkarim
what is economics
Mohamed Reply
economics is a social science that study's how resources can be used to produce goods and services for society
Nathan
Economic is a science which studies human behavior as a relationship between ends and scares means which have alternatives uses or purposes.
Fadiga
what is economics
Mohamed Reply
what is the basic economic problem
John Reply
rules
Buayadarat_Gaming
unlimited wants vs limited resources
Nathan
what economics is all about?
Nomuhle Reply
what is a new paradigm shift
Austen Reply
Paradigm shift it is the reconcilliation of fedural goods in production
Shyline
fedural? what is that?
Aziz

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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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