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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

which model predicted a global collapse in the world's social and economic system before the year 2010
Francis Reply
what is the formula of mixed income ?
Sanjum Reply
labor force in.Nigeria is seen as .......?
Aisha Reply
Is demand the same as being in need of a product?
Aphiwe Reply
yeah
Demand is defer from only need of products
Zubairu
need is the primary and main root of demand. but demand is the result of combination of need; income capacity and desire to expend of money for that product.
Ramu
products or services
jax
what is price determination?
Alick Reply
why are imports subtructed when GDP is calculated in the expenditure approach
nati
what is fiscalpolicy
nati Reply
The way of the government expenses and other analysis
Zubairu
It explains government spending and how it helps to direct the economy towards the desired direction. For instance, if the govt of a nation is desirous of achieving economic growth and development, then the govt will adopt an expansionary fiscal policy which imply more spending by the govt.
Sunday
and politics party important
mujtaba Reply
politics party important
mujtaba
Which party is that
Zubairu
persons who stopped searching for jobs but would accept if the opportunity presents itself
Torissa Reply
persons who are unemployed whether they are underage, retired or incapacitated
Torissa
the us economy is best characterized as?
Shekeriah
what is the impact of fiscal policy in the short and long run in the AD/AS model...
Hydrammeh Reply
What is demand
Mohd Reply
Demand is the desire for a commodity backed by the willingness and the purchasing power too.
Ajay
what is the impact of the higher tax rate on the business and the economy at large..?
Hydrammeh Reply
aggregate demand decreases and GDP decreases in the long run prices will decrease because aggregate supply will shift to the right and increase
Murabit
Thanks, Murabit
Hydrammeh
But still I will need more explanation
Hydrammeh
no problem tax rate is a form of fiscal policy so any time the government changes spending or taxes it will directly affect the economy
Murabit
but remember that there at different economic views on fiscal policy there is classical,Keynesian and moneterism
Murabit
if taxes increase aggregate demand decreases causing a fall in prices causing a fall in the money demand lowering interest rate and increasing investment spending in turn increasing prices
Murabit
thanks so much Murabit
Hydrammeh
what are the policy recommendations for impact of government borrowing?
Baisiro Reply
how can I get Utility notes here
Tabea Reply
I also want to know
konglan
I have them
Alick
money and money supply
Yogesh Reply
money is anything that is generally accepted as payment of goods and services or that is accepted in settlement of debt.
Rakgadi
Money supply?
Rakgadi
Money supply is the total value of monetary assets available in an economy at a specific time.
Rakgadi
supply of money:- The total quantity of money in an economy at a point of time......
Ittoo
What is the difference between monetary economy and barter economy?
Rakgadi
monetary economy is simply an economy where money acts as a medium of exchange and barter economy is why where goods acts as a medium of exchange
Ittoo
Thank you Ittoo.
Rakgadi
please cut why.....in last ans
Ittoo
and no need of thanks dear
Ittoo
Don't damend work in inflation
Mishael Reply

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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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