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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

Don't damend work in inflation
Mishael Reply
conceptand variable of macro economics
Bittu Reply
Hi
Jafta
hi
Prashant
hello
hello
George
macro economics is the study of general factors in an economy.
George
what is fiscal policy?
talukder
fiscal policy refers to the use of government spending,taxation and borrowing to affect economic activity ,monetary policy on the other hand, entails the manipulation of interest rates.
Rakgadi
A lots of thanks
talukder
you are welcome
Rakgadi
Very informative talukder
Jafta
yes Jafta
talukder
So scarcity will always be a problem, is something that can't be solved due to specialization of labor and choice?
Jafta
yes right Jafta
talukder
good definition Jata♥♥
talukder
how are you all
Nurul
well
Asma
good
talukder
Kindly explain or give example of Voluntary unemployment.
Rakgadi
when unemployment doesn't choose a accept job at wage of rate
talukder
Thanks Talukder
Rakgadi
hi
kura
macroeconomics is not too hard
Omar
wow Omar, ur so helpful lol🤣
Alex
good ho every one
Fahad
what's up guys■■
Fahad
I want someone to tell me everything about the inflation and and hyber inflation is plz
Lolla
dot US Army higher South Korean citizen for the US base South Korea and pay them 50000 as a result
farzana Reply
What is production possibility frontier
adewale Reply
Production possibility frontier is a curve depicting all maximum output possibilities for two goods, given a set of inputs consisting of resources and other factors. The production possibility curve is frontir that all inputs are used efficiently.
.
what are some examples of a monetary policy?
Viccey Reply
expansionary policy contractionary policy
Steve
what is scarcity
van Reply
scarcity is like having so much of goods and services to access and you want them
Steve
Yes
Saraswati
how to calculate GDP
Steve
Gdp =c+I +nx +G
Saraswati
GDP=rent+interest+wages and salaries+profit
adu
what are the assumptions of the marginal utility theory ?
Diann
GDPfc=GDI+stock dep-stock app+- residual errors
Diann
marginal cost and marginal benefits
Racheal Reply
what is unemployment
Nazer Reply
The total number of people in the labor force who are willing to work and actively looking for a job but cannot find one.
Bene
Heckchers Ohlin theory of International trade
Lal Reply
but if I may ask what brings this poverty in existence and how can such actions be deminish in our generation
Philemon Reply
Poverty comes from many factors, ranging from very low income for the households sector (purchasing power is low), basic needs such as safe drinking water, lack of sustainable development goals (roads, agriculture, technology, power, etc), business sector is poor, etc
Hadji
Such action can be diminished by effectively and efficiently using the four (4) factors of production. Land, Labor , Capital and Technology.
Hadji
Poverty - Increase in the cost of living without subsequent increase in the amount of minimum wage. Poverty can be reduced extremely if the minimum wage equals or equals more than the cost of living.
harmony
land labour capital and organisation factors of production
divya
what are positive and normative statements
Alethia Reply
p
Mohd
positive is realistic normative is imaginary
Prashant
give basic idea about India's national income
Maloy Reply
what are the sources of recessions and booms
Zweli Reply
A few years ago, Ama paid $500 to put together a record collection. Today she sold her albums at a garage sale for $100. how does the same affect GDP?
teresa Reply
It saves time its creates more employment
Gold Reply
Scarcity means human wants exceeds the resources needed to satisfy them 1. Limited resources 2. Numerous human wants
Gold
Scarcity means shortage!!!
Lewis
Gold you're knowlwgist bro keep going lion
Moha
hmm am fresh here oh
Andy
Being newest means u have it all!!!
Lewis
where you from university of malakand.or where are you.
Naeemuddin
What is mean by small open economy ?
Gecho

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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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