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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

what is price determination?
Alick Reply
why are imports subtructed when GDP is calculated in the expenditure approach
what is fiscalpolicy
nati Reply
The way of the government expenses and other analysis
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.
and politics party important
mujtaba Reply
politics party important
Which party is that
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
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.
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
Thanks, Murabit
But still I will need more explanation
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
but remember that there at different economic views on fiscal policy there is classical,Keynesian and moneterism
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
thanks so much Murabit
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
I have them
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.
Money supply?
Money supply is the total value of monetary assets available in an economy at a specific time.
supply of money:- The total quantity of money in an economy at a point of time......
What is the difference between monetary economy and barter economy?
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
Thank you Ittoo.
please cut why.....in last ans
and no need of thanks dear
Don't damend work in inflation
Mishael Reply
conceptand variable of macro economics
Bittu Reply
macro economics is the study of general factors in an economy.
what is fiscal policy?
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.
A lots of thanks
you are welcome
Very informative talukder
yes Jafta
So scarcity will always be a problem, is something that can't be solved due to specialization of labor and choice?
yes right Jafta
good definition Jata♥♥
how are you all
Kindly explain or give example of Voluntary unemployment.
when unemployment doesn't choose a accept job at wage of rate
Thanks Talukder
macroeconomics is not too hard
wow Omar, ur so helpful lol🤣
good ho every one
what's up guys■■
I want someone to tell me everything about the inflation and and hyber inflation is plz
hi someone to explain to mi notes ov money and banking
dia explain to me notes of money and banking
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

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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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