the branch of knowledge concerned with the production, consumption, and transfer of wealth.
the social science that studies economic activity to gain an understanding of the processes that govern the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services in an exchange economy.
SCARCITY: THE NEED TO CHOOSE
Scarcity is the fundamental economic problem of having seemingly unlimited human wants in a world of limited resources. It states that society has insufficient productive resources to fulfill all human wants and needs. A common misconception on scarcity is that an item has to be important for it to be scarce. However, this is not true, for something to be scarce, it has to be hard to obtain, hard to create, or both. Simply put, the production cost of something determines if it is scarce or not. For example, although air is more important to us than diamonds, it is cheaper simply because the production cost of air is zero. Diamonds on the other hand have a high production cost. They have to be found and processed, both which require a lot of money. Additionally, scarcity implies that not all of society's goals can be pursued at the same time;trade-offs are made of one good against others.
The basic economic problem that arises because people have unlimited wants but resources are limited. Because of scarcity, various economic decisions must be made to allocate resources efficiently. When we talk of scarcity within an economic context, it refers to limited resources, not a lack of riches. These resources are the inputs of production: land, labor and capital. People must make choices between different items because the resources necessary to fulfill their wants are limited. These decisions are made by giving up (trading off) one want to satisfy another.
Scarcity means that people want more than is available. Scarcity limits us both as individuals and as a society. As individuals, limited income (and time and ability) keep us from doing and having all that we might like. As a society, limited resources (such as manpower, machinery, and natural resources) fix a maximum on the amount of goods and services that can be produced
Scarcity requires choice. People must choose which of their desires they will satisfy and which they will leave unsatisfied. When we, either as individuals or as a society, choose more of something, scarcity forces us to take less of something else. Economics is sometimes called the study of scarcity because economic activity would not exist if scarcity did not force people to make choices.
When there is scarcity and choice, there are costs. The cost of any choice is the option or options that a person gives up. For example, if you gave up the option of playing a computer game to read this text, the cost of reading this text is the enjoyment you would have received playing the game. Most of economics is based on the simple idea that people make choices by comparing the benefits of option A with the benefits of option B (and all other options that are available) and choosing the one with the highest benefit. Alternatively, one can view the cost of choosing option A as the sacrifice involved in rejecting option B, and then say that one chooses option A when the benefits of A outweigh the costs of choosing A (which are the benefits one loses when one rejects option B).
The widespread use of definitions emphasizing choice and scarcity shows that economists believe that these definitions focus on a central and basic part of the subject. This emphasis on choice represents a relatively recent insight into what economics is all about; the notion of choice is not stressed in older definitions of economics. Sometimes, this insight yields rather clever definitions, as in James Buchanan's observation that an economist is one who disagrees with the statement that whatever is worth doing is worth doing well. What Buchanan is noting is that time is scarce because it is...
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