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Chapter 1: Overview. Economics is defined as the study of choice under conditions of scarcity. What is Scarcity?. Scarcity: is the problem of infinite human needs and wants, in a world of finite resources. Society has insufficient productive resources to fulfill those wants and needs.

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Chapter 1 overview
Chapter 1: Overview

  • Economics is defined as the study of choice under conditions of scarcity.


What is scarcity
What is Scarcity?

  • Scarcity: is the problem of infinite human needs and wants, in a world of finite resources.

  • Society has insufficient productive resources to fulfill those wants and needs.

  • Individuals face scarcity.


Resource categories factors of production
Resource Categories (Factors of Production)

  • Land or Natural Resources: includes anything naturally occurring which can be used in production.

  • Labor or Human Resources: including anything that man brings to the production process.

  • Capital or physical capital: anything man-made that can be used again in production (durable: lasts over one year)



Decision making
Decision-Making

Economics then studies how economic agents use the resources with which they are endowed to their best ability in order to acquire the goods and services they most desire.


Assumptions about decision making
Assumptions about Decision-Making

  • every choice implies a trade-off (must give up something)

  • every choice therefore has a cost

  • people are rational:

  • people are self-interested:

    • altruism

  • people makes choices at the “margin”: we examine the incremental benefits (marginal benefit) and incremental costs (marginal cost)


Economic model of decision making
Economic Model of Decision-Making

The model assumes people weigh the relative costs and benefits of a decision at the margin. The optimal level of activity will occur where marginal benefit = marginal cost


Two important components of the model
Two Important Components of the Model

  • Marginal Benefit (MB): is the change in benefits (additional benefit or reduction in benefit) from changing the level of an activity by one unit (increasing or decreasing an activity by 1 unit).

    • Ex

  • Marginal Cost (MC): is the change in costs (additional cost or reduction in cost) from changing the level of an activity by one unit (increasing or decreasing an activity by 1 unit).

    • Ex:


The intuition
The Intuition

  • As long as the Marginal Benefit (MB) of an activity is higher than the Marginal Cost (MC) more of the activity should be undertaken.

    • As you increase an activity the marginal benefits will diminish and the marginal costs will increase.

  • Eventually, the Marginal Benefit (MB) of an activity will be equal to the Marginal Cost (MC). This is the optimal level of an activity.

  • If you continue the activity past this point the Marginal Benefit (MB) of an activity will become lower than the Marginal Cost (MC) and less of the activity should be undertaken.


Applications of the model
Applications of the Model

  • Individual: should you take an extra course a semester to graduate early?

  • Firm: demand for Dell computers has increased by 10,000 units. Should Dell increase production to maximize profit? By how many units?

  • Government: should the Federal Drug Administration have stricter regulations on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food products to increase food safety?


Evaluating costs and benefits
Evaluating Costs and Benefits

  • Cass Sunstein (Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs)—top regulator in Obama Administration.

  • Strong proponent of cost-benefit analysis.

  • Difficulties: measuring costs and benefits in dollars

    • Ex:

      • EPA—acceptable mercury levels in products. Measure the cost of incremental exposure to mercury in terms of the reduction in IQ points of kids.

      • What is the cost? EPA valued 1 lost IQ point due to mercury poisoning at ___________.

    • Ex:


Macro vs micro
Macro Vs. Micro

Macroeconomics focuses on the overall economy.

Microeconomics focuses on smaller economic units such as individuals, households, firms, and industries.


Macro vs micro topics
Macro vs. Micro Topics

MACRO

MICRO

  • Inflation

  • Unemployment

  • Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

  • Trade Balance


The role of markets
The Role of Markets

Microeconomics studies the behavior of smaller economic units such as individuals, households, firms, and government and their interactions in markets.


Defining a market
Defining a Market

  • A market is an organized “place” where buyers and sellers voluntarily exchange goods and services.

    • Examples:

  • Markets are defined in terms of:


Evaluating outcomes
Evaluating Outcomes

The study of economics involves describing events, analyzing events, making predictions, and prescribing policy recommendations.


Positive vs normative economics
Positive vs. Normative Economics

  • Positive analysis or economics: is an objective description and/or evaluation of an event.

    • Ex: efficiency considerations—is a project produced at lowest cost?

  • Normative analysis or economics: provides a subjective description or evaluation of an event.

    • Ex: equity considerations—relating to fairness


Examples
Examples

  • A $0.50 tax on cigarettes will reduce smoking by teenagers by 12%.

  • The federal government should reform health care.

  • Rising paper prices will increase textbook prices.

  • The price of coffee at Dividends is too high.

  • The government will balance the budget this year.

  • Tuition costs for higher education have increased 15% annually for the past 5 years. The state should increase subsidies on education to reduce the burden on families.


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