INTRODUCTION TO MICROECONOMICS
WHAT ECONOMICS IS ALL ABOUT?
INTRODUCTION TO MICROECONOMICS
Economics is about economizing; that is, about choice among alternative uses of scarce resources. Choices are made by millions of individuals, businesses, and government units. Economics examines how these choices add up to an economic system, and how this system operates. (L.G. Reynolds) Scarcity is central to economic theory. Economic analysis is fundamentally about the maximization of something (leisure time, wealth, health, happiness—all commonly reduced to the concept of utility) subject to constraints. These constraints—or scarcity—inevitably define a tradeoff. For example, one can have more money by working harder, but less time (there are only so many hours in a day, so time is scarce). One can have more apples only at the expense of, say, fewer grapes (you only have so much land on which to grow food—land is scarce). Adam Smith considered, for example, the trade-off between time, or convenience, and money. He discussed how a person could live near town, and pay more for rent of his home, or live farther away and pay less, “paying the difference out of his convenience”. Economics as a subject came into being with the publication of very popular book in 1776, “An Enquiry into the Nature and Causes of Wealth of Nations”, written by Prof. Adam Smith. At that time it was called Political economy, which remained operational at least up to the middle part of the 19th century. It is since then that the economists developed tools and principles using inductive and deductive reasoning. In fact, the ‘Wealth of Nations’ is a landmark in the history of economic thought that separated economics from other social sciences. The word ‘Economics’ was derived from the Greek words ‘Oikos’ (a house) and ‘Nemein’ (to manage), which meant managing a household, using the limited money or resources a household has. Let us explain a few important definitions frequently referred to in the economic theory.
Adam Smith (June 5, 1723-July 17, 1790) was a Scottish political economist and moral philosopher. His ‘Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of Wealth of Nations’ was one of the earliest attempts to study the historical development of industry and commerce in Europe. That work helped to create the modern academic discipline of Economics and provided one of the best-known intellectual rationales for free trade and capitalism. At the age of about fifteen, Smith proceeded to the University of Glasgow, studying moral philosophy under “the never-to-be-forgotten” (as Smith called him) Francis Hutcheson. In 1740 he entered the Balliol College of the University of Oxford, but as William Robert Scott has said, “the Oxford of his time gave little if any help towards what was to be his lifework,” and he left the university in 1746. In 1748 he began delivering public lectures in Edinburgh under the patronage of Lord Kames. Some of these dealt with rhetoric and belles-lettres, but later he took up the subject of “the progress of opulence,” and it was then, in his middle or late 20s, that he first expounded the economic philosophy of “the obvious and simple system of natural liberty” which he was later to proclaim to the world in his Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.
The early economists like J.E. Cairnes, J.B.Say, and F.A.Walker have defined economics as a science of wealth. Adam Smith, who is also regarded as father of economics, stated that economics is a science concerned with the nature and causes of wealth of nations. That is, economics deal with the question as to how to acquire more and more wealth by a nation. J.S.Mill opined that it is the practical science dealing with the production and distribution of wealth. The American economist F.A.Walker says that economics is...