2B.1 Introduction to Economics

This unit aims to create a better understanding of our economic systems, as well as the academic study of economics as a subject. This first section introduces concepts necessary to better understand our economy.

What you need to learn

Understand that economics is the study of people & choices.

Economic Concepts

opportunity cost

cost/benefit analysis

scarcity & choice

Incentives & Behavior

monetary inventives

non-monetary incentives

Types of Economics



Understanding the Basics of Economics

The Science of Choice and Scarcity

Economics is a compelling and essential field that explores how individuals, businesses, and governments make choices in the face of scarcity. It’s a social science that helps us understand human behavior in relation to managing resources and achieving desires. The study of economics gives us insights into decision-making processes, resource allocation, and the dynamics of supply and demand.

Understanding People and Choices in Economics

At its core, economics is about people and their choices. It delves into how we decide to spend our time, money, and resources. For example, a teenager might choose to spend their allowance on a new video game or save for a concert ticket, illustrating the basic economic principle of decision-making.

Opportunity Cost: The Hidden Cost of Every Decision

Opportunity cost is a key concept in economics, representing the benefits you miss out on when choosing one alternative over another. For instance, if a business invests in new technology, the opportunity cost might be the employee training or other investments they can’t make due to this choice. This concept teaches that every choice has a potential cost, guiding us to make more efficient decisions.

Cost/Benefit Analysis: Weighing Decisions

Cost/benefit analysis involves comparing the advantages and disadvantages of a decision. A real-world example is when a company decides whether to launch a new product. They’ll assess the potential revenue (benefit) against the costs of development and marketing. This analytical approach is fundamental in both personal and business decision-making.

Scarcity and Choice: The Eternal Economic Dilemma

Scarcity is the perpetual problem of having limited resources to meet unlimited wants and needs. For example, a government may have limited funds and must choose whether to invest in healthcare or education. This scarcity necessitates choice, making it a central theme in economics.

Incentives: Guiding Economic Behaviors

Economics heavily revolves around incentives, which can be monetary (like bonuses) or non-monetary (like recognition). For instance, a company might offer a bonus to employees for meeting certain targets, a monetary incentive. Similarly, an environmental policy offering public recognition to companies reducing carbon emissions serves as a non-monetary incentive, encouraging eco-friendly practices.

The Two Sides of Economics: Macro and Micro

Economics is broadly categorized into macroeconomics and microeconomics, each focusing on different aspects of economic behavior.

Macro-Economics: The Big Picture

Macroeconomics deals with the economy as a whole. It examines large-scale economic factors like national productivity, inflation, and unemployment. An example is the government’s decision to adjust interest rates to control inflation. This macroeconomic policy affects the entire economy, influencing everything from consumer spending to business investment.

Micro-Economics: Individual and Business Choices

Microeconomics, in contrast, focuses on individual and business decisions. It looks at how supply and demand interact in individual markets. For instance, a local coffee shop deciding to lower prices to compete with a new cafe nearby is an example of microeconomic decision-making.

Economics is more than just a study of money and markets; it’s a window into human behavior and societal choices. From the macro decisions of governments to the micro choices of individuals, economics helps us understand the complex interplay of factors that shape our world. By studying economics, we gain valuable insights into how to make better decisions, allocate resources efficiently, and understand the consequences of our choices in a world defined by scarcity.