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What Economics is.
Beginners often want a short definition of economics; and in response to this demand, there is no shortage of supply. Here are a few such definitions:
1. Economics, or political economy, is the study of those activities which, with or without money, involve exchange transactions among people.
2. Economics is the study of how people choose to use scarce or limited productive resources (land, labor, capital goods such as machinery technical knowledge) to produce various commodities (such as wheat, beef, overcoats, yachts; concerts, roads, bombers) and distribute them to various members of society for their consumption.
3. Economics is the study of people in their ordinary business of life, earning and enjoing a living
4. Economics is the study of how human beings go about the business of organizing its consumption and production activities.
5. Economics is the study of wealth.
6. Economics is the study of how to improve society.
The list is a good one. Yer a scholar can extend it many times over. It is always hard to compress into a few lines an exact description of a subject, one that will differentiate its boundaries from those of other disciplines and convey to the beginner al the things it is.
Economics certainly does involve all the elements stressed in these var
Quality of Economic Life.
Even before studying economics, everyone will have heard of the Gross National Product (GNP).
This purports to measure the total of all goods and services produced each year in a nation.
Although measured in money, it can tell us much about real goods and services, food, clothing, penicillin, and so forth.
But these days many critics of political economy have come forth. They deplore materialistic concentration on the quantity of economic goods. In the striking words of a young radical: "Don't speak to me of Gross National Product, GNP. To me GNP stands for Gross National Pollution."
What are we to think? Must modern economics make a fetish of quantity at the expense of quality of life? Or can we correct the official statistician's measure of Gross National Product so that it becomes more of a measure of Net Economic Welfare?
That is, can we supplement GNP by a more meaningful measure NEW?
Light and Fruit
This discussion has illustrated an important truth: Every national issue mentioned requires economic understanding to make progress in dealing with it.
A person who has never made a systematic study of economics is handicapped in even thinking about national issues; he is like a deaf man trying to appreciate a symphony: give him a hearing aid, and he may still lack talent, but at least he has a fighting chance of sensing hat music really is.
The head of state must be constantly making vital decisions of economics. But of course he need not himself be a professional student of economics; he need only be an intelligent "consumer" of the (often conflicting) economic information being given him.
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