How Individuals Make Choices Based on Their Budget Constraint
The Production Possibilities Frontier and Social Choices
Confronting Objections to the Economic Approach
You will learn quickly when you examine the relationship between economics and scarcity that choices involve tradeoffs. Every choice has a cost.
In 1968, the Rolling Stones recorded “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Economists chuckled, because they had been singing a similar tune for decades. English economist Lionel Robbins (1898–1984), in his Essay on the Nature and Significance of Economic Science in 1932, described not always getting what you want in this way:
The time at our disposal is limited. There are only twenty-four hours in the day. We have to choose between the different uses to which they may be put. … Everywhere we turn, if we choose one thing we must relinquish others which, in different circumstances, we would wish not to have relinquished. Scarcity of means to satisfy given ends is an almost ubiquitous condition of human nature.
Because people live in a world of scarcity, they cannot have all the time, money, possessions, and experiences they wish. Neither can society.
This chapter will continue our discussion of scarcity and the economic way of thinking by first introducing three critical concepts: opportunity cost, marginal decision making, and diminishing returns. Later, it will consider whether the economic way of thinking accurately describes either how we make choices and how we should make them.