W

ant is a growing giant whom the coat of Have was never large enough to cover.

Ralph Waldo Emerson The Conduct of Life, 1860

People's wants are many and diverse. Biologically, humans need only air, water, food, clothing, and shelter. But in contemporary society we also seek the many goods and services associated with a comfortable standard of living. Fortunately, society is blessed with productive resources—labour and managerial talent, tools and machinery, land and mineral deposits—that are used to produce goods and services. This production satisfies many of our wants and takes place through the organizational mechanism called the economic system or, more simply, the economy.

The pitfalls to objective thinking.

chapter one • the nature and method of economics

Economics

The social science concerned with efficient use of scarce resources to achieve the maximum satisfaction of economic wants.

The blunt reality, however, is that our wants far exceed the productive capacity of our limited resources. So the complete satisfaction of society's wants is impossible. This fact provides our definition of economics: it is the social science concerned with the efficient use of scarce resources to achieve the maximum satisfaction of economic wants.

Numerous problems and issues arise from the challenge of using limited resources efficiently. Although it is tempting to plunge into them, that sort of analysis must wait. In this chapter, we need to discuss some important preliminaries.

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