Economics: Principles, Problems, and Policies by Campbell R. McConnell

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Chapter 1 Summary: The Nature and Method of Economics

Economics is defined as the study of the "efficient use of scarce resources" for the production of goods and services that "achieve the maximum satisfaction of economic wants." Economic perspective is founded on resource scarcity and choice, the assumption of rational behavior, and marginalism. Knowledge of economics for the non-economist adds to good citizenship and is thus valuable for consumers, workers, and politicians.

Economists use the scientific method to form and test hypotheses of cause-effect relationships. Economists do this to formulate theories, laws, and principles that help them explain real-world relationships and predict real-world outcomes. Good economic policy is designed to identify and solve economic problems to the fullest extent possible, while protecting society's shared goals of economic growth and efficiency, full employment, price-level stability, economic freedom, equitable distribution of income, economic security, and a reasonable balance in international trade and finance. Some of these goals are compatible while others require trade-offs to accomplish.

Macroeconomics supports these goals as they relate to the examination of the economy as a whole, while microeconomics supports these goals as they relate to the examination of specific units and institutions. Both macroeconomics and microeconomics issue positive and normative statements. Positive statements state "facts" (what is) while normative statements express "value judgments" (what ought to be). The study of both macroeconomics and microeconomics encounters pitfalls in the way of biases and preconceptions, vague use of terminology, difficulty in establishing clear cause-effect relationships, and fallacy of composition, which is the logical error of believing that what is true for the individual is also true for the group.

Graphs employing variables that are positively (or directly) related and variables that are negatively (or indirectly) related are used in economics to represent economic relationships. Directly related relationships show a rising upward slope, while indirectly related relationships show a dropping downward slope. 

The slope of a curve expresses the cause-effect relationship between variables, with an upslope showing a positive relationship and a downslope showing a negative relationship. A straight line curve shows no relationship as it represents the ratio of the vertical (cause) change to the horizontal (effect) change between any two variable sets, or points. The slope of a vertical line is infinite and the slope of a horizontal line is zero. The slope of a curved relationship line is determined by calculating the slope of a straight line tangent to the curve at a given point.

Chapter 2 Summary: The Economizing Problem

Economics is grounded in two facts: (1) economic wants are unlimited, and (2) economic resources are scare. Economics is concerned with the problem of using scarce resources to maximize production of goods and services in order to satisfy the economic wants of society. There are two classes of economic resources, both of which are recognized as scarce: (1) property resources, which are raw materials and capital, and (2) human resources, which are labor and entrepreneurial ability. Maximum production requires efficient use of scarce resources, whether property resources or human resources, and full employment, which will result in productive efficiency and allocative efficiency. Productive efficiency is defined as producing all output combinations in the least costly way. Allocative efficiency is defined as producing the specific output mix most desired by a society.

Technological advances allow for the production of more goods and services, which, by definition, is economic growth. A society's choice to produce both consumer goods and capital goods is a major determinant of future economic growth. In the market system, consumers own most resources and are said to determine the product mix, while markets coordinate most economic...

(The entire section is 7,381 words.)