Before you read
Discuss the following with your partner.
Do you know much about economics?
Tick which of these statements you think are true. Then explain to your partner why.
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1 Economics is only the study of money.
2 Economics is something governments take care of.
3 An economist basically decides how money is spent. What does economics study?
What do you think of when you hear the word economics? Money, certainly, and perhaps more complicated things like business, inflation and unemployment. The science of economics studies all of these, but many more things as well. Perhaps you think that economics is all about the decisions that governments and business managers take. In fact, economists study the decisions that we all take every day. Very simply, economics studies the way people deal with a fact of life: resources are limited, but our demand for them certainly is not. Resources may be material things such as food, housing and heating. There are some resources, though, that we cannot touch. Time, space and convenience, for example, are also resources. Think of a day. There are only 24 hours in one, and we have to choose the best way to spend them. Our everyday lives are full of decisions like these. Every decision we make is a trade-off. If you spend more time working, you make more money. However, you will have less time to relax. Economists study the trade-offs people make. They study the reasons for their decisions. They look at the effects those decisions have on our lives and our society.
What are microeconomics and macroeconomics?
Economists talk about microeconomics and macroeconomics. Microeconomics deals with people, like you and me, and private businesses. It looks at the economic decisions people make every day. It examines how families manage their household budgets. Microeconomics also deals with companies – small or large – and how they run their business. Macroeconomics, on the other hand, looks at the economy of a country – and of the whole world. Any economist will tell you, though, that microeconomics and macroeconomics are closely related. All of our daily microeconomic decisions have an effect on the wider world around us. Another way to look at the science of economics is to ask, ‘what’s it good for?’ Economists don’t all agree on the answer to this question. Some practise positive economics. They study economic data and try to explain the behaviour of the economy. They also try to guess economic changes before they happen. Others practise normative economics. They suggest how to improve the economy. Positive economists say, ‘this is how it is’. Normative economists say, ‘we should … ‘. So what do economists do? Mainly, they do three things: collect data, create economic models and formulate theories. Data collection can include facts and figures about almost anything, from birth rates to coffee production. Economic models show relationships between these different data. For example, the relationship between the money people earn and unemployment. From this information, economists try to make theories which explain why the economy works the way it does.
Match the words with the definitions.
1 budget A the people who control a country and make laws
2 business B information
3 convenience C company that sells goods or services
4 data D easiness
5 demand E the amount of money you have for something
6 government F how much people want something
7 inflation G the number of people without work
8 resources H something such as money,workers or minerals belonging to an organisation, country, etc
9 trade-off I rising prices
10 unemployment J giving away something in exchange for something
Now read the text again and match each paragraph with the correct heading A How economists work
B Making deals every day
C Various ideas about economics
D Two areas of economics
E Two types of economist