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Economics 3rd ch01

Economics
THIRD EDITION

By John B. Taylor
Stanford University

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Chapter 1
The Central Idea
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Teaching objectives
• Introduce the concepts: scarcity, choice and
opportunity costs

• Consumers and producers must make
choices.
• Trade between parties is mutually beneficial
• Production possibilities curve – a tool to
formalize the concepts of scarcity and cost
• Market versus command economy
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1. Scarcity, Choice and Interaction for Individuals
1a. All consumers and producers must make
choices because the resources used to satisfy
want are limited. Therefore all choices have
opportunity costs – the next best alternative
given up.
1b. Given scarcity, trade can make everyone
better off ( see Figure 1.1). By reallocating
goods, trade benefits all parties – trade is not
a zero-sum game.
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Figure 1.1
Gains from Trade
Through a Better
Allocation of Goods

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1. Scarcity, Choice and Interaction for Individuals (Cont.)

1c. Trade also permits producers specialize and
take advantage of the division of labor. This
can be seen in the concept of comparative
advantage – people specialize in the things in
which they have a relative advantage. This
allows opportunity cost to be minimized.

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1. Scarcity, Choice and Interaction for Individuals (Cont.)

1d. Global trade allows exchange across
countries and among many parties.
1e. Money allows people to trade without
bartering, making global trade easier. Trade
between countries requires that currencies
be traded on a foreign exchange market.

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2. The link between “choices” and “resources”:
PRODUCTION POSSIBILITIES CURVE

Simplifying Assumptions:
1. Economy is operating efficiently
2. Available supply of resources is fixed in quantity
and quality at this point of time
3. No new development in technology during
analysis
4. Economy produces only 2 types of products

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TABLE 1.1 – PRODUCTION POSSIBILITIES

CHOICE
A

MOVIES
0

COMPUTERS
25,000

B

100

24,000

C

200

22,000

D

300

18,000

E

400

13,000

F

500

0

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Production Possibilities Curve (Continued)
• Choices will be necessary because resources
and technology are fixed
• A production possibilities table indicates
some of the possible choices
• PPC is a graphical presentation of choices

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Figure 1.2
The Production
Possibilities Curve

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Production Possibilities Curve (Continued)
• Points on the curve represent maximum
possible combinations
• Points inside the curve represent
underemployment or unemployment
• Points outside the curve are unattainable at
present
• Optimal or best product will some point on
the curve. The exact point depends on
society ; this is a normative decision.
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Law of increasing opportunity costs
• The slope of PPC becomes steeper, showing
increasing opportunity cost. That is, the
amount of other goods and services that
must be foregone to obtain more of any
given product increases
• Economic rationale: economic resources are
not completely adaptable to alternative uses

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Key question:
• How does a society decide its optimal point
on the PPC?
• Society receives marginal benefits (MB)
from each additional product consumed
• But the law of increasing opportunity costs
reminds us that marginal costs (MC) also
rise as more of a product is produced and
consumed
• Selection Criterion: Produce and consume
so long as MB exceeds MC
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3. Unemployment,economic growth and the future


Unemployment and productive inefficiency
occur when the economy is producing less than
full production or inside the PPC
• Economic growth occurs when PPC shifts
outward. This happens when:
1. Resource supplies expand in quality or quantity
2. Technological advances are occurring
• Our present choices affect our future
possibilities

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Figure 1.3
Shifts in the Production
Possibilities Curve

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Figure 1.4
Shifts in the Production Possibilities Curve Depend on Choices

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4. Economic systems



Who owns the factors of production or
economic resources?
• Who coordinates economic activity? How?
• Three main types of economic systems
1. Market economies (Capitalism)
2. Command economy (Communism)
3. Mixed systems
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Characteristics of economic systems

Market economy
• There is private
ownership of
resources
• Markets and prices
coordinate and direct
economic activity

Command economy
• There is public (state
or government)
ownership of
resources
• Economic activity is
coordinated by central
planning

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Figure 1.5
From One Central Idea, Many Powerful Ideas Follow

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