Today's news headlines focus on such issues as unemployment, inflation, problems of health care and education, child poverty, income inequality, government budgets, and human rights, just to mention a few. All of these topics have an economic dimension, and they continue to headline the news because the issues cannot be resolved to the satisfaction of all due to our limited resources. In Canada, and other developed nations, most of our basic needs are satisfied, but all of us have a long list of unfulfilled wants. We as people want more, more for ourselves, more for our children, more for our neighbors, more than the available resources, whether natural or manufactured, can generate. This then becomes the economic problem: how can our limited resources be utilized in the most efficient manner to satisfy the limitless wants that we have, both individually and collectively. Economists have tried to define the discipline succinctly by using statements such as those below.
Economics is the study of mankind in the ordinary business of life.
- Alfred Marshall
Economics is the science which studies human behaviour as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses.
- Lionel Robbins
The theory of economics is a method rather than a doctrine, an apparatus of mind, a technique of thinking, which helps its possessor to draw correct conclusions.
- John Maynard Keynes
Economics is the study of the use of scarce resources to satisfy unlimited human wants.
- Richard Lipsey
The above attempts to define the discipline of economics in a short, concise sentence indicate that the discipline has both individual and social dimensions. The discipline straddles the areas of arts and science, of theory and policy, and provides a fascinating mechanism for interpreting human behaviour.