What is the Study of Economics?
Economics is concerned with studying, describing, and analyzing the production, distribution, and consumption of goods, services, and wealth. It is a field of study that attempts to explain how people use the market to earn or achieve their objectives. Economics is considered a social science rather than a physical science or natural science because it studies the human environment, which is diverse and constantly changing, and does not have a consistent way of carrying out its experiments such as in a laboratory. However, the study of economics does rely on many mathematical tools for analytical purposes just like many of the physical sciences.
Branches of Economics
Economics is divided into two main branches: microeconomics and macroeconomics. Microeconomics, as the prefix suggests, deals with the way that individuals, households, and businesses interact in the marketplace and how those interactions affect the larger economic picture. Macroeconomics, also as the prefix suggests, deals with the entire economy on a national and international level. The focus is on the aggregate economy and how it functions as a whole.
Different Fields of Economics
Within the economics discipline, there are variety of fields in which to specialize. In addition to micro and macroeconomics, more specific fields include business economics, development economics, international economics, financial economics, health economics, labor economics, and law economics just to name a few. The fields are essentially divided between the fields that develop economic skills and theory and those that apply those skills such as in the use of econometrics.
History of Economics
Like many of the disciplines we study today, the economics discipline has a long and interesting history. Plato proposed one of the first economic theories, which was followed after by the economic theories of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas. Yet another early economic philosophy is mercantilism, which subscribed to the belief that the accumulation of gold and silver would build a nation's wealth. Another very well known school of thought in economics is classical economics, first established with the publication of Adam Smith's "The Wealth of Nations". After Smith came a number of new economic theories from prominent thinkers such as Thomas Malthus, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, and John Keynes. Each of these economists and philosophers contributed greatly to economic theory and from them came additional economic theories and models.
Economic Theories and Models
The classical school, the marginalist school, the Marxist school, the institutionalist school and the Keynesian school of economics are some of the more famous economic theories but there are others as well as varying interpretations of these schools. These different schools are briefly described below:
- The classical school maintains that a nation's wealth is created from its land, labor, and capital.
- The marginalist school holds that the cost of production and level of demands determine the prices of goods and services.
- The Marxist school presented a challenge to the classical school of economics, suggesting that capitalism was just a stage of economic development and that all production and wealth belonged to the worker because the worker produces all that is of value in society.
- The institutionalist school calls for more government controls and more social reform.
- The Keynesian school opposes the classical school of economics and instead argues for government intervention to increase spending during a depression.
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