Economics is the science that studies how societies solve the problem of material provisioning. In our context, it is the science that studies how human beings make choices and interact with each other in order to satisfying their needs with limited resources. Most economists focus on identifiably material objects of choice
the production, distribution, and exchange of wealth … industry and trade … division of labor … the money market … wholesale and retail dealing … relations between employer and employed … prices … rents … interest … earnings of all forms of work … foreign trade … utility … happiness … efficiency … income … [market versus non-market allocation] … combinations and monopolies … long run [and short run] … tax incidence … revenue (Marshall 1890, 95-96)
Economics is both enormously interesting for its own sake and tremendously important for the benefits it could bring. We rarely think very much about it, but we should wonder in amazement, every day, about the power of a system that, relying on millions of uncoordinated decisions, provides goods and services regularly, conveniently, and satisfyingly. The system can be described in a few paragraphs and it can provide decades of intellectual pleasure.
Not every economic problem is solved satisfactorily. It would be amazing if such a fallen creature as man could devise a mechanism for the perfect and effortless satisfaction of every need. And yet, ask three citizens and what one will see as a victory, the other one will shrug off as a fact of life, and the third will condemn as a disgrace. Mention an economic problem, and a variety of solutions will be offered, including the solution of leaving it alone. How do we judge between proposals? How do we measure success? How do we guard against unintended consequences?
Economics inquires into the whys and wherefores of your daily decisions about dating, dilly-dallying, and dinner - and explains trillions of dollars of yearly transactions - using sophisticated tools and mountains of common sense, interacting with mathematics, physics, history, politics, sociology, biology, and ordinary observation. Some of the most influential people in the world are economists by training and by profession. The world is in great need of economists who are leaders, both professionally and morally.