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  1. Scarcity and Choice


Economics is often described as a body of knowledge or study that discusses how a society tries to solve the human problems of unlimited wants and scarce resources. Because economics is associated with human behavior, the study of economics is classified as a social science. Because economics deals with human problems, it cannot be an exact science and one can easily find different views and descriptions of economics. In this discussion, the focus is an overview of the elements that constitute the study of economics, that is, wants, needs, scarcity, resources, goods and services, economic choice, and the laws of supply and demand.

Every person is involved in making economic decisions every day of his or her life. This occurs when one decides whether to cook a meal at home or go to a restaurant to eat, or when one decides between purchasing a new luxury car or a low-priced pickup truck. People make economic decisions when they decide whether to rent or purchase housing or where they should attend college.


As a society, and in economic terms, people have unlimited wants; however, resources are scarce. Don’t confuse wants and needs. Individuals often want what they don’t need. In the automobile example used above, someone might want to drive a large luxury car, but a small pickup truck may be more suited to the purchaser’s needs if he or she must have a vehicle for transporting furniture.

A resource is scarce when there is not enough of it to satisfy human wants. And human wants are endless. Because of unlimited wants and limited resources to satisfy those wants, economic decisions must be made. This problem of scarcity (limited resources) must be addressed, which leads to economics and economic problems.

Figure 1 illustrates the relationships that relate to wants and scarcity. Many elements influence economic decisions.

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