Definition of a subject facilitates the understanding of its meaning, nature, characteristics and limitations. But it is difficult to provide a universally accepted definition of economics because the economists are divided on the question of definition of economics.
Though the dispute of definition of economics has not yet come to an end, even an analytical study of all the available definitions is necessary to arrive at a conclusion. Early classical economists defined economics as the science of wealth. Walker and other contemporary economists of 18th and early 19th centuries are the economists who defined economics as that part of knowledge which is related with wealth.
Wealth has been more emphasised than man. But this is wrong. A man is motivated by social feelings also, apart from wealth. According to these definitions, wealth includes only material goods.
The fact is that wealth means all the goods and services that have utility, scarcity and transferability. Alfred Marshall was the first economist to set at rest the criticisms of wealth definitions. He emphasised that man is not for wealth but wealth is for man. The view of Prof.
Marshall was supported by Prof. Pigou, Cannon and Clark, etc. It examines that part of social action which is most closely connected with the attainment and with the use of material requisites of wellbeing. On the basis of above definition, it can be concluded that according to Prof. Marshall Economics is the study of material welfare of mankind. Economics is the study of ordinary business of life. Ordinary business of life relates to those activities which are performed by an ordinary man for earning and using his income.
Economics is a social science. It studies the economic problems of those individuals only who live in a well organised society. Economics studies only those economic activities that promote material welfare of human being. Thus, non- economic activities are not included in the scope of economics. Welfare definitions have emphasised upon the importance of man.
Marshall, man is not for wealth, wealth is for man. According to him, wealth is only a means and not an end. End is human welfare. Marshall, economics is a science as well as an art. Economics is a positive science because it studies the principles of human life in a systematic manner. It is a normative science also because it attempts at attaining material welfare.
It is an art also because it develops the methods of attaining human welfare. For a long time, welfare definitions of economics were accepted without criticisms and it was being felt that the problem of defining economics has come to an end. But this situation could not continue forever. Welfare definitions classify human activities into economic and non- economic. Robbins was of the view that such distinction of human activities is illusory and impracticable because all human activities have an economic aspect.
According to welfare definitions, economics is the science of material welfare. Robbins criticised this view on the ground that it is wrong to differentiate between material and immaterial welfare.
He was of the view that human welfare is associated with both the material and immaterial means of welfare. Marshall, economics is only a social science but the critics are of the view that it is a human science also not only a social science. Many laws of economics apply on those people also who do not live in well-organised society. Robbins, human activities cannot be classified as ordinary and extraordinary. Secondly, the study of economics cannot be confined to ordinary business of the life only because the activities of extra-ordinary business of life such as war, monopoly, imperfect competition etc.
Robbins criticised welfare definitions on the ground that these definitions have made economics a normative science. He believed that it is not proper to relate economics with welfare. Robbins criticised welfare definitions on the ground that these definitions have narrowed the scope of economics by excluding non-economic, immaterial and unsocial activities. Lionel Robbins not only criticised welfare definitions but also proceeded to give a new definition to economics.
The views of Prof. Robbins were fully supported by many famous economists including Eric Roll, Cairn-cross, Friedman and Stigler etc. Human wants are unlimited and the intensity of all the wants is different.
Though a particular want can be satisfied at a particular time but as soon as one wants is satisfied, another crop up. Thus, a man is always surrounded by his wants. He can never satisfy all of his wants. Therefore, the need arises to choose between more and less urgent wants. It gives rise to the economic problems. The resources available with every person are limited therefore; he is to choose rationally between limited resources and unlimited wants.
A man has to decide which want to satisfy and which to leave. Then he is to decide which want should be satisfied first and which after some time. He has to see how best he can use his limited resources. The problem of unlimited wants and scarce resources becomes more serious because of the fact that scarce resources have alternative uses.
These resources can be put to several alternative uses. If we want to use the given resources for a particular use, all other alternative uses of these resources will have to be given up. It gives rise to the problem of choice and a man has to choose the best possible uses of his resources.
Robbins, economics is a human science. It studies the activities of all the persons, whether they are or they are not a part of society. Robbins, economics is a positive science. According to him, economics is the science of resources and is not concerned with ends. Scarcity definitions of economics are analytical. According to these definitions, economics studies the aspects related with choice and human activities. It is not confined to the study of some particular types of activities.
But many economists like, Souter, Parson and Macfic etc. Robbins, economics is neutral between ends but it is not a real implication. Economics is concerned with human behaviour and therefore, it cannot be neutral between ends. The definition of Prof. Robbins has been criticised on the ground that it establishes economics without the concept of welfare and measuring rod of money. The reality is that all the human activities are motivated to get welfare.
Similarly, the science of economics is incomplete without measuring rod of money. Robbins, economics is the study of allocation of resources. Thus, according to Robbins, economics has been confined only to a theory of value but the scope of economics is much wider than the allocation of resources and price theory. It should include the study of national income and employment also. Robbins, economics is concerned with individual behaviour of satisfying unlimited wants with scarce resources having alternative uses.
Thus, economics has been confined to micro analysis only. But it is not true. Robbins has widened the scope of economics by giving his definition in terms of the problem of scarcity and choice.
The problem of choice applies on all the human activities but all these cannot be included in the scope of economics. Robbins, economics is only a science which aims at formulating economic principles only.
But this is not a reality. These principles should be implemented properly for the welfare of human beings. Thus, economics is an art also. According to the definition of Prof.
Robbins, a man allocated his scarce resources most efficiently so that he may satisfy most of his wants. Robbins imagines that a man always behaves rationally. But the practical experience of life does not prove this imagination.
Thus, modern economists regard economics much more broadly. Which of the definitions of Prof. Robbins is better is an alive controversy. Both the definitions are based upon different views. Robbins is more scientific than that of Prof.
Marshall because it provides a scientific base to the study of economics in the form of scarcity and choice. Robbins is more logical than that of Prof. Marshall because it highlights a reality of life that human wants are unlimited and the resources to satisfy these wants are limited, that too with alternative uses.
Marshall, economics is only a social science but according to Prof. Marshall, economics studies only the economic activities while according to Prof. Robbins, economics studies both the economic and non-economic activities. Marshall, economics aims at increasing human welfare while according to Prof. Robbins economics is not concerned with human welfare. Marshall, economics is both the science and art.
Robbins economics is only a positive science and not an art. Marshall is classificatory while the definition of Prof. Thus, it may be concluded that no definition of these two can be regarded as better.
Theoretically, the views of Prof. Robbins are more justified but practically the views of Prof. Marshall are more practical. The subject-matter of economics has been divided into two parts Micro Economics and Macro Economics. These terms were first coined and used by Ragnar Frisch and have now been adopted by the economists all the world over. On the other hand, Macro Economics concerns itself with the analysis of the economy as a whole and its large aggregates such as, total national output and income, total employment, total consumption, aggregate investment.
Thus, according to K. From this some idea about the distinction between Micro and Macro Economics can be obtained but a full analytical distinction between the two is made clear.
Micro Economics occupies a vital place in economics and it has both theoretical and practical importance. It is highly helpful in the formulation of economic policies that will promote the welfare of the masses. Till recently, especially before Keynesian revolution, the body of economics consisted mainly of Micro Economics.
Despite the popularity of Macro Economics these days, Micro Economics retains its importance, theoretical as well as practical. It is Micro Economics that tells us how a free-market economy with its millions of consumers and producers works to decide about the allocation of productive resources among thousands of goods and services.
The greatest of these is depth in understanding of how a free private enterprise economy operates. Further, it tells us how the goods and services produced are distributed among the various people for consumption through price or market mechanism. It shows how the relative prices of various products and factors are formed, that is, why the price of cloth is what it is and why the wages of an engineer are what they are and so on.
Moreover, as described above , Micro Economic theory explains the conditions of efficiency in consumption and production and highlights the factors which are responsible for the departure from the efficiency or economic optimum. On the basis of this, Micro Economic theory suggests suitable policies to promote economic efficiency and welfare of the people.
The usefulness and importance of Micro Economics has been nicely stated by Professor Lerner. And you want the topic to be interesting to your teacher so that it stands out from the pile of essays they have to grade! Furthermore, you want your topic to be important in some way. Look for topics that are current, and widespread, affecting many people across the nation or globe.
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