Economic Agents


By economic units or economic agents, we mean those individuals or institutions which take economic decisions. They can be consumers who decide what and how much to consume. They may be producers of goods and services who decide what and how much to produce. They may be entities like the government, corporation, banks which also take different economic decisions like how much to spend, what interest rate to charge on the credits, how much to tax, etc. Macroeconomics tries to address situations facing the economy as a whole.

Adam Smith, the founding father of modern economics, had suggested that if the buyers and sellers in each market take their decisions following only their own self-interest, economists will not need to think of the wealth and welfare of the country as a whole separately. But economists gradually discovered that they had to look further. Economists found that first, in some cases, the markets did not or could not exist. Secondly, in some other cases, the markets existed but failed to produce equilibrium of demand and supply. Thirdly, and most importantly, in a large number of situations society (or the State, or the people as a whole) had decided to pursue certain important social goals unselfishly (in areas like employment, administration, defence, education and health) for which some of the aggregate effects of the microeconomic decisions made by the individual economic agents needed to be modified. For these purposes macroeconomists had to study the effects in the markets of taxation and other budgetary policies, and policies for bringing about changes in money supply, the rate of interest, wages, employment, and output. Macroeconomics has, therefore, deep roots in microeconomics because it has to study the aggregate effects of the forces of demand and supply in the markets. However, in addition, it has to deal with policies aimed at also modifying these forces, if necessary, to follow choices made by society outside the markets. In a developing country like India such choices have to be made to remove or reduce unemployment, to improve access to education and primary health care for all, to provide for good administration, to provide sufficiently for the defence of the country and so on. Macroeconomics shows two simple characteristics that are evident in dealing with the situations we have just listed. These are briefly mentioned below.

First, who are the macroeconomic decision makers (or ‘players’)? Macroeconomic policies are pursued by the State itself or statutory bodies like the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and similar institutions. Typically, each such body will have one or more public goals to pursue as defined by law or the Constitution of India itself. These goals are not those of individual economic agents maximising their private profit or welfare. Thus the macroeconomic agents are basically different from the
individual decision-makers. Secondly, what do the macroeconomic decision-makers try to do? Obviously they often have to go beyond economic objectives and try to direct the deployment of economic resources for such public needs as we have listed above. Such activities are not aimed at serving individual self-interests. They are pursued for the welfare of the country and its people as a whole.

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