CENTRAL PROBLEMS OF AN ECONOMY

Production, exchange and consumption of goods and services are among the basic economic activities of life. In the course of these basic economic activities, every society has to face scarcity of resources and it is the scarcity of resources that gives rise to the problem of choice. The scarce resources of an economy have competing usages. In other words, every society has to decide on how to use its scarce resources. The problems of an economy are very often summarized as follows:

What is produced and in what quantities?

Every society must decide on how much of each of the many possible goods and services it will produce. Whether to produce more of food, clothing, housing or to have more of luxury goods. Whether to have more agricultural goods or to have industrial products and services. Whether to use more resources in education and health or to use more resources in building military services. Whether to have more of basic education or more of higher education. Whether to have more of consumption goods or to have investment goods (like machine) which will boost production and consumption tomorrow.

How are these goods produced?

Every society has to decide on how much of which of the resources to use in the production of each of the different goods and services. Whether to use more labour or more machines. Which of the available technologies to adopt in the production of each of the goods?

For whom are these goods produced?

Who gets how much of the goods that are produced in the economy? How should the produce of the economy be distributed among the individuals in the economy? Who gets more and who gets less? Whether or not to ensure a minimum amount of consumption for everyone in the economy. Whether or not elementary education and basic health services should be available freely for everyone in the economy. Thus, every economy faces the problem of allocating the scarce resources to the production of different possible goods and services and of distributing the produced goods and services among the individuals within the economy. The allocation of scarce resources and the distribution of the final goods and services are the central problems of any economy.

Production Possibility Frontier

Just as individuals face scarcity of resources, the resources of an economy as a whole are always limited in comparison to what the people in the economy collectively want to have. The scarce resources have alternative usages and every society has to decide on how much of each of the resources to use in the production of different goods and services. In other words, every society has to determine how to allocate its scarce resources to different goods and services.

An allocation of the scarce resource of the economy gives rise to a particular combination of different goods and services. Given the total amount of resources, it is possible to allocate the resources in many different ways and, thereby achieving different mixes of all possible goods and services. The collection of all possible combinations of the goods and services that can be produced from a given amount of resources and a given stock of technological knowledge is called the production possibility set of the economy.

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