economics, study of how human beings allocate scarce resources to produce various commodities and how those commodities are distributed for consumption among the people in society (see distribution). The essence of economics lies in the fact that resources are scarce, or at least limited, and that not all human needs and desires can be met. How to distribute these resources in the most efficient and equitable way is a principal concern of economists. The field of economics has undergone a remarkable expansion in the 20th cent. as the world economy has grown increasingly large and complex. Today, economists are employed in large numbers in private industry, government, and higher education (see economic planning). Many subjects, such as political science and sociology, which were once regarded as part of the study of economics, have today become separate disciplines, although the study of any one generally implies a working knowledge of the others.
Sections in this article:
- Malthus, Ricardo, and Mill
- Further Evolution of Classical Economics
- The Socialists and Marx
- Since World War II
- Ancient and Medieval Periods
- Mercantilism, the Physiocrats, and Adam Smith
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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