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Econ 545 Study Guide

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CHAPTER

1 | Economics:
Foundations and Models

Chapter Summary and Learning Objectives
1.1

Three Key Economic Ideas (pages 4–8)

Explain these three key economic ideas: People are rational; people respond to economic incentives; and optimal decisions are made at the margin. Economics is the study of the choices consumers, business managers, and government officials make to attain their goals, given their scarce resources. We must make choices because of scarcity, which means that although our wants are unlimited, the resources available to fulfill those wants are limited. Economists assume that people are rational in the sense that consumers and firms use all available information as they take actions intended to achieve their goals.
Rational individuals weigh the benefits and costs of each action and choose an action only if the benefits outweigh the costs. Although people act from a variety of motives, ample evidence indicates that they respond to economic incentives. Economists use the word marginal to mean extra or additional. The optimal decision is to continue any activity up to the point where the marginal benefit equals the marginal cost. 1.2

The Economic Problem That Every Society Must Solve (pages 8–11)

Discuss how an economy answers these questions: What goods and services will be produced? How will the goods and services be produced? Who will receive the goods and services produced? Society faces trade-offs: Producing more of one good or service means producing less of another good or service.
The opportunity cost of any activity—such as producing a good or service—is the highest-valued alternative that must be given up to engage in that activity. The choices of consumers, firms, and governments determine what goods and services will be produced. Firms choose how to produce the goods and services they sell. In the United...

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