Unit 2: Human Action
Completing this unit should take you approximately 3 hours.
- Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to:
- Explain the concept of human action as purposeful behaviour.
- Differentiate between rational action and responses to stimuli.
- Differentiate between human action and responses to stimuli.
- Understand the role of reason in human decision-making.
- Understanding how we can think of economics using axioms and deductive reasoning.
- Explain the process of production, including its basic terminology, its inputs, the law of returns, and why humans produce.
- Remember the terminology of the process of production, such as intertemporal labor intensity.
- Explain the critique of quantitative analysis of economic questions.
- Explain Mises' critique of the concept of marginal utility and the idea of valuation by the least valuable use.
2.1: Production and Marginal Utility Lecture
Before you watch the lecture below, think about all the actions you perform during your week with a purpose to obtain some future state that will be better than your current state. Your decision to go to work or study is considered a purposeful behaviour. We act purposefully because we have reason, and are able to direct it to the meeting of our ends. We may fail in meeting our ends because we made a mistake during our deliberation and an attempt, but our action was still based on reason, and therefore rational. It is important to note that the opposite of action is not irrational behavior, but a reactive response to stimuli on the part of the bodily organs and instincts which cannot be controlled by the volition of the person concerned. For example, humans are instinctively repulsed by venomous snakes, but are drawn to dog puppies. These instinctive behaviours are not considered human action. But taking steps and implementing a plan to protect our human settlement from snakes, and training a puppy to become a calm and well behaved dog are considered human action. As you watch the lecture, consider situations that can be categorized as human action or reactive responses to stimuli.
Every time we act with intention to change our current state for the better, we are engaging in human action, as defined by Ludwig von Mises, who believed human action needs: “a current state, an imagination of a more satisfactory state, and the expectation that purposeful behavior can alleviate uneasiness”. After you watch the lecture in its entirety, reflect on the quote from Mises as it applies to your economic choices. How does this reflect in your choices and valuations? Will you make choices based on your marginal valuation of possibilities, or based on a lifelong or aggregate valuation of the good?
2.2: Production and Marginal Utility Discussion
- Since you have watched the video lecture for unit 2, it's time to watch Dr. Saifedean moderate a discussion on the unit's theme by addressing questions asked by your fellow classmates. As you watch the discussion unfold, take notes to help you retain information. Make sure you watch the entire discussion seminar video, otherwise you may skip over important points. To get the best learning experience and mastery of the major concepts covered in this unit, you'll want to watch all videos in their entirety,
2.3: Production and Marginal Utility Review
This resource contains a summary of some of the key concepts discussed in unit 2. Don't skip ahead - the information on this page is easier to understand if you have watched the video lecture and discussion seminar video in their entirety. Bookmark this resource to keep it handy during studying.