Economics: The Study of Choice

Read this chapter to learn about the economic way of thinking and the principles of scarcity and opportunity cost. Be sure to click through each of the sections. Note how individuals and businesses make everyday decisions at the margin. Learn about the differences between macroeconomics and microeconomics.

1.2 The Field of Economics

Case in Point: Opportunity Cost with The Simpsons

In the animated television comedy The Simpsons, Homer's father, Grampa Simpson, faced a classic problem in the allocation of a scarce resource - his time. He wanted to spend the day with his girlfriend, Bea - it was, after all, her birthday. His alternative was to spend the day with Homer and the family, which he did not really want to do, partly because they never visited him anyway.

Homer and his family prevailed, however, and insisted on taking Grampa to "Discount Lion Safari," a local amusement park. The cost of Grampa's day with his family is the enjoyment he anticipated from spending time with Bea. It all ends up badly for Grampa anyway - Homer's car breaks down on the way to the park. As for the forgone alternative, Bea dies that day, possibly because of a broken heart from not being able to spend the day with Grampa.