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The Problem of Scarcity

GCSE, AS, A-Level
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB, Eduqas, WJEC

Last updated 31 May 2022

The Economist's Dictionary of Economics defines economics as "The study of the production, distribution and consumption of wealth in human society"

The purpose of economic activity

It is often said that the central purpose of economic activity is the production of goods and services to satisfy our ever-changing needs and wants.

The basic economic problem is about scarcity and choice. Every society has to decide:

  • What goods and services to produce? Does the economy use its resources to build more hospitals, roads, schools or luxury hotels? Do we make more iPhones and iPads or double-espressos? Does the National Health Service provide free IVF treatment for childless couples?
  • How best to produce goods and services? What is the best use of our scarce resources? Should school playing fields be sold off to provide more land for affordable housing? Should we subsidise the purchase of solar panels for roofs?
  • Who is to receive goods and services? Who will get expensive hospital treatment - and who not? Should there be a minimum wage? Or perhaps a living wage? What are the causes and consequences of poverty in societies across the globe?
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