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Choice and opportunity cost





Choice involves sacrifice. The more food we choose to buy, the less money we have to spend on other goods. The more food a nation produces, the less resources there will be for producing other goods. In other words, production and consumption of one good involves the sacrifice of alternatives. The opportunity cost of something is what you give up to get it/do it. For example, if a farmer’s production is either 1000 tonnes of carrots or 2000 tonnes of potatoes, then the opportunity cost of producing 1 tonne of carrots is the 2 tonnes of potatoes forgone. Another example is from a student’s everyday life: the opportunity cost of buying a textbook is a new pair of trainers you also wanted that you will have to go without. Consumers’ rational decisions involve choosing those goods that give you the greatest benefit relative to cost.

The same principles apply to firms when deciding what to produce. Rational choices are also needed in production. The problem is associated with the allocation of the limited resources. For example, should a car manufacturer open up another production line? A rational decision will again involve weighing up the benefits and costs. The benefits are the revenues that the firm will earn from selling the extra cars. The costs will include the extra labour costs, raw material costs, costs of component parts, etc.

To sum up, we can say that the basic economic problem is concerned with the allocation of scarce resources among competing and virtually unlimited wants of consumers in society. All nations have to decide in some way what, how and for whom to produce.

 





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