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MARGINAL PRODUCT: The change in the quantity of total product resulting from a unit change in a variable input, keeping all other inputs unchanged. Marginal product, usually abbreviated MP, is found by dividing the change in total product by the change in the variable input. Marginal product lies at the very foundation of the analysis of short-run production and the subsequent explanation of the law of supply and the upward-sloping supply curve, using the law of diminishing marginal returns.

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CARDINAL: A measurement based on a scale or quantitative numbers, such as 1, 5, or 357.2, that enables a comparison in magnitude. Comparability means, for example, that the difference between 5 and 2 is the same as the difference between 12 and 9. Measures such as height and weight use cardinal numbers. Most economic measures are based on cardinal numbers, including gross domestic product, unemployment rate, the price of chocolate, and the quantity of wheat produced. The benefit of cardinal measurement is the ability to directly compare one measure with another. If, for example, the price of chocolate is $1 a pound and the price of wheat is $4 a pound, then wheat is four times more expensive than chocolate. Ordinal measures, which involve relative ranking, is an alternative type of measure.

     See also | cardinal utility | ordinal | ordinal utility | utility | satisfaction | indifference curve | quality of life |


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SAY'S LAW

A principle of classical economics developed the French economist Jean-Baptiste Say that is commonly summarized as "supply creates its own demand." This law, also referred to as Say's "theory of markets" or "law of markets," indicates that the act of producing aggregate output generates a sufficient amount of aggregate income to purchase all of the output produced. This principle indicated that excess production or insufficient demand for production was unlikely to occur, at least for any extended period. When combined with flexible prices and saving-investment equality, Say's law further implied that an economy would achieve and maintain full employment of resources. This law was singled out by John Maynard Keynes in his critique of classical economics, but remains relevant in current macroeconomic analysis, reflected in the circular flow model.

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