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August 19, 2019 

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ABSTRACTION: Simplifying the complexities of the real world by ignoring (hopefully) unimportant details while doing economic analysis. Abstraction is often criticized because it's, well, it's JUST NOT REALISTIC. However, when done correctly (ignoring things that JUST DON'T MATTER), then the pursuit of knowledge is greatly enhanced by abstraction. For example, when travelling cross country along a high-speed interstate highway, a paper road map is a handy tool. It shows towns and cities along the way, the major intersections, rest stop locations, and other important points of interest. However, it ignores unimportant details. It doesn't realistically show the location of every tree, bush, or blade of grass. Why bother? This information won't enhance your road trip.

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DISMAL SCIENCE:

A term for the study of economics developed during the late 18th and early 19th century when economists concluded that continued population growth would push wages and living standards to a minimal subsistence level and keep them there. It persists to the present time because economics continue to point out that actions result in opportunity cost, that nothing is free, and that eventually society has to pay the price for what it does.
The notion that economics is a dismal science emerged out of the work of several late-18th and early-19th century scholars, most notably Thomas Malthus and David Ricardo.

As Malthus, Ricardo, and their contemporaries pioneered the development of the economics discipline, they pondered (among many things) topics like population, the supply of labor, and worker wages. In so doing, they concluded--erroneously as it turns out--that continued population growth would push wages and living standards to a minimal subsistence level and keep them there. According to these early economists, the prospects for humanity were bleak, miserable, and well... downright dismal.

Not Too Dismal

What they failed to adequately consider, however, were technology, capital investment, and limited population growth. Technological advances, by improving the quality of capital and increasing the skills of labor, made workers more productive, leading to increased wages and boosted living standards. Continued capital investment had a similar result. In addition, as living standards rose, people chose to have smaller families, which resulted in lower rates of population growth, which also led to increased wages.

Dismal Scarcity

Although the human condition is not nearly as bleak as anticipated by Malthus and Ricardo, economic dismality persists largely due to the persistent problem of scarcity. Combining unlimited wants and needs with limited resources means that everyone cannot have everything that they want. While politicians and others are fond of telling people what they can have, economists are generally in the position of telling people what they cannot have.

The bottom line is that the human condition can improve and living standards can rise, but complete utopia is unlikely.

<= DISINFLATIONDISPOSABLE INCOME =>


Recommended Citation:

DISMAL SCIENCE, AmosWEB Encyclonomic WEB*pedia, http://www.AmosWEB.com, AmosWEB LLC, 2000-2019. [Accessed: August 19, 2019].


Check Out These Related Terms...

     | economic thinking | three questions of allocation | opportunity cost |


Or For A Little Background...

     | scarcity | economics | seven economic rules | economic analysis |


And For Further Study...

     | consumer sovereignty | scarce resource | free resource | political views | four estates | distribution standards | technology | production possibilities | fallacies |


Related Websites (Will Open in New Window)...

     | Nobel e-Museum | American Economic Association |


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