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July 20, 2018 

AmosWEB means Economics with a Touch of Whimsy!

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COMMON-PROPERTY GOOD: A good that's difficult to keep nonpayers from consuming, but use of the good by one person prevents use by others. Examples include oceans, the atmosphere, many lakes and streams, and large tracts of wilderness area or public parks. The term "common property" aptly describes the situation here, it's commonly owned and thus everyone has access to it, but it can be easily used up or destroyed. Many of our pollution problems occur because common property becomes a convenient place to dump waste materials. For efficiency, government needs to take charge of common-property goods, private exchange through markets can't do the job.

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ECONOMIST:

A person who specializes in economics, especially through the study of economic theories and the accumulated body of economic knowledge. Economists spend their working lives at universities, colleges, government agencies, banks, insurance companies, and multinational corporations. They study economic events, analyze government policies, undertake scientific investigations, and of course pass along economic information to eager students and others seeking enlightenment.
An economist is someone who does economics. Many do economics for college students as academic professors at institutions of higher learning. Others do economics for governments and businesses by analyzing how the subtleties of the economy affect their particular activities. Most do economics by applying the scientific method to economic phenomena and pushing forth the frontiers of economic knowledge.

A Hypothetical Economist

George Grumpinkston provides a hypothetical model of an economist doing economics. He spends the bulk his time lecturing to eager college students at the hypothetical Ambling Institute of Technology. He grades exams. He answers questions. He explains economics.

He also applies his economic insight into the investigation of economic phenomena. He develops scientific models. He collects data. He tests hypotheses. He prepares research papers that are presented at economic conferences and published in economic journals.

On occasion Professor Grumpinkston consults with businesses and governments. For example, the Shady Valley City Council recently asked the Professor to analyze the likely impact of a tax on left-handed people. How much revenue would such a tax generate? Would this tax discourage left-handed people from moving to Shady Valley and if so by how many? Would the tax affect the need for sidewalks?

Alternatively, OmniConglomerate, Inc. recently asked the Professor to estimate the demand for a new product that it had under development, the OmniStraight 2000 shoe string straightener. How many OmniStraight 2000s would the public be willing and able to buy at the anticipated $3 selling price? What would the quantity demanded be at a lower price? Or a higher price?

Economic Thinking

One consequence of being an economist and doing economics is the inclination to think in economic terms. Economic thinking is a way of looking at the world by comparing the cost of an activity with the benefit generated. Economists are inclined to ask questions such as: What does it REALLY cost? Is it REALLY that valuable?

Professor Grumpkinston, for example, is inclined to think about the marginal utility that he is likely to receive from drinking a can of OmniCola before dropping his coins into the soft drink vending machine. Is he thirsty enough to justify the expense? Would this money be better spent on a Double-Dot Caramel Nougat Cluster candy bar instead?

Branches and Fields

Economics is ultimately the study of scarcity, which means scarcity is ultimately the focus of every economist doing economics, as well. However, scarcity, affects human existence in a number of different ways, which means that economists address the scarcity problem from a number of different perspectives.

As such, economists tend to specialize in different fields of study, which tend to fall into one of two major branches. First, the branches:

In addition to these two branches, economists tend to specialize in distinct fields of study. Some specialize in a single field. Others are well-versed in two or more related fields. Some of the more common fields are: monetary, international, public finance, labor, history of thought, mathematical, econometrics, law and economics, industrial organization, growth and development, urban and regional, and economic systems.

Learning the Trade

Like most academic disciplines, economists learn their trade by working their way through institutions of higher learning.
  • A bachelors degree with a major in economics is usually the minimum standard for employment as a professional economist. This degree provides the fundamental knowledge base needed to think like an economist. Similar to any bachelors degree, this one takes four to five years to complete and involves several non-economic courses.

  • A significant number who pursue life as an economist opt for a masters degree. This degree makes it possible to concentrate exclusively on the study of economics for a couple years. It also enables some degree of specialization in one or more fields.

  • The ultimate training as a professional economist comes through a doctorate degree. This degree provides rigorous study into economic theories, analysis of economic issues, and the base of knowledge accumulated by other economists. Those who pursue this degree spend three to five years (or more) learning how to apply the scientific method to economic phenomena, usually through concentrated specialization on one specific topic in a specific field.
While formal training might end with a doctorate degree, economists generally continue the study of economics throughout their careers with research and analysis of economic issues.

Noble Prize

Economists who do an exceptional job of advancing the boundaries of economic knowledge can be awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics. The Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences was established by the Bank of Sweden in 1968 in memory of Alfred Nobel. Economics is the only social science to be honored with a Nobel Prize.

The first Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences was awarded in 1969 to Ragnar Frisch and Jan Tinbergen. Other recipients have been Paul Samuelson, Milton Friedman, Robert Lucas, John Hicks, James Tobin, Gary Becker, John Nash, and host of other really smart people who have helped to make economics what it is today. Professor Grumpinkston, as a hypothetical economist, has yet to receive this award, nor even to be nominated.

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Recommended Citation:

ECONOMIST, AmosWEB Encyclonomic WEB*pedia, http://www.AmosWEB.com, AmosWEB LLC, 2000-2018. [Accessed: July 20, 2018].


Check Out These Related Terms...

     | economic thinking | economic analysis | rational behavior | Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences |


Or For A Little Background...

     | economics | scarcity | scientific method | macroeconomics | microeconomics |


And For Further Study...

     | seven economic rules | three questions of allocation | political views | economic goals | economic science | scarcity | four estates | Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences | American Economic Association | Council of Economic Advisors | Smith, Adam |


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

     | Nobel e-Museum | American Economic Association | Job Openings for Economists |


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