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The term economics comes from the Ancient Greek ("oikonomia") ("management of a household, administration") from , "house") + (nomos, "custom" or "law"), hence "rules of the house(hold)".<ref name="etymology"></ref>

Current economic models developed out of the broader field of political economy in the late 19th century, owing to a desire to use an empirical approach more akin to the physical sciences.<ref name="Clark">Clark, B. (1998). Political-economy: A comparative approach. Westport, CT: Preager.</ref> A definition that captures much of modern economics is that of Lionel Robbins in a 1932 essay: "the science which studies human behaviour as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses."<ref>, p. 16</ref> Scarcity means that available resources are insufficient to satisfy all wants and needs. Absent scarcity and alternative uses of available resources, there is no economic problem. The subject thus defined involves the study of choices as they are affected by incentives and resources.

Economics aims to explain how economies work and how economic agents interact. Economic analysis is applied throughout society, in business and finance but also in crime,<ref>Friedman, David D. (2002). "Crime," The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. Accessed October 21, 2007. </ref> education,<ref>The World Bank (2007). "Economics of Education." Accessed October 21, 2007.</ref> the family, health, law, politics, religion,<ref>Iannaccone, Laurence R. (1998). "Introduction to the Economics of Religion," Journal of Economic Literature, 36(3), pp. 1465–1495..</ref> social institutions, war,<ref>Nordhaus, William D. (2002). "The Economic Consequences of a War with Iraq", in War with Iraq: Costs, Consequences, and Alternatives, pp. 51–85. American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Cambridge, MA. Accessed October 21, 2007.</ref> science and research.<ref>Arthur M. Diamond, Jr., Economics of Science, In Steven N. Durlauf and Lawrence E. Blume, The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2nd edition 2008, Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan. This article is taken from the author's original manuscript and has not been reviewed or edited. The definitive published version of this extract may be found in the complete New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics in print and online, 2008.</ref> The expanding domain of economics in the social sciences has been described as economic imperialism.<ref name="Imperialism">Lazear, Edward P. (2000|. "Economic Imperialism," Quarterly Journal Economics, 115(1)|, pp. 99-146. Cached copy. Pre-publication copy(larger print.}</ref><ref>Becker, Gary S. (1976). The Economic Approach to Human Behavior. Links to arrow-page viewable chapter. University of Chicago Press.</ref>


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