Big trade-offs

Many people mistakenly think economics is solely about helping people or businesses make more money. But, as N.C. State University economist Mike Walden explains, economics actually focuses on using resources to achieve goals, whatever those goals may be.

“I just went over this recently — a couple weeks ago — with my undergraduates, because I think they came into my undergraduate economic survey course thinking just exactly what you [host Mary Walden] said that many people think: that economics is just about money. Really economics is, as you’ve said, using your resources to achieve whatever goals you have. And for some people, those goals may be to make a lot of money so they can use that money to command a lot  resources.

“Other people ‘s goal may be to work enough to get by but have a lot of time to so-called ‘smell the roses.’ And everyone is different. And I think we see some of these differences at the household level and, particularly, a type of household that has to really give a lot of thought to these decisions are households with children.

“For example, a household with children has to decide, should both the parents work and earn money, thinking having more money means they can give more to their children, or should one parent work, the other stay home and help to raise the children. They may have to get by on on less money, but the attitude is, perhaps, that that parental time with the child may be the best thing of all.

“So these are very, very tough decisions. But again, economics was there to help people in general and businesses use their resources for whatever goals they may have.”

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