By Jim Stanford
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Extra resources for Economics for Everyone: A Short Guide to the Economics of Capitalism
GOODS are tangible items that we can see and touch: food and clothes, houses and buildings, electronics and automobiles, machines and toys. SERVICES are tasks that one or several people perform for others: cutting hair and preparing restaurant meals, classroom instruction and brain surgery, transportation and auditing. Where do we perform this work? Productive work occurs almost everywhere: in private companies, in government departments and public agencies, and in the home. In cities, in towns, on farms, and in forests.
Scarcity is a normal condition. Humans are “endowed” with arbitrary amounts of useful resources. By trading through markets, they can extract maximum well-being from that endowment – just like school kids experience greater happiness by trading their duplicate superhero cards with one another in the playground. An “efficient” economy is one which maximizes, through trade, the usefulness of that initial endowment – regardless of how output is distributed, what kinds of things are produced, or how rich or poor people are at the end of the day.
Today, services account for about 70 percent of GDP in advanced economies – and an even larger share, if we count nontraded output, like housework. The shrinking importance of goods is partly because technology and globalization have reduced their costs compared to services, and partly because most consumers prefer to buy a greater proportion of services (especially “luxuries” Stanford 01 intro 37 9/4/08 18:04:08 38 Economics for Everyone such as restaurant meals and tourism) as their incomes rise.
Economics for Everyone: A Short Guide to the Economics of Capitalism by Jim Stanford