People have always had desires and wants. To have wants does not necessarily mean greed and selfishness, for we may want things in order to make ourselves better or to benefit others. Out of these wants grow all the things we do, whether at work or play.
Are there any general principles to be discovered in studying human wants?
What names or terms do we use in discussing the satisfaction of desires?
How important in our lives and interests is work?
What classes of occupations do people engage in as a means of satisfying their desires or the desires of others?
What conditions are desirable if men are to make progress in satisfying their desires and improving the conditions under which they live?
The study of men’s relations with one another in satisfying their desires we call economics. The word itself is Greek, and originally meant “management of the home.” Now we use it much more broadly; but the word contains the idea of management, whether of the home or some bigger enterprise.
Do you see any difference between economics and economic a between economic and economical Make a list of ten things a good citizen should know or do, and star those that are wholly or partly economic.
To think wisely about your future vocation, to read the daily papers intelligently, to understand the problems we are facing today — can you do any of these if you are ignorant of economics? Primitive man was completely absorbed in the economic side of life. When we think from what crude beginnings our own conveniences and luxuries have developed, we may exclaim, “How good we are!” At the same time, we must not make foolish Pollyannas out of ourselves and see nothing but good in every thing. We do many things the wrong way, or at least not the best way. Probably we ought to do many things which we are not doing. We should want to find out every fact that will make it possible for us to work more intelligently and successfully.
There is a difference between a desire and a need. We need those things without which we cannot live — food, air, the things that protect us from heat or cold. Most of us, however, are not satisfied to stop there; we want these and many other things. We want to be comfortable as well as merely to exist; and so we want houses, conveniences for travel, furnaces in winter, and dozens of other things not wrong in themselves. Many of us are still dissatisfied when we are comfortable. Millions of dollars are spent each year for things which are neither needs nor conveniences. Think of all the money that is burned up in cigarettes or paid for amusement which is enjoyed only for a few minutes, or for fine clothes that may be worn only a few hours in a year.
There is no limit to human desires. You may set down a list of things which you think would completely satisfy you if you had them all. I might do the same. There might be a limit to your desires and to mine; but our lists would probably not agree, and every other person’s list would probably bring in different wants. Besides, is it true that “the more we have, the more we want”?
It is not wrong to have desires. It is because of human desires that men work to improve their circumstances and conditions. Surely we are to be praised rather than blamed if we enjoy the company of worthy friends, if we like to read good books, or if we
work with others to improve our minds and souls, or theirs. How many of our desires are justifiable will depend upon the motive back of them and their effect upon us or others. You can readily think of wants which for some people would be entirely proper, but for others wholly bad.
Mention five individual wants that usually are definitely good; five that might be good or bad, depending on circumstances. Can the gratifying of individual wants be carried on without some effect on the community in which the individual lives? What distinction might you draw between present and future wants?
Make a list of ten things which you want because you must have them. Make another list of ten things which you do not positively need, but which you want because you enjoy them.
Is it possible for one to get himself into such a condition that he wants nothing? Is contentment a virtue? If so, to what extent? Can you set up a rule that will help one to know when his wants are going too far?
3. Some Definitions of Significant Terms
Possessions, goods, and wealth are important terms in economics. They have much in common, for they all represent something that belongs to some one.
Possessions, however, has the widest meaning. It includes everything that we have acquired — not only material things, but learning and experience, which may mean fully as much to us as a thousand articles that we could weigh or measure. Education and friendship, for instance, are as valuable possessions as books, houses, tools, or clothes.
In economics we employ the word goods to mean any things that satisfy wants. We use the word without thought of any moral quality. If a certain article or activity satisfies a want, good or bad, we call it a good in the economic sense. Goods may be sub divided into two great classes — free goods and economic goods.
Free goods, like air and sunlight, are those which exist in such abundance that ordinarily every one may have all he wants. The list is short and includes only those natural resources which men have not yet brought under their own private command. Economic goods, on the other hand, are those which men have brought under their own control and the supply of which is in some degree limited, so that men have to sacrifice money or labor to obtain them. Quite likely there was a time in some places when coal was a free good for anybody who would take the trouble to help him self to it. Today, however, it has been brought under the control of human beings; and those who do not own coal mines usually have to pay for the coal they use.
Wealth is still more limited, for it means only those material possessions whose value we can estimate in money. It includes houses, and cars, but excludes education, doctors’ prescriptions, and the advice of lawyers; for while we pay for all these, the value of the last three cannot be measured with exact ness. Wealth may be real property in the form of land and what ever is attached to it, or it may be personal property, like money and other movables. It may be private property or public property. Private property is that which belongs to an individual or group of persons. It may take the form of a house, a farm, a chair, or a hat. If it is the possession of the community or the
nation as a whole, it becomes public property, as the White House at Washington. If, however, the President owns a residence in California or New York or some other place, that is not the property of the nation, but the President’s private property.
May air and water ever be economic goods? Which of the following are examples of wealth: a courthouse, an apple tree, a watch, a shovel,Yellowstone Park,Washington Monument, a bird in a cage, a bird in a nest in your back yard? Mention five examples not included in this list which are public property, and five which under ordinary circumstances would be private property.
Wants may also be satisfied by the services of men and women who do not actually produce material things, but increase our comfort or intelligence. Ministers, actors, teachers, and barbers are examples of those whose services we value highly enough to pay for.
Human desires and wants are best satisfied
by realizing the nature of our wants and the things by which wants can be satisfied,
by recognizing the fundamental reasons for work,
by appreciating the services rendered by different occupations and classes of workers,
by cooperation among workers of many different fields, each where he can work best,
through a proper relation in the whole circle of our economic activities,
by the proper use of the four factors in production and the proper compensation of each,
by establishing those conditions which encourage each worker to do his best.
Please read this article too: Why Do People Work?