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Economics

economic, human, free, common, desires, study and importance

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ECONOMICS is the science of man in his rela tion to wealth. By wealth is meant, not as in common speech, a large quantity of desirable goods, but rather all desirable things in quan tity great or small. The unit in economic ob servations and reasonings is man as a member of a wealth-producing and wealth-using com munity. The terms used in the study imply human needs, relations, and activities. The man who is of interest to the economist has need of goods, some of which are given free by nature, some like natural fruits, given free by the com munity in which he lives, some like the farmer's grain, produced by his own efforts, and some like the food on the mechanic's table, given by the community in return for the product of his labor. The economic man has the capacity for performing useful service of some sort, and for uniting with his fellow-beings on some sensible basis for mutual exchange of services. A pre liminary description of the economic man is necessary : for a mastery of this single expres sion is to the economist what an intelligent appreciation of the character of the cell is to the biologist, or an understanding of the school of the soldier to the student of military tactics.

The economic man, then, is a human being. The term is generic, including both men and women ; not merely those who are usually called breadwinners, but also the bread preparers. Men and women may do different work, their place in the economic world may be but both are included in the term by which we designate the unit with which our study deals.

The economic man, secondly, has material and spiritual wants which are satisfied by means of goods. The quantity and character of goods desired may vary widely at different times and I See Economic Function of Woman, by the present author, Publications of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.

places, furnishing an indication in each case of the particular kind of economic man then and there to be found. Some wants, however, are universal. Of these, food is first in importance, and has sometimes been taken by a figure of speech as a collective expression for all the goods required to supply man's wants. This is

done, for example, by the economists who trace a connection between the wages paid to labor ers and the cost of food. Strictly speaking, the relation is between wages and the cost of living. Next in importance are shelter and clothing, though in point of time ornaments are perhaps desired at an even earlier stage. Human asso ciation and religious worship are among the most primitive goods, and these desires remain of chief importance in every stage of civiliza tion with which we are familiar. Besides these fundamental wants there are innumerable spe cial desires and a class of goods to correspond to each, however fantastic or however common.

Man as the object of economic inquiries, hav ing human desires, has also human capacities. Infants, idiots, idlers, invalids, and criminals are excluded more or less completely in accordance with the degree of their incapacity. Those who are entirely dependent, and those whose natures are so perverted that society cannot afford to give them an opportunity for the free exercise of their powers, are not to be regarded, for purposes of economic study, as integers in hu man society. Their presence raises many inter esting economic questions, but they are not themselves economic men. It is obvious that different economists may have different views of the exact place where the line separating eco nomic men from dependents should be drawn, and that some writers may not take the trouble to think out the distinction carefully, leaving even themselves in uncertainty whether, for ex ample, persons supported in part by their own efforts and in part by charity 1 are or are not included in the observations which they make. Probably it would be most satisfactory to draw the line sharply between the economic man and the social debtor, including in the first class only those whose withdrawal would be felt to be a real economic loss to the community, 1 In England at one time nearly all common laborers received public relief at some period of their lives.

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