Economic Opportunity

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The aim of life has always been for people to gather what they require to survive and ultimately achieve satisfaction – from the earliest times when people spent most of their time hunting animals, birds and fish, and gathering fruits and berries to eat; to modern times when people spend their time working for an employer who pays them an income with which they can buy food. All people have basic needs and an unlimited number of wants that can be satisfied by consuming goods and services. The challenge for consumers is choosing which wants to satisfy, and the goods and services that will maximise this satisfaction.

- Needs
- Wants
- Goods and Services

Economic Choices
While the goods and services needed to survive are basic, lists of people’s wants are much longer and more complex, and could be considered never-ending. Economic choices are based on a person’s desire to maximise satisfaction. Generally, we all face the same problem: we desire more wants than we have resources to satisfy. When we choose to satisfy one want over another, one cost of this decision is never gaining satisfaction from the unselected opportunity. This lost satisfaction from not choosing alternative wants is termed opportunity cost and is an element of every choice we make in life. Economic thinking will influence us to always select the choice that gives us the most satisfaction, and not to choose alternatives that will provide a lower level of satisfaction or lower opportunity cost.

While people’s wants are many and almost unlimited, the money to buy them or the time to enjoy them is limited. The challenge of economics is how we can satisfy unlimited wants with limited resources. The great Buddha of India had a simple solution to this challenge: he told his followers to reject all their wants and simplify their lives to just the basic needs. In modern economies, however, most people have a consumerist view of life, and spend much of their time and resources consuming goods and services to try to satisfy their wants. Individuals and groups, small and large businesses, governments and nations all strive to solve the economic challenge of satisfying unlimited wants with limited resources.