Portal:Business and economics

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The business and economics portal

The New York Stock Exchange floor

In the social sciences, economics is the study of human choice behavior and the methodology used to make associated investment and production decisions; in particular, though not limited to, how those choices and decisions determine the allocation of scarce resources and their effect on production, distribution, and consumption. The word "economics" is from the Greek words οἶκος [oikos], meaning "family, household, estate", and νέμω [nemo], or "distribution, allocation", hence meaning "household management" or "management of the state". An economist is a person using economic concepts and data in the course of employment, or someone who has earned a university degree in the subject. Economics undergraduate courses cover at least two main branches:

  • Microeconomics studies the behavior of individual households and firms in making decisions on the allocation of limited resources. Microeconomics applies to markets where goods or services are bought and sold. It examines how decisions and behaviors affect the supply and demand for goods and services, which determine prices, and how prices, in turn, determine the quantity supplied and quantity demanded of goods and services.
  • Macroeconomics studies inflation, price levels, rates of growth, national income, gross domestic product and changes in unemployment of a country, rather than the more specific details that microeconomics studies.

There are also other sub-fields of economics.

In economics, the field economic systems studies and analyzes the organizing of production, distribution, consumption and investment, as well as optimal resource allocation and institutional design. Traditionally, the study of economic systems was based on a dichotomy between market economies and planned economies, but contemporary studies compare and contrast a number of different systems, such as ownership structure (public, private or collective), economic coordination (planning, markets or mixed systems), management structure (hierarchy versus adhocracy), the incentive system, and the level of centralization in decision-making. An economy can be analyzed in terms of its economic sectors, the classic breakdown being into primary, secondary and tertiary.

Economic policy comprises the actions that governments take in the economic field. It covers the systems for setting interest rates and the government budget as well as the labor market regulations, national ownership, trade policy, monetary policy, fiscal policy, regulatory policy, anti-trust policy and industrial policy. In economics, sustainable development refers to development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

A business, also known as an enterprise or a firm, is an organization involved in the trade of goods, services, or both to consumers. Businesses are prevalent in capitalist economies, where most of them are privately owned and provide goods and services to customers in exchange of other goods, services, or money. Businesses may also be not-for-profit or state-owned. Management in business and organizations is the function that coordinates the efforts of people to accomplish goals and objectives using available resources efficiently and effectively. Management comprises planning, organizing, staffing, leading and directing, and controlling an organization or initiative to accomplish a goal. Management is also an academic discipline, and is traditionally taught at business schools.

Selected article

William Barley (1565?–1614) was an English bookseller and publisher. He completed an apprenticeship as a draper in 1587, but was soon working in the London book trade. As a freeman of the Drapers' Company, he was embroiled in a dispute between it and the Stationers' Company over the rights of drapers to function as publishers and booksellers. He found himself in legal tangles throughout his life.

Selected picture

Detail from Labor, Charles Sprague Pearce (1896).

Manual labour (manual labor in American English) or manual work is physical work done by people, most especially in contrast to that done by machines, and also to that done by working animals. It is most literally work done with the hands (the word "manual" comes from the Latin word for hand), and, by figurative extension, it is work done with any of the muscles and bones of the body. For most of human prehistory and history, manual labour and its close cousin, animal labour, have been the primary ways that physical work has been accomplished. Mechanisation and automation, which reduce the need for human and animal labour in production, have existed for centuries, but it was only starting in the 19th century that they began to significantly expand and to change human culture. To be implemented, they require that sufficient technology exist and that its capital costs be justified by the amount of future wages that they will obviate.

Selected economy

North Tehran Towers.jpg

The economy of Iran is a mixed and transition economy with a large public sector. Some 60% of the economy is centrally planned. It is dominated by oil and gas production, although over 40 industries are directly involved in the Tehran Stock Exchange, one of the best performing exchanges in the world over the past decade. With 10% of the world's proven oil reserves and 15% of its gas reserves, Iran is considered an "energy superpower".

It is the world's eighteenth largest by purchasing power parity (PPP) and thirty-second by nominal gross domestic product. The country is a member of Next Eleven because of its high development potential.

A unique feature of Iran's economy is the presence of large religious foundations called Bonyad, whose combined budgets represent more than 30% of central government spending.

Selected quote

"In all of the fields where individual products have even the slightest element of uniqueness, competition bears but faint resemblance to the pure competition of a highly organized market for a homogeneous product. Consider, for instance, the competitive analysis as applied to the automobile industry. How is one to conceive of demand and supply curves for "automobiles in general" when, owing to variations in quality, design, and type, the prices of individual units range from several hundred to many thousand of dollars? How define the number of units which would be taken from or put upon the market at any particular price? How fit into the analysis a wide variety of costs based mostly upon a correspondingly wide variety of product? These difficulties are great; perhaps they are not insurmountable. The real one one is neither of definition nor of interpretation, and cannot be surmounted. Competitive theory does not fit because competition between through the group is only partial and is highly uneven. The competition between sport roadsters an ten-ton trucks must be virtually zero; an there is probably more justification for drawing up a joint demand schedule for Fords and house room than for Fords and Locomobiles. These are, perhaps, extreme cases, but the fact that each producer through the group has a market at a least partially distinct from those of the others introduces forces, absent under pure competition, which materially alter the result. Prices throughout are adjusted in some measure according to the monopoly principle. Furthermore, advertising and selling outlays are invited by the fact that the market of each seller is limited, whereas the very nature of a purely competitive market precludes a selling problem. The theory of pure competition, in explaining the adjustment of economic forces in such an industry, is a complete misfit.

Because most prices involve monopoly elements, it is monopolistic competition that most people think of in connection with the simple word "competition". In fact, it may almost be said that under pure competition the buyers and sellers do not really compete in the sense in which the word is currently used. One never hears of "competition" in connection with the great markets, and the phrases "price cutting", "underselling", "unfair competition", "meeting competition", "securing a market", etc., are unknown. No wonder the principles of such a market seem so unreal when applied to the "business" world where these terms have meaning. They are based on the supposition that each seller accepts the market price and can dispose of his entire supply without materially affecting it. Thus there is no problem of choosing a price policy, no problem of adapting the product more exactly to the buyers (real or fancied) wants. The theory of pure competition could hardly be expected to fit facts so far different from its assumptions. But there is no reason why a theory of value cannot be formulated which will fit them - a theory concerning itself specifically with goods which are not homogeneous. This is the purpose of the later chapters of this book. We turn first to the theory of pure competition."

Edward Chamberlin, The Theory of Monopolistic Competition, 1933

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On this day in Business history...

February 21:

  • 1977 - Kevin Rose, an American businessman and television host, founder of Digg, was born on this day.

Did you know...

  • ...the term petrodollars was coined by Ibrahim Oweiss to describe dollars that did not circulate inside the United States, and therefore were not part of the normal money supply, and instead were received by petroleum exporting countries (OPEC) in exchange for oil?


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