Different types of goods – Inferior, Normal, Luxury


A list of different types of economic goods. Income elasticity of demand and types of goods Income elasticity of demand (YED) measures the responsiveness of demand to a change in income. Normal good A normal good means an increase in income causes an increase in demand. It has a positive income elasticity of demand YED. …

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The broken window fallacy


The broken window fallacy states that if money is spent on repairing the damage, it is a mistake to think this represents an increase in economic output and economic welfare. If money is spent on repairing a broken window, the opportunity cost is that individuals cannot spend money on more productive goods. The broken window …

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Sectors of the economy


The three main sectors of the economy are:

  1. Primary sector – extraction of raw materials – mining, fishing and agriculture.
  2. Secondary / manufacturing sector – concerned with producing finished goods, e.g. factories making toys, cars, food, and clothes.
  3. Service / ‘tertiary’ sector –  concerned with offering intangible goods and services to consumers. This includes retail, tourism, banking, entertainment and  I.T. services.


A primitive economy will primarily be based on the primary sector – with most people employed in agriculture and the production of food.

As an economy develops, improved technology enables less labour to be needed in the primary sector and allows more workers to produce manufactured goods. Further development enables the growth of the service sector and leisure activities.

Primary sector

The primary sector is sometimes known as the extraction sector – because it involves taking raw materials. These can be renewable resources, such as fish, wool and wind power. Or it can be the use of non-renewable resources, such as oil extraction, mining for coal.

The raw material – wool from sheep. Primary sector

In the 1920s, over one million people were employed in the UK coal industry. It was a key part of the economy. However, improved technology and the growth of other energy sources has seen a dramatic decline in this primary sector industry.

More detail on primary sector

Secondary or manufacturing industry

The manufacturing industry takes raw materials and combines them to produce a higher value added finished product. For example, raw sheep wool can be spun to form a better quality wool. This wool can then be threaded and knitted to produce a jumper that can be worn.

Saltaire factor by the River Aire. Built by Sir Titus Salt. This was a successful mill for producing ‘alpaca wool’

Initially, the manufacturing industry was based on labour-intensive ‘cottage industry’ e.g. hand spinning. However, the development of improved technology, such as spinning machines, enabled the growth of larger factories. Benefiting from economies of scale, they were able to reduce the cost of production and increase labour productivity. The higher labour productivity also enabled higher wages and more income to spend on goods and services.

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The relationship between economics and politics

Readers question: Why cannot politics and economics be seen in isolation?

Economics is concerned with studying and influencing the economy. Politics is the theory and practice of influencing people through the exercise of power, e.g. governments, elections and political parties.

In theory, economics could be non-political. An ideal economist should ignore any political bias or prejudice to give neutral, unbiased information and recommendations on how to improve the economic performance of a country. Elected politicians could then weigh up this economic information and decide.

Houses of Parliament london

In practice there is a strong relationship between economics and politics because the performance of the economy is one of the key political battlegrounds. Many economic issues are inherently political because they lend themselves to different opinions.

Political ideology influencing economic thought

Many economic issues are seen through the eyes of political beliefs. For example, some people are instinctively more suspicious of government intervention. Therefore, they prefer economic policies which seek to reduce government interference in the economy. For example,  supply side economics, which concentrates on deregulation, privatisation and tax cuts.

On the other hand, economists may have a preference for promoting greater equality in society and be more willing to encourage government intervention to pursue that end.

If you set different economists to report on the desirability of income tax cuts for the rich, their policy proposals are likely to reflect their political preferences. You can always find some evidence to support the benefits of tax cuts, you can always find some evidence to support the benefits of higher tax.

Some economists may be scrupulously neutral and not have any political leanings (though I haven’t met too many). They may produce a paper that perhaps challenges their previous views. Despite their preferences, they may find there is no case for rail privatisation, or perhaps they find tax cuts do actually increase economic welfare.

However, for a politician, they can use those economists and economic research which backs their political view. Mrs Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were great champions of supply side economists like Milton Friedman, Keith Joseph, and  Friedrich Hayek. When Reagan was attempting to ‘roll back the frontiers of the state’ – there was no shortage of economists who were able to provide a theoretical justification for the political experiment. There were just as many economists suggesting this was not a good idea, but economists can be promoted by their political sponsors. In the US, the Paul Ryan budget proposals were welcomed by many Republicans because they promised tax cuts for better off, cutting welfare benefits and balancing the budget. (1) A popular selection of policies for Republicans.

Economic thought independent of politics

On the other hand, economists who stick to data and avoid cherry picking favourable statistics may well come up with conclusions and recommendations that don’t necessarily fit it with pre-conceived political issues.

Many economists may be generally supportive of the EU and European co-operation, but the evidence from the Euro single currency is that it caused many economic problems of low growth, deflation and trade imbalances.

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Economic goods – definition and examples



An economic good is a good or service that has a benefit (utility) to society. Also, economic goods have a degree of scarcity and therefore an opportunity cost.


This is in contrast to a free good (like air, sea, water) where there is no opportunity cost – but abundance. Free goods cannot be traded because nobody living by the sea would buy seawater – there is no point.

However, with economic goods where there is some scarcity and value, people will be willing to pay for them (in some form).

Another feature of an economic good is that if it can have a value placed on the good, it can be traded in the marketplace and valued using a form of money.

An economic good will have some degree of scarcity in relation to demand. It is the scarcity that creates a value people become willing to pay for. It is the scarcity which creates opportunity cost. – For example, if we pick apples from a tree, it means that other people will not be able to enjoy them. If we devote resources to mining gold, the opportunity cost is that we can’t devote this time and effort to growing corn.

Readers Question: Can endangered plant/animal species be economic goods? If so then why?

“Dead as a Dodo” But, was the Dodo an economic good?

Firstly, do endangered plants/animal species have a value to man?

  • Many endangered plants and species do have a benefit to humanity, even if we are not aware of them. For example, rare plants may hold the key to creating a vaccine for a disease. If we allow the plant to become extinct, then we lose this bio-diversity and future potential to treat human diseases. This is a clear example of how endangered plants could have a very high economic value.
  • It may be harder to make the case for endangered species. You could argue that some reptile on the verge of extinction has little or no value to humans, therefore some might not class it as an economic good.
  • However, others may disagree, they argue that when considering economic value, we shouldn’t just consider narrow human interest. We could argue that we should look at the issue from a less human-specific perspective. We should see all life as having an intrinsic value.
  • Furthermore, ecologists may argue that protecting the biodiversity of the planet should give joy to humans – we should get utility and satisfaction from being guardians of the planet rather than destroyers of life. Therefore protecting so called ‘useless’ species can actually give utility to humans because we can feel ‘good’ about being responsible citizens of the planet.
  • The difficulty is that a strict definition of an economic good says that the value of the good should have some market value and be traded. It is hard to put a value on the benefit of saving a rare species from extinction. But at least, some people would spend money to save a species from extinction because they feel it is a worthwhile act. Therefore, the rare species do have an economic value.

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Life-Cycle Hypothesis


Definition: The Life-cycle hypothesis was developed by Franco Modigliani in 1957. The theory states that individuals seek to smooth consumption over the course of a lifetime – borrowing in times of low-income and saving during periods of high income. The graph shows individuals save from the age of 20 to 65. As a student, it …

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Opportunity Cost Definition


Definition – Opportunity cost is the next best alternative foregone. If we spend that £20 on a textbook, the opportunity cost is the restaurant meal we cannot afford to pay. If you decide to spend two hours studying on a Friday night. The opportunity cost is that you cannot have those two hours for leisure. …

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Economies of scale examples


Economies of scale occur when increased output leads to lower unit costs. (lower average costs) Diagram Economies of Scale This diagram shows that as firms increase output from Q1 to Q2, average costs fall from P1 to P2. There are many different types and examples of how firms can benefit from economies of scale – …

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