The traditional concern of economics is to gain an understanding of the processes that govern the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services in an exchange economy. An agent may have purposes or ends, such as reducing or protecting individuals from crime, on which he or she wants to spend resources. Economics may study how the agent determines the amount of resources to allocate for this purpose, aside from the traditional concern of economics.
An approach to understanding the processes of production, distribution, and consumption, through the study of agent behavior under scarcity, may go as follows:
The continuous interplay done by economic actors in all markets sets the prices for all goods and services which, in turn, make the rational managing of scarce resources possible. At the same time, the decisions made by the same actors, while they are pursuing their own interest, determine the level of output, consumption, savings, and investment, in an economy, as well as the remuneration paid to the owners of labor, capital and land . Each period, as if they were in a giant feedback system, economic players influence the pricing processes and the economy, and are in turn influenced by them until a steady state of all variables involved is reached or until an external shock throws the system toward a new equilibrium point. Because of the autonomous actions of rational interacting agents, the economy is a complex adaptive system.
The term economics comes from the Ancient Greek from and, hence "rules of the house". 'Political economy' was the earlier name for the subject, but economists in the late 19th century suggested "economics" as a shorter term for "economic science" to establish itself as a separate discipline outside of political science and other social sciences.
Economics focuses on the behavior and interactions of economic agents and how economies work. Consistent with this focus, primary textbooks often distinguish between microeconomics and macroeconomics. Microeconomics examines the behavior of basic elements in the economy, including individual agents and markets, their interactions, and the outcomes of interactions. Individual agents may include, for example, households, firms, buyers, and sellers. Macroeconomics analyzes the entire economy and issues affecting it, including unemployment of resources, inflation, economic growth, and the public policies that address these issues .
Other broad distinctions within economics include those between positive economics, describing "what is," and normative economics, advocating "what ought to be"; between economic theory and applied economics; between rational and behavioral economics; and between mainstream economics and heterodox economics .
Besides the traditional concern in production, distribution, and consumption in an economy, economic analysis may be applied throughout society, as in business, finance, health care, and government. Economic analyses may