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Consumers and producers are generally assumed to be motivated by self-interest. Explain how the pursuit of self-interest can help to address the central economic problem of limited resources and unlimited wants. [10]


Adapted from an actual economics essay examination

This economics paper explains that the pursuit of self-interest results in an efficient allocation of resources through the price mechanism, which addresses the problem of scarcity. 

Human wants are unlimited, while earth's resources of land, labour, capital, and entrepreneurship are limited. This results in scarcity. What is scarcity? It refers to the situation where resources that are limited are not able to meet the requirement of unlimited wants. However, there is a solution to meeting these two different imperatives - and that is the free market, with its price mechanism, which as Adam Smith said, acts like "an invisible hand". 

The price mechanism means that it is the intersection of demand and supply that determines the price and the quantity eventually produced. It is the rational choice of millions of suppliers, producers, and firms meeting the requirements of millions of consumers, individuals, and households. Demand is defined as the willingness and ability to purchase a good or service, ceteris paribus, while supply is defined as the willingness and ability to produce a good or service, also ceteris paribus. 

The price mechanism addresses the central problem of economics, coordinating resources to their best uses, and solving the problem of what to produce, how to produce, and for whom to produce, because it serves the important four functions of signaling, rationing, allocating, and incentivising. The signaling function is one where the price of a good allows for a re-calibration of the quantity demanded and quantity supplied. As the price of a good increases, indicating a more pronounced situation of scarcity, the quantity demanded of a good falls, while the quantity supplied rises, ceteris paribus. The converse is also true, where the fall in the price of a good, which indicates an amelioration of scarcity, results in an increase in the quantity demanded and a fall in the quantity supplied.

Given the prevailing market prices, buyers who seek to maximise their utility will demand the good. Under this demand function, those are willing and able to pay for the good are able to obtain it, while those who are not willing or able to pay will go without the good. Meanwhile, producers who are willing and able to produce the good at a cost below or equivalent to the prevailing market price will produce it, as they are incentivised to maximise profits, while those who produce at a cost above the market price will not. This also determines the allocation of resources that go into producing this good.

In conclusion, the pursuit of self-interest utilises the price mechanism to address the problem of scarcity, achieving an efficient allocation of resources.


Economics Tutor's Comment - This is a very strong effort for the A levels and covers quite a few important points and arguments. The candidate's use of economic theory is quite strong in this economics essay. However, one should not and cannot rest on one's laurels. What would make this economics essay even better? Thank you for reading. Cheers!  

JC Economics Essays - This economics essays site helps students with the A-Levels (Cambridge, A1/S, A2, H1/H2 levels), and the international AS level economics examinations. This blog provides a range of useful economics content, materials, tips and techniques, and model economics essays that students in the United Kingdom, and all around the world, can use to excel in their studies and examinations.

This model essay with sample comments was contributed by WT, our resident Economics expert who helps students understand the beauty of Economics and its applications in real life. WT has a strong interest in Econometrics, Economic History, International Trade, and Game Theory, especially applications to real life. This economics post was edited by S. S., the editor of JC Economics Essays.

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