MARKETS AND PRICES: Students will understand that: A market exists when buyers and sellers interact. This interaction determines market prices and thereby allocates scarce goods and services.
Students will be able to use this knowledge to: Identify markets in which they have participated as a buyer and as a seller and describe how the interaction of all buyers and sellers influences prices. Also, predict how prices change when there is either a shortage or surplus of the product available.
In market economies there is no central planning agency that decides how many different kinds of sandwiches are provided for lunch every day at restaurants and stores, how many loaves of bread are baked, how many toys are produced before the holidays, or what the prices will be for the sandwiches, bread, and toys. Students should understand that, instead, most prices in market economies are established by the interaction between buyers and sellers.
Understanding how market prices and output levels are determined helps people anticipate market opportunities and make better choices as consumers and producers. It will also help them realize that market allocations are impersonal.
ROLE OF PRICES: Students will understand that: Prices send signals and provide incentives to buyers and sellers. When supply or demand changes, market prices adjust, affecting incentives.
Students will be able to use this knowledge to: Predict how prices change when the number of buyers or sellers in a market changes, and explain how the incentives facing individual buyers and sellers are affected.
Understanding the role of prices as signals and incentives helps people anticipate market opportunities and make better choices as producers and consumers. It also helps citizens understand the consequences and weigh the costs and benefits of price controls, such as minimum-wage laws and rent ceilings, that set legal minimum or maximum prices and result in sustained surpluses or shortages.
INSTITUTIONS: Students will understand that: Institutions evolve and are created to help individuals and groups accomplish their goals. Banks, labor unions, markets, corporations, legal systems, and not-for-profit organizations are examples of important institutions. A different kind of institution, clearly defined and enforced property rights, is essential to a market economy.
Students will be able to use this knowledge to: Describe the roles of various economic institutions.
Institutions play a number of roles in a market economy. Property rights help insure that people bear the costs and reap the benefits of their decisions. Property rights and contract enforcement encourage investment by assuring investors that they will reap the rewards of deferring consumption and assuming risk if these investments perform well. Limiting individual liability and allowing people to pool their investment resources through joint stock corporations also increases investment and future income.
Other institutions lower the costs buyers and sellers incur in their efforts to find each other in different kinds of markets. For example, banks match savers with borrowers; and investment banks match entrepreneurs who organize new firms with investors who provide the needed funds.
Many institutions work to promote the goals of certain interest groups. Labor union, for example, increase the negotiating power of workers in their dealings with employers.
Understanding economic institutions and the purposes they serve will help students use institutions more effectively and help them evaluate proposed new institutions or changes in the existing legal and institutional environment.