Economic Report Essay, Research Paper
In economics, we need to use terms a little more carefully than they are sometimes used in ordinary discussions. In general use, “Demand” is a word that can have more than one meaning, but in microeconomics we define it more carefully so that it has only one meaning. Here is the definition:
Demand is the relationship between price and quantity demanded for a particular good and service in particular circumstances. For each price the demand relationship tells the quantity the buyers want to buy at that corresponding price. The quantity the buyers want to buy at a particular price is called the Quantity Demanded.
The key point is to distinguish between demand (the relationship) and quantity demanded. That distinction is important for microeconomics, although people often do not make it in ordinary discussion.
Demand and Need
To keep it simple, we may think of the buyers as consumers. (Later we will look at markets for inputs to production, in which the buyers are producers of other goods and services). Clearly, the buyers are the people who want or need the product or service — but there is more to it than that. The word “demand” refers to the willingness and ability of people to purchase the good or service in the market. The demand relationship expresses that willingness and ability for the whole range of prices. To say that a person has a demand for a particular product is to say that the person has money with which to buy and is willing to exchange the money for the good. People will not demand what they do not want or need, but a want or a need unbacked by purchasing power is not a demand.
Similarly, it is not enough that the suppliers possess the good or (the capacity to perform) the service. Supply also means willingness to sell.
Most of us have experience living in the market economic system, and that makes economics seem like a common-sense field — but sometimes that common-sense feel can be deceptive. People sometimes use the term “demand” ambiguously — as if “demand” were the same thing as need. But it is not. Need without purchasing power will not create effective demand in the marketplace. Economists sometimes stress this point by using the term “effective demand” in place of simple “demand.”
As we have seen, economists think of the demand for a good or service as a relationship between the price of the good or service and the quantity demanded of that good or service. Common sense says that the relationship is an inverse one; that is, that an increase in price will result in a decrease in the quantity demanded. In this, common sense is absolutely right. The higher the price, the less quantity demanded, and conversely, the lower the price, the more quantity demanded.
Many economics textbooks use examples based on hypothetical (made-up) numbers. There is nothing wrong with that and we shall use some of them later on. But why not use a real example? Several years ago, the author estimated the demand relationship for beer. Here is an example based on that estimate. The prices quoted are wholesale prices, in cents of 1972 purchasing power. Quantity demanded is measured in millions of gallons, for the United States as a whole.
price, cents/gal. Quantity demanded, millions of gals.
Remember: when we speak of “demand” we usually mean the entire demand relationship, that is, the entire demand curve or table. By contrast, the “quantity demanded” is the particular point on the demand curve, as in Figure 2 below, or the quantity in a particular line of the table.
Notice that, in this example, the demand curve is downward sloping. That’s a common-sense point: the higher the price, the less people will want to buy. In this case, common-sense has it 100% right.
Economists call this the Law of Demand:
At a higher price, the quantity demanded will be less, ceteris paribus.
(Ceteris paribus means: if nothing else changes to offset the change in price).