There is almost universal agreement that economies are becoming more complex every year and that an understanding of how an economy works is more important than ever before. For someone who is just beginning to study economics, the task indeed appears to be a difficult one. Economics is the study of the way in which mankind organizes itself to solve the basic problem of scarcity. All societies have more wants than resources, so that a system must be devised to allocate these resources between competing ends. In a very real sense, the complexity of the economy makes it difficult to decide exactly where to start. Simultaneously, production is taking place, goods and services are being allocated, and a great number of market participants are being motivated by a diverse set of goals. In addition, there is the complex financial system in which individuals, firms, and governments borrow and lend funds.
Economics is divided into two major branches: macroeconomics and microeconomics. Macroeconomics is the study of behavior of the economy as a whole with emphasis on the factors that determine growth and fluctuations in output, employment, and the level of prices. Macroeconomics studies broad economic events that are largely beyond the control of individual decision makers and yet affect nearly all firms, households, and other institutions in the economy. Specialists in macroeconomics are particularly interested in understanding those factors that determine inflation, unemployment, and growth in the production of goods and services. Such an understanding is necessary in order to develop policies that encourage production and employment while controlling inflation.
The other major branch of economics is microeconomics. Microeconomics is the study of behavior of individual units within the economy. The division of economics has resulted from the growing complexity and sophistication of economic research.
These two approaches and the topics they include are in fact interdependent. Individuals and firms make their decisions in the context of the economic environment, which has an impact on the constraints the decision makers face as well as their expectations about the future. At the same time, when taken as a whole, their decisions determine the condition of the overall economy. A good understanding of economic events and an ability to forecast them require knowledge of both individual decision making and the way in which individuals react to changes in the economic environment.