Faulkner University Minimum Wage Discussion


Read Chapters 3 and 4 of Macroeconomics: Private and Public Choice.
For this discussion you will debate with your peers the concept of increasing minimum wage.
In order to participate in a knowledgeable debate, you must have a firm understanding of each side of the issue. Your textbook discusses minimum wage in detail and like many traditional economists, for the most part, does not support increases in the minimum wage citing the negative impacts that such increases may create. 
Gwartney, J. A., Stroup, R. L., Sobel, R. L., & Macpherson, D. A. (2018). Macroeconomics: Private and public choice (16th ed.). Retrieved from https://www.cengage.com
Tamny, J. (2015). Popular economics: What the Rolling Stones, Downton Abbey, and LeBron James can teach you about economics. Retrieved from https://www.redshelf.com

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Chapter Introduction
What are the laws of demand and supply?
How do consumers decide whether to purchase a good?
How do producers decide whether to supply it?
How do buyers and sellers respond to changes in the
price of a good?
What role do profits and losses play in an economy? What
must a firm do to make a profit?
How is the market price of a good determined?
How do markets adjust to changes in demand? How do
they adjust to changes in supply?
What is the “invisible hand” principle?
I am convinced that if [the market system] were the result of deliberate human
design, and if the people guided by the price changes understood that their
decisions have significance far beyond their immediate aim, this mechanism would
have been acclaimed as one of the greatest triumphs of the human mind.
— Friedrich Hayek, Nobel Laureate
From the point of view of physics, it is a miracle that [7 million New Yorkers are fed
each day] without any control mechanism other than sheer capitalism.
— John H. Holland, scientist, Santa Fe Institute
To those who study art, the Mona Lisa is much more than a famous painting of a
woman. Looking beyond the overall picture, they see and appreciate the brush
strokes, colors, and techniques embodied in the painting. Similarly, studying
economics can help you to gain an appreciation for the details behind many
things in your everyday life. During your last visit to the grocery store, you
probably noticed the fruit and vegetable section. Next time, take a moment to
ponder how potatoes from Idaho, oranges from Florida, apples from Washington,
bananas from Honduras, kiwi fruit from New Zealand, and other items from
around the world got there. Literally thousands of different individuals, working
independently, were involved in the process. Their actions were so well
coordinated, in fact, that the amount of each good was just about right to fill
exactly the desires of your local community. Furthermore, even the goods
shipped from halfway around the world were fresh and reasonably priced.
How does all this happen? The short answer is that it is the result of market
prices and the incentives and coordination that flow from them. To the
economist, the operation of markets—including your local grocery market—is
like the brush strokes underlying a beautiful painting. Reflecting on this point,
Friedrich Hayek speculates that if the market system had been deliberately
designed, it would be “acclaimed as one of the greatest triumphs of the human
mind.” Similarly, computer scientist John H. Holland argues that, from the
viewpoint of physics, the feeding of millions of New Yorkers day after day with
very few shortages or surpluses is a miraculous feat (see the chapter-opening
Amazingly, markets coordinate the actions of millions of
individuals without central planning. There is no individual, political authority, or
central planning committee in charge. Considering that there are more than 320
million Americans with widely varying skills and desires, and roughly 28 million
businesses producing a vast array of products ranging from diamond rings to
toilet paper, the coordination derived from markets is indeed an awesome
The produce section of your local grocery store is a great place to see
economics in action. Literally millions of individuals from around the
world have been involved in the process of getting these goods to the
shelves in just the right quantities. Market prices underlie this feat.
© Anatoly Tiplyashin/Shutterstock.com
This chapter focuses on demand, supply, and the determination of market prices.
For now, we will analyze the operation of competitive markets—that is, markets
in which buyers and sellers are free to enter and exit. We will also assume that
the property rights are well defined. Later, we will consider what happens when
these conditions are absent.
On eBay, sellers enter their reserve prices—the minimum prices they will accept
for goods; buyers enter their maximum bids—the maximum prices they are
willing to pay for goods. The process works the same way when a person runs a
newspaper ad to sell a car. The seller has in mind a minimum price he or she will
accept for the car. A potential buyer, on the other hand, has in mind a maximum
price he or she will pay for the car. If the buyer’s maximum price is greater than
the seller’s minimum price, the exchange will occur at a price somewhere in
between. As these examples show, the buyers’ and sellers’ desires and incentives
determine prices and make markets work. We will begin with the demand
(buyer’s) side, and then turn to the supply (seller’s) side of the market.
Choice and The
Law of Demand
Clearly, prices influence our decisions. As the price of a good
increases, we have to give up more of other goods if we want to
buy it. Thus, as the price of a good rises, its opportunity cost
increases (in terms of other goods that must be forgone to
purchase it). This basic principle underlies the law of
demand. The law of demand states that there is an inverse
(or negative) relationship between the price of a good or
service and the quantity of it that consumers are willing to
purchase. This inverse relationship means that price and the
quantity consumers wish to purchase move in opposite
directions. As the price increases, buyers purchase less—and as
the price decreases, buyers purchase more.
ConceptClips: Law of Demand
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The availability of substitutes—goods that perform similar
functions—helps explain this inverse relationship. No single
good is absolutely essential; everything can be replaced with
something else. A chicken sandwich can be substituted for a
cheeseburger. Wood, aluminum, bricks, and glass can take the
place of steel. Going to the movies, playing tennis, watching
television, and going to a football game are substitute forms of
entertainment. When the price of a good increases, people cut
back on their purchases of it and turn to substitute products.
Market Demand
The lower portion of Exhibit 1 shows a hypothetical demand
schedule for pizza delivery in a city. A demand schedule is
simply a table listing the various quantities of something
consumers are willing to purchase at different prices. When the
price of a large pizza delivery is $35, only 4,000 people per
month order pizza delivery. As the price falls to $25, the
quantity of pizza deliveries demanded rises to 8,000 per month;
when the price falls to $10, the quantity demanded increases to
14,000 per month.
Exhibit 1Law of Demand
As the demand schedule shown in the table indicates, the number of
people ordering pizza delivery (just like the consumption of other
products) is inversely related to price. The data from the table are
plotted as a demand curve in the graph. The inverse relationship
between price and amount demanded reflects the fact that consumers
will substitute away from a good as it becomes more expensive.
Quantity (in thousands per month)
The upper portion of Exhibit 1 shows what the demand
schedule would look like if the various prices and
corresponding quantities were plotted on a graph and
connected by a line. This is called the demand curve. When
representing the demand schedule graphically, economists
measure price on the vertical or -axis and the amount
demanded on the horizontal or -axis. Because of the inverse
relationship between price and amount purchased, the demand
curve will have a negative slope—that is, it will slope downward
to the right. More of a good will be purchased as its price
decreases. This is the law of demand.
Read horizontally, the demand curve shows how much of a
particular good consumers are willing to buy at a given price.
Read vertically, the demand curve shows how much consumers
value the good. The height of the demand curve at any quantity
shows the maximum price consumers are willing to pay for an
additional unit. If consumers value highly an additional unit of a
product, they will be willing to pay a large amount for it.
Conversely, if they place a low value on the additional unit, they
will be willing to pay only a small amount for it.
Because the amount a consumer is willing to pay for a good is
directly related to the good’s value to them, the height of the
demand curve indicates the marginal benefit (or value)
consumers receive from additional units. (Recall that we briefly
discussed marginal benefit in Chapter 1.) When viewed in this
manner, the demand curve reveals that as consumers have
more and more of a good or service, they value additional units
less and less.
Previously, we indicated that voluntary exchanges make both
buyers and sellers better off. The demand curve can be used to
illustrate the gains to consumers. Suppose you value a
particular good at $50, but you are able to purchase it for only
$30. Your net gain from buying the good is the $20 difference.
Economists call this net gain of buyers consumer surplus.
Consumer surplus is simply the difference between the
maximum amount consumers would be willing to pay and the
amount they actually pay for a good.
Exhibit 2 shows the consumer surplus for an entire market. The
height of the demand curve measures how much buyers in the
market value each unit of the good. The price indicates the
amount they actually pay. The difference between these two—
the triangular area below the demand curve but above the price
paid—is a measure of the total consumer surplus generated by
all exchanges of the good. The size of the consumer surplus, or
triangular area, is affected by the market price. If the market
price for the good falls, more of it will be purchased, resulting in
a larger surplus for consumers. Conversely, if the market price
rises, less of it will be purchased, resulting in a smaller surplus
(net gain) for consumers.
Exhibit 2Consumer Surplus
Consumer surplus is the area below the demand curve but above the
actual price paid. This area represents the net gains to buyers from
market exchange.
Because the value a consumer places on a particular unit of a
good is shown by the corresponding height of the demand
curve, we can use the demand curve to clarify the difference
between the marginal value and total value of a good—a
distinction we introduced briefly in Chapter 1. Returning
to Exhibit 2, if consumers are currently purchasing units, the
marginal value of the good is indicated by the height of the
demand curve at —the last unit consumed (or purchased). So at
each quantity, the height of the demand curve shows the
marginal value of that unit, which as you can see declines along
a demand curve. The total value of the good, however, is equal
to the combined value of all units purchased. This is the sum of
the value of each unit (the heights along the demand curve) on
the -axis, out to and including unit . This total value is indicated
graphically as the entire area under the demand curve out
to (the triangular area representing consumer surplus plus the
unshaded rectangular area directly below it).
You can see that the total value to consumers of a good can be
far greater than the marginal value of the last unit consumed.
When additional units are available at a low price, the marginal
value of a good may be quite low, even though its total value to
consumers is exceedingly high. This is usually the case with
water. The value of the first few units of water consumed per
day will be exceedingly high. The consumer surplus derived
from these units will also be large when water is plentiful at a
low price. As more and more units are consumed, however,
the marginal value of even something as important as water will
fall to a low level. When water is cheap, then, people will use it
not only for drinking, cleaning, and cooking but also for washing
cars, watering lawns, flushing toilets, and maintaining fish
aquariums. Thus, although the total value of water is rather
large, its marginal value is quite low.
Consumers will tend to expand their consumption of a good
until its price and marginal value are equal (which occurs
at in Exhibit 2 at a price of ). Thus, the price of a good (which
equals marginal value) reveals little about the total
value derived from the consumption of it. This is the reason that
the market price of diamonds (which reflects their high
marginal value) is greater than the market price of water (which
has a low marginal value), even though the total value of
diamonds is far less than the total value of water. Think of it this
way: Beginning from your current levels of consumption, if you
were offered a choice between one diamond or one gallon of
water right now, which would you take? You would probably
take the diamond, because at the margin it has more value to
you than additional water. However, if given a choice between
giving up all of the water you use or all of the diamonds you
have, you would probably keep the water over diamonds,
because water has more total value to you.
Quantity Demanded to Price
Changes: Elastic and
Inelastic Demand Curves
As we previously noted, the availability of substitutes is the
main reason why the demand curve for a good slopes
downward. Some goods, however, are much easier than others
to substitute away from. As the price of tacos rises, most
consumers find hamburgers a reasonable substitute. Because of
the ease of substitutability, the quantity of tacos demanded is
quite sensitive to a change in their price. Economists would say
that the demand for tacos is relatively elastic because a small
price change will cause a rather large change in the amount
purchased. Alternatively, goods like gasoline and electricity
have fewer close substitutes. When their prices rise, it is harder
for consumers to find substitutes for these products. When close
substitutes are unavailable, even a large price change may not
cause much of a change in the quantity demanded. In this case,
an economist would say that the demand for such goods is
relatively inelastic.
Graphically, this different degree of responsiveness is reflected
in the steepness of the demand curve, as shown in Exhibit 3. The
flatter demand curve (, left frame) is for a product like tacos, for
which the quantity purchased is highly responsive to a change
in price. As the price increases from $2.00 to $4.00, the quantity
demanded falls sharply from ten to four units. The steeper
demand curve (, right frame) is for a product like gasoline, for
which the quantity purchased is much less responsive to a
change in price. For gasoline, an increase in price from $2.00 to
$4.00 results in only a small reduction in the quantity purchased
(from ten to eight units). An economist would say that the
flatter demand curve is “relatively elastic,” whereas the steeper
demand curve is “relatively inelastic.” The availability of
substitutes is the main determinant of a product’s elasticity or
inelasticity and thus how flat or steep its demand curve is.
Exhibit 3Elastic and Inelastic Demand Curves
The responsiveness of consumer purchases to a change in price is
reflected in the steepness of the demand curve. The flatter demand
curve for tacos shows a higher degree of responsiveness and is called
relatively elastic, while the steeper demand curve for gasoline shows a
lower degree of responsiveness and is called relatively inelastic.
What would a demand curve that was perfectly vertical
represent? Economists refer to this as a “perfectly” inelastic
demand curve, meaning that the quantity demanded of the
product never changes—regardless of its price. Although it is
tempting to think that the demand curves are vertical for goods
essential to human life (or goods that are addictive), this is
inaccurate for two reasons. First, in varying degrees, there are
substitutes for everything. As the price of a good rises, the
incentive increases for suppliers to invent even more
substitutes. Thus, even for goods that currently have few
substitutes, if the price were to rise high enough, alternatives
would be invented and marketed, reducing the quantity
demanded of the original good. Second, our limited incomes
restrict our ability to afford goods when they become very
expensive. As the price of a good rises to higher and higher
levels, if we do not cut back on the quantity purchased, we will
have less and less income to spend on other things. Eventually,
this will cause us to cut back on our purchases of it. Because of
these two reasons, the demand curve for every good will slope
downward to the right.
in Demand versus
Changes in Quantity
ConceptClips: Changes in Demand
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The purpose of the demand curve is to show what effect a price change
will have on the quantity demanded (or purchased) of a good.
Economists refer to a change in the quantity of a good purchased in
response solely to a price change as a “change in quantity demanded.” A
change in quantity demanded is simply a movement along a demand
curve from one point to another.
Changes in factors other than a good’s price—such as consumers’
income and the prices of closely related goods—will also influence the
decisions of consumers to purchase a good. If one of these other factors
changes, the entire demand curve will shift inward or outward.
Economists refer to a shift in the demand curve as a “change in demand.”
Failure to distinguish between a change in demand and a change in
quantity demanded is one of the most common mistakes made by
beginning economics students. A change in demand is a shift in the
entire demand curve. A change in quantity demanded is a movement
along the same demand curve. The easiest way to distinguish between
these two concepts is the following: If the change in consumer
purchases is caused by a change in the price of the good, it is a change in
quantity demanded—a movement along the demand curve; if the
change in consumer purchases is due to a change in anything other than
the price of the good (a change in consumer income, for example), it is a
change in demand—a shift in the demand curve.
Let us now take a closer look at some of the factors that cause a “change
in demand“—an inward or outward shift in the entire demand curve.
1. Changes in consumer income.
An increase in
consumer income makes it possible for consumers to purchase more
goods. If you were to win the lottery, or if your boss were to give you a
raise, you would respond by increasing your spending on many
products. Alternatively, when the economy goes into a recession, falling
incomes and rising unemployment cause consumers to reduce their
purchases of many items. A change in consumer income will result in
consumers buying more or less of a product at all possible prices. When
consumer income increases, in the case of most goods, individuals will
purchase more of the good even if the price is unchanged. This is shown
by a shift to the right—an outward shift—in the demand curve. Such a
shift is called an increase in demand. A reduction in consumer income
generally causes a shift to the left—an inward shift—in the demand
curve, which is called a decrease in demand. Note that the appropriate
terminology here is an increase or a decrease in demand, not an
increase or a decrease in quantity demanded.
Exhibit 4 highlights the difference between a change in demand and a
change in quantity demanded. The demand curve indicates the initial
demand curve for tablet computers. At a price of $300, consumers will
purchase units. If the price were to decline to $100, the quantity
demanded would increase from to . The arrow in panel (a) indicates the
change in quantity demanded—a movement along the original demand
curve in response to the change in price. Now, alternatively suppose
there were an increase in income that caused the demand for tablet
computers to shift from to . As indicated by the arrows in panel (b), the
entire demand curve would shift outward. At the higher income level,
consumers would be willing to purchase more tablet computers than
before. This is true at a price of $300, $200, $100, and every other price.
The increase in income leads to an increase in demand—a shift in the
entire curve.
2. Changes in the number of consumers in the
market. Businesses that sell products in college towns are greatly
saddened when summer arrives. As you might expect in these towns,
the demand for many items—from pizza delivery to beer—falls during
the summer. Exhibit 5 shows how the falling number of consumers in
the market caused by students going home for the summer affects the
demand for pizza delivery. With fewer customers, the demand curve
shifts inward from to . There is a decrease in demand; pizza stores sell
fewer pizzas than before regardless of what price they originally
charged. Had their original price been $20, then demand would fall from
200 pizzas per week to only 100. Alternatively, had their original price
been $10, then demand would fall from 300 pizzas to 200. When
autumn arrives and the students come back to town, there will be an
increase in demand that will restore the curve to about its original
position. As cities grow and shrink, and as international markets open
up to domestic firms, changes in the number of consumers affect the
demand for many products.
3. Changes in the price of a related good. Changes in
prices of closely related products also influence the choices of
consumers. Related goods may be either substitutes or complements.
When two products perform similar functions or fulfill similar needs,
they are substitutes. Economists define goods as substitutes when there
is a direct relationship between the price of one and the demand for the
other—meaning an increase in the price of one leads to an increase in
demand for the other (they move in the same direction). For example,
margarine is a substitute for butter. If the price of butter rises, it will
increase the demand for margarine as consumers substitute margarine
for the more expensive butter. Conversely, lower butter prices will
reduce the demand for margarine, shifting the entire demand curve for
margarine to the left.
Gasoline and hybrid cars provide another example of a substitute
relationship. When gasoline prices rise, the demand for gas–electric
hybrid cars increases and vice versa. Beef and chicken, pencils and pens,
apples and oranges, and coffee and tea provide other examples of goods
with substitute relationships.
Other products are consumed jointly, so the demands for them are
linked together as well. Examples of goods that “go together” include
peanut butter and jelly, hot dogs and hot dog buns, and tents and other
camping equipment. These goods are called complements. For
complements, a decrease in the price of one will not only increase its
quantity demanded; it will also increase the demand for the other good.
The reverse is also true. As a complement becomes more expensive, the
quantity demanded of it will fall, and so will the demand for its
complements. For example, if the price of steak rises, grocery stores can
expect to sell fewer bottles of steak sauce, even if the price of steak
sauce remains unchanged.
4. Changes in expectations.
Consumers’ expectations
about the future also can affect the current demand for a product. If
consumers begin to expect that a major hurricane will strike their area,
the current demand for batteries and canned food will rise. Expectations
about the future direction of the economy can also affect current
demand. If consumers are pessimistic about the economy, they start
spending less, causing the current demand for goods to fall. Perhaps
most important is how a change in the expected future price of a good
affects current demand. When consumers expect the price of a product
to rise in the near future, their current demand for it will increase.
Gasoline is a good example. If you expect the price to increase soon,
you’ll want to fill up your tank now before the price goes up. In contrast,
consumers will delay a purchase if they expect the item to decrease in
price. No doubt you have heard someone say, “I’ll wait until it goes on
sale.” When consumers expect the price of a product to fall, current
demand for it will decline.
5. Demographic changes. The demand for many products is
strongly influenced by the demographic composition of the market. An
increase in the elderly population in the United States in recent years
has increased the demand for medical care, retirement housing, and
vacation travel. The demand curves for these goods have shifted to the
right. During the 1980s, the number of people aged 15 to 24 fell by more
than 5 million. Because young people are a major part of the U.S. market
for jeans, the demand for jeans fell by more than 100 million pairs over
the course of the decade. More recently, the increased use of cell
phones has led to a dramatic reduction in the demand for digital
cameras and alarm clocks.
6. Changes in consumer tastes and
preferences. Why do preferences change? Preferences change
because people change and because people acquire new information.
Consider how consumers respond to changing trends in popular diet
programs. The demand for high-carbohydrate foods like white bread
has fallen substantially, whereas the demand for low-carbohydrate
foods like beef has risen. This is a major change from the past, when the
demand for beef fell because of the “heart-healthy” eating habits
consumers preferred then. Trends in the markets for clothing, toys,
collectibles, and entertainment are constantly causing changes in the
demand for these products as well. Firms may even try to change
consumer preferences for their own products through advertising and
information brochures.
The accompanying Thumbnail Sketch summarizes the major factors that
cause a change in demand—a shift of the entire demand curve—and
points out that quantity demanded (but not demand) will change in
response to a change in the price of a good.
Thumbnail Sketch
Factors That Cause Changes in Demand and Quantity
This factor changes the quantity demanded of a good:
The price of the good: A higher price decreases the quantity demanded; a lower
price increases the quantity demanded.
These factors change the demand for a good:
Consumer income: Lower consumer income will generally decrease demand;
higher consumer income will generally increase demand.
Number of consumers in the market: Fewer consumers decreases demand; more
consumers increases demand.
Price of a substitute good: A decrease in the price of a substitute decreases the
demand for the original good; an increase in the price of a substitute increases
the demand for the original good.
Price of a complementary good: An increase in the price of a complement
decreases the demand for the original good; a decrease in the price of a
complement increases the demand for the original good.
Expected future price of the good: If the price of a good is expected to fall in the
future, the current demand for it will decrease; if the price of a good is expected
to rise in the future, the current demand for it will increase.
Demographic changes: Population trends in age, gender, race, and other factors
can increase or decrease demand for specific goods.
Consumer preferences: Changes in consumer tastes and preferences can
increase or decrease demand for specific goods.
Choice and The
Law of Supply
Now let’s shift our focus to producers and the supply side of the
market. How does the market process determine the amount of
each good that will be produced? To figure this out, we first
have to understand what influences the choices of producers.
Producers convert resources into goods and services by doing
the following:
1. organizing productive inputs and resources, like land,
labor, capital, natural resources, and intermediate goods;
2. transforming and combining these inputs into goods and
services; and
3. selling the final products to consumers.
Producers have to purchase the resources at prices determined
by market forces. Predictably, the owners of these resources
will supply the resources only at prices at least equal to what
they could earn elsewhere. Put another way, each resource the
producers buy to make their product has to be bid away from all
other potential uses. Its owner has to be paid its opportunity
cost. The sum of the producer’s cost of each resource used to
produce a good will equal the opportunity cost of production.
There is an important difference between the opportunity cost
of production and standard accounting measures of cost.
Accountants generally do not count the cost of assets owned by
the firm when they calculate the firm’s cost. But economists do.
Economists consider the fact that the assets owned by the firm
could be used some other way—in other words, that they have
an opportunity cost. Unless these opportunity costs are covered,
the resources will eventually be used in other ways.
The opportunity cost of the assets owned by the firm is the
earnings these assets could have generated if they were used in
another way. Consider a manufacturer that invests $100 million
in buildings and equipment to produce shirts. Instead of buying
buildings and equipment, the manufacturer could simply put
the $100 million in the bank and let it draw interest. If the $100
million were earning, say, 5 percent interest, the firm would
make $5 million on that money in a year’s time. This $5 million
in forgone interest is part of the firm’s opportunity cost of
producing shirts. Unlike an accountant, an economist will take
that $5 million opportunity cost into account. If the firm plans to
invest the money in shirt-making equipment, it had better earn
more from making the shirts than the $5 million it could earn by
simply putting the money in the bank. If the firm can’t generate
enough to cover all of its costs, including the opportunity cost of
assets owned by the firm, it will not continue in business. If the
firm were earning only $3 million producing shirts, it might be
earning profit on its accounting statement, but it would be
suffering a $2 million economic loss relative to simply putting
the money in the bank.
ConceptClips: Law of Supply
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Role of Profits and
Keys to Economic Prosperity
Profits and Losses
Profits direct producers toward activities that increase the value of resources; losses
impose a penalty on those who reduce the value of resources.
Firms earn a profit when the revenues from the goods and services that
they supply exceed the opportunity cost of the resources used to make
them. Consumers will not buy goods and services unless they value
them at least as much as their purchase price. For example, Susan would
not be willing to pay $40 for a pair of jeans unless she valued them by at
least that amount. At the same time, the seller’s opportunity cost of
supplying a good will reflect the value consumers place on other goods
that could have been produced with those same resources. This is true
precisely because the seller has to bid those resources away from other
producers wanting to use them.
Think about what it means when, for example, a firm is able to produce
jeans at a cost of $30 per pair and sell them for $40, thereby reaping a
profit of $10 per pair. The $30 opportunity cost of the jeans indicates
that the resources used to produce the jeans could have been used to
produce other items worth $30 to consumers (perhaps a denim