Economics is "a social science concerned chiefly with description and analysis of the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services" according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. The discipline was renamed in the late 19th century primarily due to Alfred Marshall from "political economy" to "economics" as a shorter term for "economic science" at a time when it became more open to rigorous thinking and made increased use of mathematics, which helped support efforts to have it accepted as a science and as a separate discipline outside of political science and other social sciences.
Economics focuses on the behaviour and interactions of economic agents and how economies work. Consistent with this focus, textbooks often distinguish between microeconomics and macroeconomics. Microeconomics examines the behaviour of basic elements in the economy, including individual agents and markets, their interactions and the outcomes of interactions. Individual agents may include, for example, households, firms, buyers and sellers. Macroeconomics analyses the entire economy (meaning aggregated production, consumption, savings and investment) and issues affecting it, including unemployment of resources (labour, capital and land), inflation, economic growth, and the public policies that address these issues (monetary, fiscal and other policies).
Other broad distinctions within economics include those between positive economics, describing "what is", and normative economics, advocating "what ought to be"; between economic theory and applied economics; between rational and behavioural economics; and between mainstream economics and heterodox economics.
Economic analysis can be applied throughout society, as in business, finance, health care, and government. Economic analyses may also be applied to such diverse subjects as crime, education, the family, law, politics, religion, social institutions, war, science and the environment. Education, for example, requires time, effort, and expenses, plus the foregone income and experience, yet these losses can be weighted against future benefits education may bring to the agent or the economy. At the turn of the 21st century, the expanding domain of economics in the social sciences has been described as economic imperialism. The ultimate goal of economics is to improve the living conditions of people in their everyday life.
This article uses material from the Wikipedia article "Economics" as of 20 Mar 2017, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.