Economists use some terminology that appears unfamiliar and often scares world away indigenous wanting to discover more. I’ve knowledgeable this most in the classroom, having to address the trepidation of my students that feel overwhelmed.

You are watching: Making a decision at the margin

But once we unpack these seemingly unfamiliar words, we discover they simply make sense. We space all operating, on some level, as economists. Us make selections under scarcity and we seek understanding that is scattered. And we count the costs connected with ours choices, at the very least the noticeable costs. Transforming our paradigm to incorporate the economic method of reasoning can help us be even much more efficient or intentional about our decision-making.

One of these econ-speak terms is “marginal decision-making.” It’s an essential element of how we choose, therefore let’s invest some time ~ above it.

My husband has actually three sisters and a brother. Each Christmas, we have actually a legacy with my in-laws to to fill each of our stockings v fun treats and also most the them room surprises. But one gift shows up each year and also is met with great anticipation: an American to express gift card. By far, this is my favourite gift due to the fact that it is a gift the freedom. I deserve to do whatever I want with that money. I deserve to go to the mall and buy pair of shoes (always a fun selection for me), buy garments for my kid (more likely), some new books turn off my great list, or whatever I want!

And you know what? I have never excellent the same thing with that card. My perform of what to perform with the map is various every year. That’s due to the fact that how that gift card will certainly be invested is dependent on the paper definition of time and place. What space my needs, and also what are top priorities this year? That will influence exactly how I invest the card. As soon as I remained in graduate school the card helped buy groceries and also pay bills. Due to the fact that my needs and also priorities have changed, now the money largely goes to my son. And also on occasion, shoes.

We are never making decisions in a vacuum; quite all decisions space made in ~ the margin. This means that they represent loved one tradeoffs based on who we are, what we need and what we prefer. These room all extremely context-specific and adjust based top top time and place. Jim Gwartney specifies it this way in his publication Common feeling Economics,

Nearly all selections are made in ~ the margin. That way they virtually always involve additions to, or subtractions from, existing conditions, rather than every or nothing decisions…We don’t do all-or-nothing decisions, such together choosing between eating or attract clothes…Instead us choose in between having a little more food at the expense of a little less clothing.

In regards to my gift card, it to represent a marginal monetary addition to my overall income. It increases the choices that I have the right to afford and I deserve to allocate it based upon my priorities, needs, or wants.

As you review this post, I suspect this method of reasoning resonates through you, and also that you find yourself using this type of analysis in her choices. The danger comes once we overlook marginal decision making, i m sorry happens regularly in the world of publicly policy. Because that example, you might hear someone say “We require to achieve (X)!” but the expenses of accomplishing (X) room so high, the the marginal benefit is swamped by the included cost.

What does this mean for way decision-making? It method that we need to interact in prayerful consideration of every one of our stewardship (economic) decisions. It way we need to avoid place too much weight top top past costs of our time, resources, and energy which are “sunk” (something we debated last week). Though past costs deserve reflection and prayer and we deserve to learn native them, they space past.

The use of marginal analysis helps us much better steward our time, money, and also resources for every one of our Kingdom-building work.

Question: how have your priorities adjusted in recent years? has that influenced the decision you make on the margin? leave a comment here.

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Dr. Ann BradleyAnne Bradley, Ph.D. Is the George and Sally Mayer fellow for economic Education and the academic director at The fund for American Studies. She additionally serves as the Vice chairman of financial Initiatives in ~ the Institute because that Faith, job-related & Economics. She offered as co-editor and also contributing writer to IFWE’s Counting the Cost: Christian Perspectives top top Capitalism (Abilene Christian university Press) and also For the the very least of These: A Biblical Answer come Poverty (Zondervan). Anne received her Ph.D. In economics from George Mason University. She is a visiting professor at Georgetown University and has formerly taught in ~ George Mason University and at Charles college in Prague.