Prof. Lionel Robbins gave his definition of economics in his book” Nature and significance of Economic Science” in the year 1932 .He defined economics as,
“Economics is the science that studies human behavior as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses.”
Robbins definition is based on:
1. Multiplicity of wants.
2.Scarcity of means
In other words, Robbins definition says that:
1.The ends are unlimited,
2.The means to achieve those ends are limited, and
3.The means are capable of alternative uses.
Followings are some of the attributes of Robbins definition:
As a matter of fact, never come to an end. They are always unlimited. As soon as one want is satisfied, another comes forward. Thus it is the unlimitedness of a person wants that never stops him from working and keeps him engaged in the work of earning money for the satisfaction of his wants.
It refers to the limited resources due to which economic problems arise. But if the resources were unlimited, then consequently there would have no economic problems and all the wants would have been satisfied. But it should be noted that the means are scare with respect to their demand.
3. Selection / Urgency of Wants:
It is obvious that some of the wants are more urgent for us as compared to others. Naturally, we go to satisfy our urgent needs / wants first and then the remaining ones. If all the wants are same there would be no urgency to fulfill then and hence no economic problem would arise.
According to the Robbins definition all the scars means are capable of alternative uses i.e. they can be put to a number of uses e.g. water can be used for drinking as well as for cooking. The main problem arises that where the utilization should be made first.
Robbins in his definition has broadened the scope of economics. According to him economics is the study of human behavior as a whole both with in and out side the society. It does not restrict the subject matter within specific limits.
Robin’s definition also faces criticism from many economists. Some of the criticizing points areas follows:
According to Robins, economics discovers only the facts that give rise to certain problems and does not give suggestions as to how to deal with human behavior that varies from man to man and from time to time. So it is not a physical science, which deals with matter and energy and remains unchanged at any place. Economics is therefore not a physical science. It discovers both causes / efforts and suggestions.
In Robbins definition the human touch is entirely missing. It does not take in to account the systematic thinking, human sympathy, imagination and the variety of human life.
Robbins has made economics more abstract and complex and hence difficult. This distracts from its utility for the common man. Utilities of economics lie in being a concrete and realistic study.
Another criticism on Robbins definition is that it ignores the macro aspect. It has ignored the issues like employment, national income from its boundaries.
The economic growth theory or economic development theory has been overlooked in Robbins definition. Economics of growth explains how an economy grows and the factors, which bring about an increase in national income and productivity of the economy. Robbins takes the resources as given and discusses only their allocation.