Opportunity Cost

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Alternative Uses

All the resources we have on this planet can be utilised in a number of way. They have alternative uses. For example, a piece of land can be used for making a factory, or doing farming or constructing a school and so on. Therefore, we have to choose what is best for us. If we talk from an economist point of view it means ‘making the optimum use of resource available’.

Opportunity Cost

Though we have alternative uses, we have to select the best way to use these resources. When we choose best alternative, the next best alternative which is left out is known as the Opportunity cost of making a choice. In other words, the benefits we lost and could have been achieved from the next best alternative.

Examples of Opportunity Cost

A person who invests $10,000 in a stock denies themselves the interest they could have earned by leaving the $10,000 dollars in a bank account instead. The opportunity cost of the decision to invest in stock is the value of the interest.

If a city decides to build a hospital on vacant land it owns, the opportunity cost is the value of the benefits forgone of the next best thing which might have been done with the land and construction funds instead. In building the hospital, the city has forgone the opportunity to build a sports centre on that land, or a parking lot.

Economic Problem

The problem then becomes how to determine what is to be produced and how the factors of production (such as capital and labour) are to be allocated. Economics revolves around methods and possibilities of solving the economic problem.

Production Possibility Curve/Production Possibility Boundary/Production Possibility Frontier/Opportunity Cost Curve

From the point of view of an Economy, there is an opportunity cost of using its resources. Production Possibility curve (PPC) shows the maximum combinations of goods and services that can be produced by an economy in a given time period with its limited resources.


In the graph, if all the resources are used to produce Schools then there will be no Hospitals. If you move to the other end then all the resources would be used to produce Hospitals and not Schools will be there in the economy. Government has to move along this curve and decide the best possible combination of goods to produce. For example Z, shows the possible combinations of School buildings and Hospitals. Thus, it is impossible to build more Schools without also building fewer Hospitals. Resources have to be switched from building more Hospitals to building more Schools. This is known as relocation of resources. Before the relocation of resources we will have to consider the costs of relocating these resources between uses. This cost will include retraining cost of our workforce and the time consumed in this relocation. Any point outside the curve is unattainable unless there is an outward shift of the PPC. This can only be possible if there is an improvement in the quantity and/or quality of factors of production. This is known as economic growth. It is a process of increasing the economy’s ability to produce goods and services.

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