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the Great Depression

Coexistence and complementarity

Microeconomics is based on models of consumers or firms (which economists call agents) that make decisions about what to buy, sell, or produce—with the assumption that those decisions result in perfect market clearing (demand equals supply) and other ideal conditions. Macroeconomics, on the other hand, began from observed divergences from what would have been anticipated results under the classical tradition.

Today the two fields coexist and complement each other.

Microeconomics, in its examination of the behavior of individual consumers and firms, is divided into consumer demand theory, production theory (also called the theory of the firm), and related topics such as the nature of market competition, economic welfare, the role of imperfect information in economic outcomes, and at the most abstract, general equilibrium, which deals simultaneously with many markets. Much economic analysis is microeconomic in nature. It concerns such issues as the effects of minimum wages, taxes, price supports, or monopoly on individual markets and is filled with concepts that are recognizable in the real world. It has applications in trade, industrial organization and market structure, labor economics, public finance, and welfare economics. Microeconomic analysis offers insights into such disparate efforts as making business decisions or formulating public policies.

Macroeconomics is more abstruse. It describes relationships among aggregates so big as to be hard to apprehend—such as national income, savings, and the overall price level. The field is conventionally divided into the study of national economic growth in the long run, the analysis of short-run departures from equilibrium, and the formulation of policies to stabilize the national economy—that is, to minimize fluctuations in growth and prices. Those policies can include spending and taxing actions by the government or monetary policy actions by the central bank.