Tutor profile: David P.
What are the two main divisions in economics? How do they relate to each other (both conceptually and in terms of shared tools)?
The two main divisions in economics are macroeconomics (the study of large scale/"general equilibrium" phenomena) and microeconomics (the study of small scale/"individual agents" phenomena). They both attempt to explain how individuals, households, firms, and nations allocate scarce resources in response to exogenous factors, with the goal of maximizing utility and they both seek to understand this through a combination of theoretical modeling and empirical analysis (called econometrics). However, they do so at different scales, and as such tend to answer slightly different questions -- for example, a microeconomist might try to explain how a household adjusts their consumption in response to an expected recession, while a macroeconomist might study how those adjustments, when repeated by millions of households, can induce or mitigate the expected recession.
Why is the Normal distribution, ironically, so special?
The Normal distribution is special for two reasons -- one, it describes a large number of natural phenomena, and two, it is very mathematically tractable (easy to work with). The Normal distribution describes phenomena ranging from reading ability to job satisfaction to height, which in-and-of-itself is pretty remarkable. On top of this, the Normal distribution, by virtue of some pretty fancy math, gives rise to remarkably simple formulae and rules-of-thumb to describe and utilize it (such as the z-score and the empirical rule).
What is the goal of finance, and why does this have social utility? Is finance just about "moving money around for eighty hours a week"?
The goal of finance is to reallocate resources across individuals/space, and across time, using abstract tools such as contracts and financial instruments. This has social utility because a well-functioning finance system allows resources to be spread across times of surplus and deficit, and frees up resources to be directed to their most productive uses without sacrificing private ownership. Therefore, finance is not just "moving money around...", finance is an integral part of what makes the modern economy, and the rising living standards which result from it, possible.
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