P.A. Samuelson's Definition of Economics - (Modern) Growth Definition


Introduction to P.A. Samuelson

Paul Anthony Samuelson was an American economist and the first American to win the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1970. Samuelson is one of the most influential economists of the 20th century and is known for his contributions to modern economic theory. He wrote the book “Foundations of Economic Analysis,” which helped establish economics as a mathematical and analytical discipline.

P.A Samuelson’s Growth definition (Modern Definition) of Economics

P.A Samuelson’s Growth definition of Economics is a modern definition of economics that focuses on studying economic growth and development. According to Samuelson, “economics studies how people and societies allocate scarce resources to satisfy unlimited wants and needs over time.” The central theme of his definition is the importance of economic growth, which he believes is the key to solving many of the world’s problems.

Samuelson’s definition emphasizes the role of technological progress and innovation in economic growth. He argues that economic growth leads to an increase in the standard of living and that economic policies should be designed to promote long-term economic growth. Samuelson’s definition also recognizes the importance of the environment in economic decision-making, as environmental degradation can negatively impact economic growth and development.

Samuelson’s Growth definition of Economics represents a departure from earlier definitions that focused primarily on material welfare or scarcity and choice. Instead, it emphasizes the importance of economic growth and development to improve people’s lives over time.

In several ways, P.A. Samuelson’s definition of economic growth differs from those of Chanakya, Adam Smith, Marshall, and Robbins. Chanakya’s definition focuses on getting rich by doing good things and promoting the common good. Samuelson’s definition, on the other hand, focuses on how societies use scarce resources to grow their economies.

Adam Smith’s definition focuses on the “invisible hand” and how the market self-regulates. In contrast, Samuelson’s definition focuses on the role of government intervention in promoting economic growth. Marshall’s definition focused on material welfare, while Samuelson focused on economic growth to improve living standards.

Lastly, Robbins’ definition puts more emphasis on scarcity and individual choice. In comparison, Samuelson’s definition emphasises economic growth as a way to make more resources available and improve the well-being of society as a whole.

Unlike other old definitions of economics, P.A. Samuelson’s growth definition of economics can be expressed mathematically as follows:

Y = ƒ(K,L,H,N)


Y represents the output of goods and services,

K represents capital, L represents labour,

H represents technology, and

N represents natural resources.

According to Samuelson, the main focus of economics is to increase the output of goods and services, which can be achieved by increasing the factors of production, such as capital, labour, technology, and natural resources. This mathematical representation highlights the importance of these factors in the production process and their impact on economic growth.

By maximizing the production function, countries can achieve sustained economic growth and improve the standard of living of their citizens.

Characteristics or Features of P.A Samuelson’s Definition of Economics

  1. Focus on economic growth: P.A. Samuelson’s definition of economics strongly emphasises economic growth as the primary goal of the economy. Samuelson believed economic growth was necessary to improve people’s living standards and achieve societal welfare.
  2. Interdisciplinary approach: The definition incorporates insights from various social sciences, such as sociology, psychology, and political science, to understand the complex nature of economic phenomena. Samuelson believed a multidisciplinary approach is necessary to analyze and solve economic problems.
  3. Rational behaviour assumption: Samuelson’s definition assumes that individuals act rationally to maximize utility or satisfaction. This means that people make decisions based on their preferences and the available information and seek to achieve the best possible outcome for themselves.
  4. Market-oriented perspective: Samuelson’s definition views the market system as the most efficient way to allocate resources and produce goods and services. He believed a competitive market system encourages innovation, efficiency, and productivity.
  5. Dynamic and evolving concept: Samuelson’s definition recognizes that the economy is constantly changing and evolving. He believed economic analysis must be dynamic and adaptive to the changing economic environment.
  6. Global perspective: Samuelson’s definition recognizes that economic problems and issues are not limited to national boundaries. He believed that economic analysis must be conducted globally to address the challenges of globalization, international trade, and economic development.

Supporters of P.A. Samuelson’s Growth definition of Economics

P.A. Samuelson’s definition of economics has been widely accepted and supported by many economists, policymakers, and academics. Some prominent supporters of his definition include Nobel laureates like Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, and Amartya Sen, who have praised his contributions to economic theory and policy.

Samuelson’s emphasis on economic growth, multidisciplinary approach, and rational behaviour assumption has influenced modern economics’ development and contributed to understanding economic phenomena. Moreover, his global perspective has helped to promote international cooperation and understanding in economic policymaking.


Criticisms of P.A. Samuelson’s Growth definition of Economics

P.A Samuelson’s Growth definition of Economics has faced several criticisms from various economists. Critics of Samuelson’s definition include notable economists such as Amartya Sen, Robert Solow, and Joseph Stiglitz. Here are the major criticisms:

  1. Overemphasis on Growth: Some critics argue that Samuelson’s definition puts too much emphasis on economic growth and ignores other important aspects of the economy, such as income distribution, environmental sustainability, and social welfare.
  2. Limited Scope: Another criticism is that the definition is too narrow, focusing only on producing and distributing goods and services and overlooking essential factors such as the role of government and institutions in the economy.
  3. Neglect of Human Development: Samuelson’s definition has been criticized for overlooking the importance of human development and well-being. Critics argue that the ultimate goal of economic growth should be to improve the quality of life for individuals rather than increase the production of goods and services.
  4. Ignorance of Inequality: Some economists argue that Samuelson’s definition fails to account for the unequal distribution of wealth and resources in society, which can significantly impact economic growth and development.
  5. Not Comprehensive: Finally, critics argue that Samuelson’s definition is not comprehensive enough and fails to capture the complexity of the modern economy. Some argue it is too focused on traditional macroeconomic measures such as GDP and ignores the role of technology, globalization, and other emerging trends.

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