03 The Definition of “Price”
Prices determine how resources are to be used. They are also the means by which products and services that are in limited supply are rationed among buyers. The price system of the United States is a complex network composed of the prices of all the products bought and sold in the economy as well as those of a myriad of services, including labor, professional, transportation, and public-utility services. The interrelationships of all these prices make up the “system” of prices. The price of any particular product or service is linked to a broad, complicated system of prices in which everything seems to depend more or less upon everything else.
If one were to ask a group of randomly selected individuals to define “price”, many would reply that price is an amount of money paid by the buyer to the seller of a product or service or, in other words that price is the money values of a product or service as agreed upon in a market transaction. This definition is, of course, valid as far as it goes. For a complete understanding of a price in any particular transaction, much more than the amount of money involved must be known. Both the buyer and the seller should be familiar with not only the money amount, but with the amount and quality of the product or service to be exchanged, the time and place at which the exchange will take place and payment will be made, the form of money to be used, the credit terms and discounts that apply to the transaction, guarantees on the product or service, delivery terms, return privileges, and other factors. In other words, both buyer and seller should be fully aware of all the factors that comprise the total “package” being exchanged for the asked-for amount of money in order that they may evaluate a given price.
The modern age is an age of electricity. People are so used to electric lights, radio, televisions, and telephones that it is hard to imagine what life would be like without them. When there is a power failure, people grope about in flickering candlelight, cars hesitate in the streets because there are no traffic lights to guide them, and food spoils in silent refrigerators.
Yet, people began to understand how electricity works only a little more than two centuries ago. Nature has apparently been experimenting in this field for million of years. Scientists are discovering more and more that the living world may hold many interesting secrets of electricity that could benefit humanity.
All living cell send out tiny pulses of electricity. As the heart beats, it sends out pulses of record; they form an electrocardiogram, which a doctor can study to determine how well the heart is working. The brain, too, sends out brain waves of electricity, which can be recorded in an electroencephalogram. The electric currents generated by most living cells are extremely small – often so small that sensitive instruments are needed to record them. But in some animals, certain muscle cells have become so specialized as electrical generators that they do not work as muscle cells at all. When large numbers of these cell are linked together, the effects can be astonishing.
The electric eel is an amazing storage battery. It can seed a jolt of as much as eight hundred volts of electricity through the water in which it live. ( An electric house current is only one hundred twenty volts.) As many as four-fifths of all the cells in the electric eel’s body are specialized for generating electricity, and the strength of the shock it can deliver corresponds roughly to length of its body.