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Contrasting approaches to managing road traffic

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The transport economists amongst you will be giving considerable thought to the question of tackling road traffic congestion. I’ve picked up on two stories here because they take contrasting approaches. The first is to use technology and regulation to tackle the problem – the so-called command and control approach. The other relies on price signals, so might be described as a market led approach.

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Perfect weather and a bumper wheat crop – impact on the market

Sunday, September 07, 2014

A great example to start you off looking at how economists understand markets: after a run of rain-wrecked years, British farmers are bringing in the last of what looks like a bumper cereals harvest. 2014 could be the biggest yield ever for wheat. Good news. But for whom?

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The Economics of the Blockbuster

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Why do we get summer holiday blockbusters? They seem to matter more and more to Hollywood studios. According to one professor "the entertainment industry is moving more towards a winner-take-all-market". Yet it wasn't supposed to be like this. A best-selling 2008 book, The Long Tail, argued that the mainstream was going to be "shattered into a zillion different cultural shards," as fickle consumers "scattered to the winds" using the internet to find the books, films and songs that met their unique taste. So what might be going on?

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Small businesses - a bakery in the desert

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

This video report from BBC Global Business looks at the success of a very small scale bakery located in an isolated mountain our region of Spain. 

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Measuring a minimum income standard

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

How much money do you need for an 'adequate' standard of living? This short video from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation considers the levels of income needed to sustain a modest but adequate life-style in the UK in 2014.

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The Economics of Pay What You Want

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

People do care about fairness, social norms and not just about a cold calculation of marginal cost and marginal benefit. In this excellent short interview on BBC World, Joe Gladstone, Behavioural Scientist at the University of Cambridge, discusses the new form of "Pay What You Want" pricing. This means consumers can decide themselves how much they want to pay for a good or service. The catalyst is that several French hotels are experimenting with a pay what you like approach for their guests.

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Is Wayne Rooney an expert in rational economic theory?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

So, farewell then England! Yet another failure by our boys at the highest levels of the game. Despite their stupendous salaries, they seem once again to be unable to exhibit the necessary skills, a point which seems to exercise many fans of the game. Tens of thousands, if not millions, of words have been written about the purely footballing aspect already. But one topic which is hiding away under this torrent is the question of incentives.

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Using the price mechanism to boost allocative efficiency: ‘Smart’ electricity meters

Sunday, June 01, 2014

The price mechanism should help the economy to allocate resources more efficiently. Scarcity drives up prices, sending a signal to the economy – giving firms an incentive to produce more, and households the motivation to ration their consumption.

Could ‘smart’ electricity meters, linked to dynamic electricity prices, achieve something similar?

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Footballs in Pakistan: An Innovation Story

Friday, May 30, 2014

I am really grateful to Bob Denham from Econ Films who has shared with us this newly launched video from the International Growth Centre. It focuses on the competitive challenges facing Pakistan's football manufacturing sector as it loses market share to countries such as China and Indonesia. Footballs in Pakistan are still made mainly by hand, stitching together hexagons and pentagons - a process that leads to a lot of waste  and higher unit costs and which then affects the profitability of businesses in what is already a low-margin sector.

Could a team of economists find better ways of cutting the patterns for footballs and then align the incentives of workers and owners? This is a fascinating short video which captures many aspects of the Unit 4 development economics course. Enjoy!

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The ‘trade-off’ between work and leisure – update

Monday, May 19, 2014

If you’ve looked at labour markets, you’ll understand the basic theory: workers seek to supply more labour as wage rates rise, and the returns to work mount up. However, at some point, the marginal utility of extra leisure exceeds the marginal utility of extra income.

In other words, rich people start working less, because they can afford to. And for most of human history rich people had the most leisure, but that might be changing.

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Unit 1 Micro: Key Diagrams and Glossary

Friday, May 09, 2014

A document containing the key diagrams and terms for Unit 1 Micro is streamed below. 

You can also download this pdf document for free from our online store here

For more revision support for AS Micro, visit our dedicated AS Micro blog channel. We also have a free AS Micro revision class on our sister site Zondle and a wide collection of revision notes for AS Micro here on the tutor2u website. 

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Unit 1 Micro: Theory of Market Demand

Demand is the quantity of a good or service that consumers are willing and able to buy at a given price in a given time period

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Unit 1 Micro: Housing Market Failure

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Here is an updated revision presentation covering aspects of market imperfections / market failure in the UK housing industry. 

I have also linked to a recent presentation on the economics of rent controls.

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Unit 3 Micro: Tanzania’s cola wars

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Tanzanian cola producers are taking on Coca Cola and making headway in the battle for market share. Despite economic growth, there is a fragile middle class vulnerable to changes in world commodity prices and unstable employment and wages. This opens up an opportunity for indigenous food and drinks manufacturers who might be able to supply products at a lower price harnessing environmental aims such as recycling the majority of plastic bottles used.

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Unit 1 Micro: AS Micro Revision Quiz 4

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Here are twelve more questions covering markets and market failure - test your understanding with this zondle-powered quiz!

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Unit 1 Micro: Revision on Elasticity of Demand and Supply

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Our normal laws of demand suggest that as prices increase demand decreases whilst firms attempt to supply more (with the opposite happening as prices decrease). The concept of elasticity extends this understanding by asking the question ‘by how much does demand and supply change?’

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Unit 1 Micro: Options for Funding the BBC

Monday, March 31, 2014

How should a public service broadcaster be funded? This excellent article from the BBC looks at the financing of state broadcasters across a range of countries. The BBC is largely funded by the licence fee but as the article makes clear, there are many other options. The funding links back to the nature of broadcasting and the public good characteristics of much of the BBC's output.

Have a read of the article and then test your understanding of public and private goods using our Zondle quiz!

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Unit 1 Micro: Smoking Bans Improve Health

Friday, March 28, 2014

In 2007 a ban on smoking in enclosed public places was introduced in England - Scotland had introduced a similar measure a year earlier. Fresh evidence published in the medical journal The Lancet finds that enforced bans on smoking are now having a discernible effect on measures of public health.

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Unit 2 Macro: London House Prices continue to Surge

There seems little that is stopping the surge in London house prices at the moment but do you think the rapid acceleration of prices is good for either London or the wider UK economy? 

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Geographical mobility of labour in the UK

Saturday, March 22, 2014

One type of market failure that contributes to inequality and unemployment is the geographical immobility of labour

If the labour market really ‘cleared’ effectively, wages would equalise across the economy. Workers would drift away from regions with low wages and/or high unemployment towards areas where wages were higher and labour was scarce. 

Instead, we see wide disparities in earnings and pockets of regional unemployment - at the same time as skills shortages and wage inflation elsewhere.

Why are people finding it hard to move across the UK in search of work?

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How Coal Shortages Might Impact Indian Growth

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The development of India, or its non-development relative to China, is an interesting topic, and one that Bob Hindle has already been blogged about in relation to its tax system.

However, there are other aspects of the Indian economy that will also impede its ability to grow, notably its lack (or should that be 'lakh'?) of coal.

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Unit 2 Macro: Hurdle Rates and New Housebuilding

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The government wants more new homes to be built, so too do hard-pressed home-buyers facing a continued problem of low property affordability. But cautious construction companies are reluctant to press ahead favouring share buy-backs (returning money to their shareholders) and only a limited expansion of new building.

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Superbowl Adverts - Has the Viral Video Trumped the Big Event?

Saturday, February 01, 2014

The cost of a thirty second advertising slot at the annual Superbowl final is immense. This year advertisers are paying $4 million dollars for a 30 second advertisement during America's largest televised event. But big hits on the social web often produced at a tiny fraction of the cost challenge the conventional view that mega bucks spent reaching a TV audience remains a viable way of using the marketing dollars. This short news video from the Financial Times is a useful reminder of the importance attached to brand advertising by some of America's biggest consumer products.

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10 Questions on Income and Cross Price Elasticity

Friday, January 31, 2014

Here are ten revision questions covering income elasticity and cross price elasticity of demand

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10 Questions on Supply and Demand

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Here are ten multiple choice revision questions covering the topic market demand and market supply

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Unit 1 Micro: 10 Questions on Markets in Action

Here are ten questions for students wanting to check their understanding on markets in action

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Building a Future for Chocolate

Here is a short video on the challenges and opportunities facing cocoa producers across the world but especially in sub Saharan Africa which accounts for 70% of global production. Supply is struggling to keep pace with rising world demand and there have been some structural declines in production in several countries.

The FT's Emiko Terazono reports from Ghana on how chocolate manufacturers and traders are striving to boost cocoa supplies, which are coming under pressure from climate change and urbanisation amid growing demand for confectionery in emerging markets. Farmers are being encouraged to develop supplementary incomes and invest in sustainable production methods.

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Does Facebook have a Future?

So farewell, then, Facebook! That is the conclusion of a highly technical paper by two Princeton researchers, John Cannarella and Joshua Spechler, which received a lot of publicity in the press last week. The authors conclude that “Facebook will undergo a rapid decline in the coming years, losing 80 per cent of its peak user base between 2015 and 2017”.

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Unit 1 Micro: Revision on Government Intervention

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Here are somr revision resources on government intervention in markets. There are some revision notes, a streamed revision video from PJ Holden and then ten questions for students wanting to check their understanding on government intervention in markets

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Unit 1 Micro: Information Economics - How Many Sugars in a Coke?

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Do consumers of carbonated soft drinks really know how much sugar is in their regular fix? This five minute Newsnight clip is ideal for showing when teaching aspects of the economics of information failure. Will "getting the information in people's hands" help them to adjust their lifestyles? What are the economic arguments for and against direct intervention in the market for carbonated drinks such as a tax on high sugar content products? What are the alternative options or should we simply let consumers make their own choices?

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The NHS: Blinded By Love

Thursday, January 02, 2014

The NHS is part of the British establishment just as much as tea, talking about the weather and sarcasm. This view through rose-tinted spectacles has prevented serious debate and clouded our judgment. Foreign visitors are now being charged to use our A & E services, yet they can still see GP's for free. This ludicrous half measure is just one example that we are blinded by love for our NHS. A situation has arisen in which any attempt from politicians to discuss much needed improvements for the current healthcare system is political suicide. This is hindering development.

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Unit 1 Micro: Revision on the Price Mechanism

Sunday, December 01, 2013

A streamed presentation on aspects of the price mechanism with links to three revision quizzes plus revision notes and a revision video

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Unit 3 Micro: The Future of Gaming

Friday, November 29, 2013

The release of two major new iterations of games console including the PS4 is an opportune moment to take stock of the transformation of the oligopolistic computer gaming industry into one whose revenues now exceed films and where social gaming, connectivity and collaboration are features of an industry where dynamic efficiency is crucial. Paul Mason from Channel 4 news reports in this short clip.

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Unit 1 Micro: Revision Glossary on Markets

Here is an updated revision glossary covering key terms on markets and government intervention

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Unit 1 Micro: Housing Rent Controls

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The cost of renting property in many parts of the UK continues to rise - would rent controls make any difference? Here is an updated Unit 1 economics revision presentation.

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Unit 3 Micro: Costs and Pricing for the PS4

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The launch of Sony's PS4 alongside Microsoft's XBox One signals the beginning of a highly intense competitive battle in the oligopolistic games console market. With both the new consoles being launched in time for the crucial Christmas sales period, pricing strategy is crucial in order to gain maximum market share.

In the US, Sony has priced the PS4 at $399 (retail). Of course that is the retail price. Distributors will be wanting to make their margin on each unit sold. So how much does it cost Sony to make a new PS4?

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Unit 1 Micro: Producer and Consumer Subsidies

Here is a revision presentation on the economics of producer and consumer subsidies as forms of government intervention in markets. There are a number of up to date examples highlighted together with an evaluation of the benefits and costs of subsidy payments. This is designed as a revision aid for unit 1 students taking their microeconomics papers.

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Unit 1 Micro: Mexico’s Water Farms

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"The market will define our future" - the words of an organic farmer growing produce in Mexico City's water farms and which - according to this excellent video report from the Financial Times - have the potential to feed huge numbers of people living in the metropolis. Careful husbandry of the canals and surrounding farm land creates the opportunity for farmers to complete between seven and nine harvests a year, an interesting link to the concept of price elasticity of supply. The video reinforces the importance of human capital - detailed, specific knowledge of the growing conditions and calendar of crops that is handed down from one generation to another.

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Unit 4 Macro:Apps to Help Farmers in Ghana

Sunday, November 17, 2013

This BBC news report is superb background for students who want a mini case study of the potential of mobile technology in improving farm yields and incomes for farmers in developing countries. A 29-year-old developer from Ghana has created a mobile app that he hopes will transform the livelihoods of farmers and help address food shortages

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The Benefits of Choice: the Battle Never Ends

Friday, November 08, 2013

Do consumer choice and competition between suppliers improve the quality of outcomes for consumers? The answer might seem so obvious that it is hardly worth asking. But a powerful strand of political opinion is building up to an attack on the concept.

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An Introduction to Anchor Prices

Thursday, November 07, 2013

We are delighted to host on our blog this article from Alex Macarthur an upper-sixth student at Altrincham Grammar School for Boys. Alex enjoys is especially interested in ‘Behavioural Economics’. In this feature he looks at pricing anchoring in markets. This article was originally published in the student magazine www.lucigmag.co.uk

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Unit 1 Micro: Volatile Prices and Buffer Stock Schemes

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Here is an updated revision presentation covering price volatility in commodity markets and the economics of buffer stock "price stabilisation" schemes. designed for unit 1 micro course

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Paul Ormerod: Energy and Emissions: Taxation or Technology?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Energy prices are in the news. The recent actions of some of the energy companies can plausibly be described as provocative, no matter how well founded their decisions might be. They run the risk of provoking the ire of both the Opposition and the Government.

One interesting aspect of the debate is that it has become even clearer that decisions taken by Ed Miliband himself in the Brown government are partly to blame for our high energy bills. The plethora of green taxes and subsidies has become very expensive for consumers.

But how effective have such policies been? Not very much, seems to be the answer.

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Unit 1 Micro: Chinese Get into a Froth over Starbucks Prices

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Where would you expect a Starbucks latte to be cheaper - in a coffee store in downtown New York or in a Starbucks store in China? Keep in mind that per capita incomes in China are around one tenth of those in the United States.

The answer may come as something of a surprise!

In a report on coffee prices that has caused something of a stir across social media platforms, the state-owned broadcaster CCTV reported that a medium-sized latte cost Rmb27 ($4.43) in China compared with Rmb19.98 in Chicago, Rmb14.6 in Mumbai and Rmb24.25 in London.

Starbucks responded that its pricing strategy was based on local market costs, including infrastructure investment, real estate and labour costs. It also added that its Asia-Pacific profit margin was for 14 countries, not just China. They added that each Starbucks market is unique and has different operating costs and that it would be inaccurate to draw conclusions about one market based on the prices in a different market.

The prices of imported goods in China are often raised because of the effects of import taxes (tariffs) - in this case the customs duty on roasted coffee beans is 15%. Add to that a sales tax of 17%.

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Unit 1 Micro: Cocoa Prices Surging Again!

Monday, October 21, 2013

After more than a year of relatively low prices, rising global demand for cocoa is a key factor behind a surge in the international price of cocoa beans, prompting fears that the traditional consumer splurge on chocolate treats during the Festive season will be noticeably more expensive this year! In this short BBC news video, some of the background to the rise in cocoa prices is explored. You can download the cocoa price chart below.

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Unit 3 Micro: Price Leadership in the Gas Oligopoly

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The market for retail gas supplies is mired in controversy and threats of direct government intervention to freeze prices should a new Labour government be elected in 2015. This week we have seen a classic example of the type of price leadership we expect to see in an oligopoly.


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Unit 1 Micro: Argos Tablet and Inferior Goods

The Guardian technology blog has given a less than glowing review of the recently launched Argos MyTablet computer - read Argos MyTablet review: cheap, nasty and frustrating to use - the price point says it all - £99 for a low entry level tablet supplied under the Bush brand name and marketed at younger members of the family. Surely this is another product to add to teaching examples of inferior goods? The discount tablet market is being fought over by major high street retailers - Tesco is selling the Hudl and now Argos has joined the battle. I'll be staying well away from this!

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Business Economics: A Golden Hour on Radio 4 Archive

Sunday, October 13, 2013

This is a cross-posting from the Business blog (written by Penny Brooks)

"The 20th Century was about dozens of markets of millions of consumers. The 21st Century is about millions of markets of dozens of consumers."

So said Joe Kraus, founder of a search engine called Excite in the middle of the 1990s. Never heard of it? That's not surprising; in 1999 it was a $6.7bn enterprise with hundreds of employees, but a year later the dot-com bubble burst and it disappeared from the market place. But this quote is one of in an article about Peter Day's Radio 4 Archive programme to be broadcast tonight, and already recommended by Michael Owen in his blog below; forgive me for this repetition, but this is such a brilliant article that it really merits a second look, and hopefully between us we will convince you of that!

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Peru’s Free Trade Agreement with China

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Workers in Peru say they are suffering because of competition from cheaper imports. Chinese imports are stifling what was one of the largest clothing manufacturers in South America and a free trade agreement could make matters worse. A short video clip on this issue/

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Falling Coffee Prices - Farmers Switch to Oranges

Here is a familiar tale - sharply falling world coffee prices are causing the terms of trade to drop and threatening the commercial viability of coffee production among many of Indonesia's small scale coffee farmers. Can stronger marketing and investment in processing help these farmers move up the value chain?

The price of coffee in Indonesia has dropped to a third of the price from one year ago, due to an oversupply of it in the world's market. This has caused many coffee farmers in Indonesia to stop growing coffee and switch to other plants, such as oranges.

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