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Reduction in UK consumption of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes by young people - numerical example

Friday, July 25, 2014

A report out yesterday from the Health and Social Care Information Centre shows a dramatic fall in the consumption by young people (aged 11 to 15) of our favourite demerit goods – alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. The report suggests that over the last decade regular smoking fell from 9% to 3% of 11- to 15-year-olds. Regular alcohol drinking dropped from 25% to 9%. Drug use has halved from 12% to 6% over this 10 year period.

This, of course, is very good news with regards to the relative health of our youth. As an economics teacher the first question I would ask my students is how this downturn has been achieved? What has happened either within the market or with government intervention to shift consumption in this way? It could be argued that this represents the most successful example of government intervention into markets to change behaviour and can be attributed to regulation, restriction of use and good old education! Information failure does not appear to have had an impact and the political will to succeed has been fairly uniform among the major parties in power.

For me, of course, it also offers the opportunity to do the next in my series of numerical activities in preparation for the arrival of the new specifications in 2015!

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Open Data:  Britain leads the world

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The UK economy is doing well. Even so, it is not often that we are placed unequivocally at the top of a world ranking of any kind. But a team of economists led by Nicholas Gruen of Lateral Economics in Melbourne has done just that. In their recent report on the economic potential created by the concept of open data, it turns out that the UK government has been leading the world. On the Open Data Index, we score 100 compared to America’s 93. There is then a big gap to the next group, Australia, Canada and Germany, placed in the high 60s.

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Price Cap introduced for the UK Payday Loans Market

Friday, July 18, 2014

The UK Financial Conduct Authority has announced direct interventions in the market for payday loans - the high cost short term loans market which has expanded rapidly in recent years led by businesses such as Wonga. The decision is the result of a detailed assessment of the industry which had flagged up a number of market failures.

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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: Legal Highs and Information Failure

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Here is an example of a product which has important market failure implications. BBC Newsnight investigates the open sale of legal highs - not approved for human consumption - but which are a growing presence even on mainstream high streets.

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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 Market Failure

Here are some revision quizzes for students to check their understanding of market failure

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Information failure and the Tamiflu saga

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Here’s a good example of overlaps between market failure, government failure and the problem of asymmetric information contributing to these problems. The UK government spent £500m stockpiling the drug Tamiflu in the hope that it would help prevent serious side-effects from a feared flu epidemic. It turns out the drug would probably be no more helpful than paracetamol. But the bigger scandal is that Roche (who make the drug) broke no law by withholding vital information on how well its drug works (or doesn’t).

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Unit 1 Micro: Smoking Bans and Obesity

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Anti-smoking measures, such as taxes and bans, eventually lead people to eat better and lose weight. That is the central conclusion of research by Luca Savorelli, Francesco Manaresi and Davide Dragone, to be presented at the Royal Economic Society’s 2014 annual conference. The three economists overturn the conventional wisdom that kicking the smoking habit is healthy but results in weight gain.

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Normative statements - using E-Cigarette newspaper reports to look at normative statements

Friday, April 04, 2014

I'm sure that introducing the concept of normative statements is something that most Economics' teachers introduce early in the curriculum to show the dangers of expressing opinions without evidence.  It's a tricky balancing act that we have to play - as students start to write longer, evaluative pieces we are keen for them to make reasoned arguments that don't sit on the fence but warn them of the dangers of starting to rant.

I thought that the two reports included on the document here might prove an interesting activity.  The file contains two reports into a possible plan from the Welsh Assembly to introduce a ban on the smoking of E-cigarettes in public places (akin to the current ban on smoking of 'traditional' cigarettes) in Wales.  The articles are interesting in their own right in explaining the reasons behind such a plan and as an example of Government intervention to solve a possible market failure (although one of the articles clearly identifies E Cigarettes as a solution to a market failure itself).

You could also ask students to read through the two articles and answer the following questions:

  1. Which of the two articles appears to offer more opinion-based evidence than the other?
  2. Highlight any words or phrases that indicate a value judgement rather than evidence-based reporting.
  3. Based upon your own reading and picking up on journalistic styles, have a guess which newspaper each article was published in.

The answer to this final question is in the 'read more...' section of this blog.

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Carpet, bed and sofa retailers promise ‘genuine prices’ after OFT investigation

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

According to the Guardian, Carpetright and four other flooring and furniture retailers have promised to clean up their pricing after reaching a settlement with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). It looks like a good example of the potential for market failure arising out of asymmetric information.

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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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Why are rich countries democracies?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

You may be asking why what sounds like a politics question finds a place on the economics blog. The answer of course is that the issue of governance crops up a lot in economics. Governments have to address the challenges thrown up by market failure, and offer a fiscal framework that helps tackle macroeconomic problems. Regulators intervene in uncompetitive markets. Those of you looking at development economics don’t get far before asking if poor quality government holds back the weakest economies.

Hence the question (above). All rich, developed, mature economies are democracies. Ricardo Hausmann offers and insight into why this might be so on the pages of Project Syndicate.

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F585 Pre-Release Resources (and F583, F582 & F581 too)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

I thought it worthwhile sharing my resources which I have been collecting for students (and teachers alike). I have been promoting them on Twitter (@Economics_KSF) through scoop.it but for those of you not on there, the link for the scoop.it boards are here:

http://www.scoop.it/u/economics-kcsf

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Unit 1 Micro: Information Failure and Coca Cola

Monday, March 10, 2014

In this memorable Newsnight interview, Jeremy Paxman quizzes / interrogates a senior Coca Cola executive about the amount of sugar in Coca Cola drinks. Coca Cola wants to "make sure that the information is available" but if they did would students, cinema goers and millions of other consumers change their preferences?

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Unit 1 Micro: Information Failures in Markets

Saturday, February 15, 2014

This blog brings together some of our resources on information failures in markets.

Click below for:

Mo Tanweer's superb revision notes on aspects of information economics

Try our short Zondle revision quiz on information failure

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Government underestimates the amount of student loans that are likely to be paid back

Friday, February 14, 2014

According to a report published by the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee, the Government are currently underestimating how many students will actually pay back their university loans over the coming decades.  Currently, the Government estimates that between 35 and 40% of loans to Higher Education students are never paid back - the Committee believes that the rate on non-repayment is much higher and reflects a weakness in the loan collection method.  The primary reason for non-repayment is that student details get lost over a period of time particularly if the graduate moves and works abroad or was an EU citizen who has returned to their own country.  The method of using the income tax registration process as a way of locating former students has been criticized for not being an effective method of collecting information.  It is estimated that the shortfall could be as much as £80 million by 2042.

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Energy companies charge cash-paying customers more - market failure and Government intervention

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

If you attended the recent tutor2u revision conferences for up-coming micro-economic exams (look out for the macro workshops and combined micro and macro to come in March) you will have seen how fuel-pricing was used as an example of market failure, government intervention strategies and government failure.  

Fortunately, the energy market is a gift that keeps giving to us in the economics world (every cloud has a silver lining) as a report out today (see this link for the BBC version of the story) indicates that Parliament is about to intervene to try and stop the energy companies charging more to customers who pay by cash rather than by direct debit (£114 per year, according to the report).

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Information failure in the NHS

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The NHS gives us so much value, as Economics teachers, as it serves as a great example of so many areas of theory. The story which heads up the BBC News site this morning is another useful one: NHS waiting time data for elective surgery has been found to be 'unreliable'

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Energy saving tips from the Government - effective Government intervention

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Proposing Government intervention strategies for dealing with externality market failure is a common enough exam question.  Many of my students will concentrate on the use of indirect taxation, subsidies, pollution permits or regulation as a method of reducing consumption - often forgetting that the Government can use good, old-fashioned advice as a way of altering purchasing patterns.

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Revision Planner For AQA Unit 1 - Markets And Market Failure

Monday, January 06, 2014

I put this together this morning, to help students understand where they need to revise for upcoming mocks, or for the real event in May. I hope some of you get some use out of it too.

ECON1_-_Revision_Planner.docx

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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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Competition Commission investigating the Car Insurance Market

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

You may have seen news reports today about the Competition Commission announcing that it will continue its investigation into the car insurance market having decided that there are concerns to be addressed. The headlines concentrate on the market failure caused by the current system of non-fault claimants organising their own replacement vehicles (and then charging the at-fault insurers) but I thought it was just as interesting that the CC are looking at the relationship between the insurers and price comparison websites.

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Unit 1 Micro: US food authorities take step to ban transfats

Friday, November 08, 2013

Here is an example of direct intervention in markets to address some of the information failures associated with the obesity epidemic. US food authorities have taken the first step towards banning artificial transfats, substances that are found in processed foods. They say it is a move that could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths a year. According to the BBC website

"Artificial trans fats are used both in processed food and in restaurants as a way to improve the shelf life or flavour of foods. The fats are created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil, making it a solid."

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Irrational Exuberance and Twitter shares

Sunday, October 20, 2013

I just love the phrase ‘irrational exuberance’. It’s the title of book by Robert Shiller who has just won a Nobel Prize in Economics. But the phrase was coined by the US Federal Reserve Board Chairman, Alan Greenspan, in a speech given at the American Enterprise Institute during the Dot-com bubble of the 1990s.

I will make no attempt to tackle the complex issues that these top Economists were articulating, and instead give a few examples to convey the basics: it’s just not safe to assume economic agents are always making rational choices based on transparent, accurate information.

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How Being a Parent Is Like Running a Country

Thursday, September 12, 2013

It occurred to me recently that the way the government tries to control the population, by encouraging and discouraging certain activities, is rather like the way in which I, as a parent, try to control my child.

For instance:

Legislation – Setting rules

Imprisonment – Grounding

Fines – Reducing pocket money

Providing information – Using examples from experience, educating

Subsidising – Helping towards payment

State Provision – Buying things for my children

For example, I don’t want my daughter to smoke, drink or take drugs, so what do I do to prevent this? I will provide her with plenty of information as to why she shouldn’t partake in these activities, should she do it anyway, I’ll probably ban these products from my house and also reduce her pocket money in order to prevent her from buying them.

How does the Government try to prevent its citizens from smoking drinking and taking drugs? Well, it provides us with information, legislates against it, setting age limits and laws to try to prevent excessive consumption, and places large levies on alcohol and tobacco products to try to discourage consumption, something akin to what I am putting into place.

Will it work?

In some cases, yes, in others, no and the combination of controls will probably vary for each individual, but as a parent I only really get one chance to get it right for each child, the Government, however, can play the percentage game.

Bringing up children is not all about steering your child away from negativity, much as the Government also wants us to do positive things with our lives. For example:

I see education as quite important in a child’s life and as such, I will try my best to ensure that my daughter takes advantage of the best education available to her and embraces it. How will I do that? I will insist that she goes to school, as will the Government. I will monitor her progress carefully, as will her schools. I will encourage her to work hard, as will her teachers, and I will provide information as to the positive future that will ensue from her hard work, as will Government initiatives.

So, all in all, I am my daughter’s Government, trying to persuade her to make the correct decisions, in her own best interests. I’m sure that along the way, I’ll make some horrendous mistakes, as I’m sure most students would agree, parents don’t always know the best way to deal with situations, much as Governments don’t, largely down to information failure! I’m sure Sophie will make some choices that I won’t necessarily agree with, but as long as I look at the long term and have a clear direction, hopefully I’ll raise a happy, positive individual, much as the Government wants to do with all of us.

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Unit 3 Micro: Furniture Retailers Feel Wrath of the OFT

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Office of Fair Trading is investigating potentially illegal pricing activities by six furniture retailers. It all relates to the use of price discounts.

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Unit 1: Cigarettes, demerit goods and government failure

Friday, July 12, 2013

Okay, hands up, how many of you economics teachers use cigarettes as one of your primary examples of a demerit good? Well, it does fit the bill and it gives you the opportunity to give teenagers a bit of a lecture about healthy living (if only the Ofsted inspector was there for that lesson).

The government's announcement today that they are to postpone the introduction of standardised packaging for cigarettes is bound to meet with some criticism - many will claim that they are giving in to pressure from a tobacco industry which feels that it is already heavily regulated. The concept is that a standard, plain package will put some people off from purchasing cigarettes as there is some research that says that people are attracted to the branding. Personally, until they put the phrase 'don't listen to your peers, they smell' on the box I'm not convinced the plan would have much impact anyway.

What intrigued me more about this story, is the fact that the government have postponed the plan until the impact of standardised packaging has been more closely studied in Australia (where the policy already exists). So there you go, not only is this a story about cigarettes as a demerit good but it is also an example of the government attempting to avoid policy failure. The government argues that it shouldn't spend money on implementing policies and then policing the tobacco firms and retailers if the impact of the programme is minimal. In a sense, the government are arguing that taking its time over this plan may save money in the long run or enable it to spend its scarce resources on a policy that has more impact.

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Unit 1 Micro: The Market for E-Cigarettes

Friday, June 07, 2013

The emergence of a competitor product can often send shock-waves through markets of established products where profits have been more or less guaranteed for decades. Will e-cigarettes have a similar effect on the tobacco industry?  And is this an emerging industry in need of greater government regulation and taxation?

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T-Shirts and consumer choice

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Firstly, I hope the first AS exam went well, whether that was macro (OCR), micro, and whether for the first time or a retake. I also hope that in amongst the revision you’re in the market for a more random blogpost…

This one’s a topic on which Paul Ormerod would have something to say. On NPR’s Planet Money radio show/podcast, they’re launching a T-shirt, and using this as a stimulus for a whole set of reporting on its genesis, from cotton subsidies to its design. The latest podcast investigated the colour of their T-shirts. “What’s the economics in that?”, I hear you cry…

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Unit 1 Micro: Information Failure - Fraudulent Selling

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Here is one of the most blatant examples of fraudulent miss-selling one might ever come across.  A UK businessman has been convicted of three counts of fraud over the sale of bogus bomb detectors - their use in Iraq may have cost many lives - read this article 

Fake bomb detectors 'destroyed lives'

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Unit 1 Micro: Evaluating Government Intervention - Alcohol Pricing

Sunday, April 07, 2013

AS Micro students will be gearing themselves up for a key period of intensive revision over the coming days and weeks. For most, being able to analyse and evaluate government intervention in markets is crucial to scoring well in exam questions and reaching those top grades.

Evaluation is not a skill that can be learnt overnight. It requires plenty of attempts to get the evaluative style and approach working well.

BTW, if you are revising market failure I highly recommend Matt Smith's Scoop.It Board - full of great applied examples on this big area for the Unit 1 economics exam! Click here to view it

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Unit 1 Micro: Taxing Calories in Soft Drinks

Friday, April 05, 2013


A tax on the calories contained in soft drinks is around 6% more effective at reducing obesity than a general tax on soft drinks – but the effect is only a drop in people’s weight of around 1.6 pounds per year. These are the findings of research by Wei Xiao, to be presented at the Royal Economic Society’s 2013 annual conference.

The study analyses the buying patterns of 10,000 American households by looking at data on soft drink purchases from supermarket scanners. Based on the calorie content of soft drinks and the medically accepted view that an intake of 6.614 calories leads to a gain in weight of 1 gram, the author simulates the effectiveness of various soft drink tax policies on people’s weight.

The research suggests that a tax that targets the calorie content will be more effective than a universal tax on soft drinks – as some soft drinks are healthier than others. But the author admits that ‘although an obesity tax on soft drinks can cause weight reduction, the effect is small’, adding that even without any dietary changes, ‘a human’s weight can change in the region of one pound in a day’.

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The Tutor2u Red Nose Day Challenge

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Schools and College up and down the country are preparing for all sorts of different activities for the Comic Relief Red Nose Day this Friday (15th March).  Are you doing anything with your class?

Here is a ready-made Powerpoint game to run for approximately 20 to 25 minutes in your class this Friday.  Whilst being a fun, team-based challenge, the multi-choice questions are all about facts and figures related to the causes that Comic Relief are attempting to support.  As such, the information contained within the game should prove a useful stimulus for discussion within your class about the causes of poverty in Africa, as well as alcohol-abuse and other social issues within the UK.  It could also prove a useful tool with discussing why these problems exist and what government solutions could be implemented (as well as asking why they haven't already been put in place!).

Click on this link to go to the Powerpoint file that contains the game.

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Taxing fizzy drinks? The Obesity Battle

Monday, February 18, 2013

The subject of obesity is an increasingly important topic in the study of market failure. Its consequences are severe and go right to the heart of the ‘inefficient allocation of resources’ economic concept of market failure. Overconsumption of a number of demerit goods are one of the many causes of this growing epidemic and worrying trends and statistics can be found here with this BBC video clip also providing a useful overview on the facts behind global obesity. The UK is one of the most obese nations in the world with about a quarter of adults classed as obese and that figure is predicted to doubly by 2050.


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Paul Ormerod: Meat and potato pies and the Nobel Prize in economics

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Tragedy struck at a mid-week game played during the holiday season in Football League Division Two.   The pies ran out in the home supporters’ bar.   The incident may seem trivial to those not involved.  Yet it illustrates some important themes in economics, which have even gained their inventors the Nobel Prize.

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Unit 1 Micro: Information Failure in Cosmetic Surgery

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Hard sell and low standard - a new report on the UK cosmetic industry has found deep-rooted problems in the selling of plastic surgery services and highlights class market failure issues of miss-selling and information failures. Many vulnerable consumers complain of being pressured into surgery and the report argues that some providers use cut-price and time-limited deals to sell cosmetic treatments in a similar way to the flogging of double-glazing. Free consultations also seen to cause consumers to feel pressurized into having surgery. The review, led by the medical director of the NHS, Sir Bruce Keogh, was set up because of the safety scare involving breast implants made by the French firm, PIP.

Here are some news videos on this controversial issue - it is a fast growing market but one with huge risks for those with cosmetic needs and wants.

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Unit 1 Micro: Key Term Glossary - Markets and Market Failure

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

An updated glossary of key terms for the Unit 1 Economics paper

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econoMAX - Educating Girls Worldwide

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Liz Veal (Editor of econoMAX) writes: Here in the UK we take for granted our education – my daughters have the same educational opportunities as my son; my sisters and I had the same chances as my brother. Education for all, irrespective of gender, is highly valued in our society and we are well-aware of the private and external benefits of education. In economics, we teach that the market would fail to provide enough education as it would be under-consumed because of the extra benefits to society that private individuals do not appreciate. This information failure is overcome with public sector provision of education, compulsory by law until aged 16.

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Unit 1 Micro: Markets and Market Failure Concept Glossary

Monday, December 10, 2012

An A-Z glossary for the Unit 1 Micro course

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Waseela-e-Taleem in Pakistan - showing how education is an example of a merit good

Monday, November 12, 2012

I'm sure you don't have any problems convincing your students that education is a merit good/service.  Every so often, however, it may be difficult for young people in the UK, aspirational and aiming high, to see how their own learning impacts so positively upon the wider society.  Although we constantly debate the quality of education in the UK and strive to improve, many young people will take opportunities to access schools and colleges for granted - perhaps arguing about local differences and the cost of higher education but rarely about actual access to basic education.  With such relatively high levels of literacy and numeracy amongst British youngsters it is difficult for them to imagine a society where this is not the norm.  The Waseela-e-Taleem initiative in Pakistan, however, could prove a useful example of how government intervention into education is about more than just the structure of assessment and paying teachers - but a country's drive to improve access to basic education and shift its economic as well its political and sociological prospects.

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Unit 1 Micro: Scoop-It on Market Failure and Intervention

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Here is a terrific example from Matt Smith of how to use Scoop-It to curate lots of useful examples of market failures and associated interventions. Click here  for Matt's Scoop-It on Market Failure

Unit 1 Micro: Denmark Drops the High Fat Food Tax

The Danish government has opted to bring to an end a policy intervention  designed to curb consumption of high fat foods. The measure - introduced in the autumn of 2011  - added £1.50 per kilo of saturated fats in a product but the experiment will end because of fears over inflated food prices and domestic jobs being put at risk. Food manufacturers complained of increased compliance costs and there was some evidence of a rise in cross-border shopping to avoid the tax. A proposed new tax on sugar has also been cancelled. 

Video: Fat tax introduced by Denmark 

The 2012 GCSE fiasco - are there parallels with the Banking crisis?

Friday, November 02, 2012

Now, tutor2U is an organisation dedicated to supporting and building communities for teachers and lecturers.  So, if I post a blog that criticises the report  released today by Ofqual which suggests that some teachers over-graded coursework (particularly in English) during this summer's GCSE assessments you might accuse me of bias.  To paraphrase Jeremy Clarkson: "You would say that - you drive a Citroen Picasso."  However, in my never-ending pursuit of trying to find examples that resonate with young students of economics, is it possible to draw parallels with what happened during the GCSE assessment this year, and the mistakes made within the banking industry that lead to the current recession?

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Civil Service on the WCM line

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Assessment failures were 'clearly responsibility of officials and not ministers', Philip Rutnam tells former transport secretary

Further material from Tomorrow's Guardian on the West Coast Mainline Franchise  troubles, which can be added to Jonny Clark's article from last week. 

If the Department of Transport is too incompetent to run a supervised franchised system, how viable is the alternative of a fully nationalised system?


Market Failure - Child Obesity

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


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Unit 4 Macro: Micro-insurance and development

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Micro insurance is a growing sector within developing country finance. The number of people covered by micro-insurance has increased almost 6.5 fold in five years, reaching nearly 500 million worldwide, with China and India leading the charge. Micro-insurance attempts to protect poor people against risks arising from accidents, illness, a death in the family or the damage caused by natural disasters - in exchange for insurance premium payments tailored to their needs, income and level of risk.

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Unit 1 Micro: Market Failure Glossary

Monday, August 27, 2012

This blog provides a glossary of many key market failure terms

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Unit 3 Micro: High Profit from Pay Day Loans

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The pay-day loan boom is a symptom of more than three decades of financialization in the UK economy. Households and also some businesses are using the loans made available by companies such as Wonga. But borrowing from them involves astronomical rates of interest on an annualised percentage basis. In this clip we see how pay day loan businesses are becoming an ever more frequent sight on our high streets - but are tehey targeting the poorest and most vulnerable in society? Should regulators get tougher on them? Are they a sign of these difficult times?

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Environmental Economics - Earthrise Case Studies

Saturday, July 07, 2012

The Earthrise series from Al Jazeerah news provides some super short case studies relevant to AS and A2 economics courses that cover environmental market failures, innovations in government interventions and many vivid examples of threats to sustainable growth and development for many countries around the world.

Our Storify series below provides a regularly updated selection of news videos from the Earthrise series.

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