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Five years ago, all the talk was of Tesco’s advances, both in the UK and US. There was plenty of opposition to Tesco, and when the former boss Terry Leahy stepped down there was more scope for reflection on the impact of the retailing giant.
The last few years have been much harder for the business, so I read with interest another type of Tesco article, in which communities reflect on the impact of Tesco closures. This looks to be another example of the potential external costs of business activity.read more...»
I’m sure you know at least a bit about the airport debate. It’s often reported that Britain needs more airport capacity in the South East of England. I’m not going to enter into that fascinating debate here. Instead, I seek to draw attention to the language I have seen used this week by two key players in the argument: Heathrow and Gatwick airport.read more...»
"Smoking during pregnancy remains a major health problem, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 5,000 foetuses and babies each year in the UK. It is responsible for tens of millions of pounds in extra healthcare spending."
This extract from a report published today in the British Medical Journal offers clear evidence of a negative externality - not only does the extra healthcare spending carry the opportunity cost of less spending available for other health treatments, but there is also evidence that the babies whose mothers smoke but which survive will have more health problems later in life. This is classic territory for an AS question on the lines of 'Evaluate policies which the government could use to reduce the incidence of smoking during pregnancy." The report also proposes a controversial policy - giving shopping vouchers worth £400 to pregnant smokers who manage to kick the habit.read more...»
Inequality is on the rise. Not so much between countries as within them. There is some worrying indications, reported this week, that the gap between Britain’s best performing and worse performing regions remains thoroughly entrenched.read more...»
The price mechanism should help the economy to allocate resources more efficiently. Scarcity drives up prices, sending a signal to the economy – usually giving firms an incentive to produce more, and households the motivation to ration their consumption.
Offering free parking sounds like a terrific idea, until you think of some of the possible consequences.read more...»
Here's one of those stories that help illustrate the point about de-merit goods really well. The Children's Food Campaign are calling for a specific tax on sugary drinks to help combat obesity in children. Key points:
- Sugary drinks is the example of a de-merit good
- Tax is the proposed strategy for reducing consumption
- Costs of obesity given here (in terms of number of illnesses that could be reduced)
- Article gives a counter argument from British Soft Drinks Association using evidence from France
Click here to read the article from The Grocer website
Many thanks to Newsnight for providing the material for a lesson about monopsony power - if nothing else, it makes a change from taking Tesco as the model for this topic. On Friday, Newsnight carried a report about Premier Foods, a conglomerate which owns many different grocery brands such as Mr Kipling, Ambrosia, Bisto and Oxo. Their allegation is that Premier Foods has been using its power as a major customer to request payments from its suppliers; if they don't pay up, they are 'delisted' from supplying the company. In other words, monopsony power.read more...»
Every so often I read an article and start to tot up the number of economic concepts being covered in just a few words. This occurred to me again this morning when reading this BBC news article on train fare rises. Train fares are pegged to July's inflation rate and, as inflation is quite low at the moment, this means that the average rise of 2.2% is also relatively low (although regular train users may still feel aggrieved).
Have a read yourself and see how many concepts crop up or give them same exercise to your A2 students. My thoughts are below:read more...»
He's back! Sort of by popular demand! If you're looking for a quickfire activity for your Economics lessons this week then download the latest edition of the Angry Economist. Ask your students to choose one of the 8 policies announced in today's Autumn Statement by George Osborne and our favourite curmudgeonly economist randomly chooses an objective to analyse.
How does the proposed funding for new roads impact on equality for instance? How does the change in Stamp Duty application affect economic growth. A fun and quick way to get your students analyzing first thing in your lesson.
Download the Angry Economist Autumn Statement Edition here.
Don’t worry about all the world’s fossil fuels running out. The graphic above suggests that we can’t run the risk of burning all the fuel that we know we have anyway! But if that’s true, then what are all those fossil fuel reserves worth?
According to the Guardian, the concept of a “carbon bubble” has gained rapid recognition since 2013, and is being taken increasingly seriously by some major financial companies. The concern is that if the world’s governments meet their agreed target of limiting global warming to 2C by cutting carbon emissions, then about two-thirds of proven coal, oil and gas reserves cannot be burned. With fossil fuel companies being among the largest in the world, sharp losses in their value could prompt a stock market crash and a new economic crisis.read more...»
If you're looking at government intervention to correct market failure then you may find this 5 minute resource of value. Using statistics compiled from Professor Tony Travers of the LSE, highlighted in this article, it asks students to predict which local government budget areas will see the largest cuts by 2018.read more...»
Apologies, but I can't resist the prospect of using this story about a new solution to the market failure of pollution: an eco-friendly bus which has just gone into service to transport people between Bath and Bristol Airport.read more...»
The Local Government Association (which represents local councils in the UK) have joined the debate about term time holidays for pupils this week. They argue that current rules banning term time holidays or imposing fines on those families who take such breaks do not recognise the complexities of modern families and also prevent poorer families from affording vacations that are invariably dearer during the holiday period.
It struck me whilst reading one of the reports that the suggested policy is to allow head teachers that most quantifiable of options, 'common sense', to make decisions on a case-by-case basis would be the sort of argument that would make me scream if a student wrote it in an assessment answer. Economics students, unlike Local Government officials, need to take a much more analytic approach to this question!read more...»
Reports out over the last couple of days suggest that government spending on free nursery places for 3 year olds since 1998 has not produced any valuable educational or economic outcome. The policy was introduced as part of a series of reforms introduced by Tony Blair when he came to power in 1997. The Blair Government saw it as a method of reducing the differentials between educational attainment of poorer and wealthier sections of society and promoting a speedier return to work for some mothers.
Researchers studying the impact of the policy during the 2002 to 2007 time period, where spending on the policy amounted to more than £7bn found that the education received at age 3 had some impact on attainment at age 5 but any improvements were lost by age 11. The research suggested that the policy had only a minor impact on enabling more women to return to work earlier. Also, there is evidence that 5 out of 6 users of the free place would have gone to a paid-for equivalent at age 3 anyway.
So, does this offer us a good example of government failure in economic and social policy?read more...»
I love a story that really can resonate with students and get them 'irked'. It struck me yesterday that reading about a recent Bristol University research paper that claims that school admission policies lead to greater inequality might strike a chord with some young people.
The study suggests that the common policy in the UK of prioritizing admission places in primary and secondary schools based upon how close a student lives to that school continues a cycle of inequality. The argument is that, wealthier people are more able to afford to move to areas with higher performing schools and so are more inclined to do so. People without that facility have less choice in where to send their children and may have to stick with local schools despite their relative poor performance. So the cycle continues ..... poorer people receive a poorer quality education and are therefore less equipped to get the necessary qualifications to earn higher wages.read more...»
London's New Year's Eve fireworks display is to be limited to a viewing area of 100,000 ticketed spectators for the first time. The event's popularity made it "untenable" to strain the transport and safety infrastructure with a larger number, the Mayor's office says. Hence the decision to charge £10. This poses a question about the nature of public goods.read more...»
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.read more...»
Nobel Laureate Alvin Roth (2012) gives his view on Repugnant Marketsread more...»
A new study finds that incentives to switch to green vehicles produce big health benefitsread more...»
Fed up with the closure of a cracked road between Bristol and Bath where repairs were likely to last several months, a farmer has invested £150,000 to build a temporary 365m toll road which saves motorists from having to make a 10 mile detour. The businessman is charging cars £2 and motor cycles £1 for each journey and is offering a £10 offer for regular users who need to use the road on twelve occasions.
This is a lovely example of the difference between a quasi public good and a private good. The toll road has its own booth for collecting the charges and seems to have found favour with local residents. Whether or not sufficient cars make the journey to cover the operating costs remains to be seen. Repair work on the A431 at Kelston are likely to take five months and mean that 1,000 vehicles per day are needed for the project to break even.
The businessman Mike Watts has been using You Tube to provide the background to his decision to build the toll road!read more...»
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!read more...»
This is a super report from BBC Newsnight on the issue of our throwaway society and the externalities of waste. How can the link between consumption and the discarding of unwanted and broken products be weakened? What role can innovation play - for example the rise of modular phones where parts can be replaced when broken. The fundamental problem is that traditional manufacturing business models are based on mass production and sales. How are increasing world commodity prices affecting this model?read more...»
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.read more...»
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.read more...»
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.read more...»
If you’re starting out in transport economics, a good place to begin is by evaluating different modes of transport. One area you’re sure to look at is pollution. Here’s a statement I sometimes use to start the conversation:
Rolls-Royce says the four engines on the A380 are as clean and efficient as any jet engine, and produce “as much power as 3,500 family cars”. A simple calculation shows that the equivalent of more than six cars is needed to fly each passenger.
Take the calculation further: flying a fully laden A380 is, in terms of energy, like a nine-mile queue of traffic on the road below. And that is just one aircraft. In 20 years, Airbus reckons, 1,500 such planes will be in the air. By then, the total number of airliners is expected to have doubled, to 22,000. And whereas cars are used roughly for about an hour or so a day, long-haul jet airliners are on the move for at least 10 hours a day.
I’ve started putting together some more links below:read more...»
The first title in the list of six available to RES entrants is a challenging one!
Promoting growth and fighting poverty should be the priority in the developing world, not reducing greenhouse gases.” Do you agree?read more...»
High rates of long term youth unemployment will have hugely significant economic and social costs - this short news report from Al Jazeerah news looks at the issue of youth unemployment in Portugalread more...»
Measuring costs and benefits is a crucial part of many microeconomic models. It’s central to understanding the pricing and output decisions firms make. You can’t understand how market failure may arise from the problems presented by externalities without measuring costs and benefits.
Yet making those measurements is often tricky, especially when some of the costs or benefits arise in the future.read more...»
There has been huge interest in the new book by Thomas Piketty entitled "Capital in the 21st Century". This blog entry will link to some reviews, news articles and short videos on Piketty's ideas and policy prescriptions. In "Capital," French economist Thomas Piketty explores how wealth and the income derived from it magnifies the problems of inequality. At the heart of it is a simple equation R > G - the rate of return on capital is higher than the rate of economic growth. Naturally there is a fierce debate about the data and his methodology!
Recent news articles:
Are we living in the second gilded age? (Linda Yueh, BBC)
Review of "Capitalism in the Twenty First Century"(The Independent)read more...»
A BBC news report on the widening gulf in income and wealth inequality in the United States (and New York in particular). Income inequality is now as high as it was during the worst period of the 1920s. The richest Americans now hold one fifth of all of the country's income - and the top 10% actually hold half of it.read more...»
This Channel 4 news report looks at va growing protest movement among food industry workers campaigning against zero hours contracts and persistent low pay. Zero-hours contracts do not guarantee a minimum number of hours of employment. It has been estimated that 583,000 people, around 2% of the UK workforce, were employed on zero-hours contracts between October and December 2013. The actual figure is likely to be substantially higher than that.read more...»
Metropolitan liberals love to be able to criticise Western society. Recently, their lives have been brightened by the extensive discussion on the rise in inequality since the 1970s, especially in the Anglo-Saxon economies. There is a danger that this essentially anti-capitalist narrative will come to dominate the media, paving the way for increased regulation and the sorts of failed statist interventions in the economy which were a consistent theme in British political economy for nearly four decades after the Second World War.read more...»
A document containing the key diagrams and terms for Unit 1 Micro is streamed below.
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.read more...»
Income and wealth inequality in the UK are higher than most people think they are and higher than they think they should be. These are among the messages of a new online infographics film:read more...»
Here is a streamed version of a revision presentation on the Crossrail project, a good example to use when teaching transport economics and the main principles and issues governing a cost benefit analysis approach to infrastructure investment appraisal. It is designed for use with AS and A2 economics students.read more...»
Here are some revision resources on the topic of labour market failure.read more...»
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.read more...»
Here are twelve more questions covering markets and market failure - test your understanding with this zondle-powered quiz!read more...»
Here are some revision quizzes for students to check their understanding of market failureread more...»
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).read more...»
Here are some notes taken from the recent RES panel event on the African economyread more...»
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.
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.read more...»
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.read more...»
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!read more...»
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.read more...»
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?read more...»
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.read more...»