Michael Heseltine’s report on economic growth came out last week. It contains 89 recommendations. A mere 57 varieties, to recall the famous Heinz slogan, might have connected it more with popular culture.
Corporation tax is very much in the news. Starbucks is merely the latest to be in the spotlight, having paid no corporation tax on more than £1billion of sales in the past three years . This became noteworthy when the Prime Minister himself declared he was unhappy with the level of tax avoidance by big corporations working in Britain.
The plain fact is that if corporation tax did not exist, it would be madness to introduce it. The tax plays to the ignorance not only of the general public, but of almost all politicians. It encourages the fantasy that there is a free lunch, that someone else will pick up the bill for the welfare state and bloated state bureaucracy.read more...»
In the boom decade of the 2000s, corporate rebranding and renaming was all the rage. Some were successful. Others are best forgotten, like PWC’s proposal to bestow the name of Monday on its consulting arm. But as the world’s economic recovery gathers momentum, perhaps it is time to revive the practice.
If fiscal consolidation continues and radical changes to monetary policy are ruled out, it is mainly ‘supply-side’ reform that can restart UK growth without doing longer-term damage to the economy. Among other things, that means repairing infrastructure, improving education, reforming taxation and tackling the restrictive planning system. But one area that could deliver both short-term stimulus and long-term efficiency is private house-building – as happened in the 1930s recovery from recession. Today’s planning restrictions mean that the stock of houses is three million below and real prices are 35% above what they would be if market forces operated freely.
These are among the conclusions of Professor Nick Crafts on what policy-makers can learn from the 1930s and 1980s, when the UK economy made strong recoveries from severe recessions very similar to the current one. Despite fiscal consolidation, both the 1930-32 and 1979-81 recessions were followed by strong recoveries.
Delivering the Royal Economic Society (RES) annual policy lecture in London on Wednesday 17 October 2012, Professor Crafts summarised the policy lessons from those decades that are relevant to kick-starting recovery now:
I set some of my AS economics students an assignment on Keynes last week. The starting point was the first of Stephanie Flanders' excellent series featuring Keynes, Hayek and Marx. We watched it in class and I was keen for students to explore some of the guiding principles of Keynesian economics well before we get stuck into AD-AS analysis. I am also desperate to avoid showing them a mark scheme until March at least (when I am taking a sabbatical!) - so I marked their work mainly on the quality of their writing and whether or not I enjoyed reading it! I have showcased a few examples below of their answers.
The UK economy is struggling to recover from the last recession. Private sector demand in the form of consumer spending and business capital investment remains weak, confidence is low and exports of goods and services have been affected by problems in the economies of many of our trading partners. UK GDP remains well below the peak achieved before the start of the last recession and unemployment continues to rise. Keynesian economics has made a comeback in recent times, indeed many governments around the world have decided to introduce Keynesian policies as a way of injecting fresh demand into their fragile economies.
Analyse how the macroeconomic problems outlined above would be approached by Keynesian economists. In your answer try to capture the essence of the Keynesian approach and attempt to raise and discuss some of the criticisms that have been levelled at Keynes.read more...»
Wealth is spread far more unequally than income, so The Lib Dem leader and Coalition Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has proposed a temporary wealth tax, and Ed Balls implied that Labour would introduce permanent tax on wealth. The graph from This week's Economist contrasts estimates of net private assets with net national debt. A wealth tax is being touted in Germany as a means to raise revenues.
The debate rages about whether the Chancellor should implement a Plan B, or C or D or even Z. There seems to be a plethora of alternatives. But many of them share a key common theme. Namely, that an increase in public spending will boost output in the economy overall.
This was one of the revolutionary new ideas developed by Keynes, which he called the ‘multiplier’. An increase in public spending means that more people are employed, in the public sector itself of in building infrastructure. These in turn spend more money and the effect ripples across the economy. The final impact is a multiple – hence the word ‘multiplier’ – of the initial increase in spending.
This seems to be commonsense. But commonsense can often lead us astray. It seems to be common sense that the Sun goes round the Earth, it goes round the sky after all. What does modern economics have to say about the size of the multiplier?read more...»
Many AS students will be starting their introductory macroeconomics courses and lots of you will be keen to make a great start and achieve momentum in their work from the word go! The same can be said about the British economy!
One of the key issues at this time is how best to inject some growth of demand, production and jobs into an economy that has struggled to climb out of recession. Indeed GDP remains well below the peak seen just before the start of the recession in 2008-09. The UK's economy is expected to contract by 0.7% this year, according to a new forecast from the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and development (OECD).read more...»
Credibility is a term widely used by politicians who like to claim that their policies and programmes have a stamp of approval and must be followed through to their logical conclusion.
For economists the keep word to link to credibility is commitment – i.e. the expectation that a given policy target or objective will be met in the years ahead
1. Inflation: The Bank of England’s inflation target of 2% had strong credibility in the first ten years after the Bank was made independent, but that credibility has been questioned in recent years with inflation persistently above target
2. Government borrowing and debt: The new Coalition government make repeated references to its policy of cutting the structural budget deficit and a need to commit to this to maintain their credibility especially in financial markets. Chancellor George Osborne has often linked this credibility to keeping the UK’s AAA credit rating for UK sovereign debt
Credibility is also be linked to the word trust – i.e. trust among the public that economic policies are being used to meet a broader range of economic and social objectives. This doesn’t just mean meeting specific inflation or borrowing targets but includes trust that policies will create jobs, prevent another recession, meet environmental aims, or to help maintain economic and social cohesion in vulnerable communities. The danger is that credibility simply becomes associated with the financial markets’ judgement on monetary and fiscal policies.read more...»
When Robert Skidelsky gave his talk on Keynes here in Madrid last October, he spoke at length about the importance of effective government spending emphasising that the focus of the spending should be on capital rather than current. Yes, when aggregate demand is lacking, the government should increase spending on capital projects, even if that means deficit spending, in order to kick start the economy with the accompanying multiplier effect on output, jobs and growth.read more...»
Paul Krugman made an impassioned plea for a reversal of austerity policies in a talk to a packed Peacock Theatre at the LSE in London last night - I was live tweeting the event and I have brought together these tweets and some other comments together with some of the charts in his talk. I have also drawn on the live tweets of Stuart Foster whose excellent twitter feed can be found here: @econbant
The slides from Krugman’s talk at the LSE can be found here
Paul Krugman talks to Evan Davis on the Radio 4 Today programme: Click here Niall Ferguson provides a contrary view here: ‘You can’t solve debt with more debt’ See also: European Commission supports UK deficit-cutting course (BBC news)
Our focus in an AS macro revision session was on the difference between cyclical issues and events and the wider / deeper structural problems and issues facing the UK economy at this fascinating time. Key macro policy decisions affect the path of an economy out of recession, but are these the same policies that will address the supply-side constraints and weaknesses that hold back growth, development and contribute to growing inequality?read more...»
Lots of students will be revising the economics of supply-side policies this week with their AS macro paper coming into view. There are different interpretations of what constitutes a supply-side policy measure. I like to label SSP (supply-side policy) to any policy or group of measures where emphasis is given to improving the working of markets, raising factor efficiency, improving the quantity and quality of labour and in lifting the capacity and competitiveness of an economy in a constantly-changing international environment.
Many supply side policies focus on improving incentives and outcomes in the labour market, others are geared towards bettering the performance of markets for goods and services, All of them centre on helping to sustain non-inflationary growth, improve trade performance, lift living standards and create new and fulfilling jobs opportunities.
This revision blog looks in particular at some evaluation points on supply-side approaches:read more...»
Here is an updated version of the WEESTEPS approach to economics evaluation designed to boost the evaluation scores and exam results for AS and A2 Economics students.
It gives you some great pointers about the evaluative approaches that can be used. Works well for micro and macro - but particularly when you have to evaluate a specific policy intervention in a market / industry / or a macro policy discussion.read more...»
Last week I attended a very interesting lecture at the LSE on the Eurozone crisis, given by Leszek Balcerowicz, a Polish economist who is former chairman of the National Bank of Poland and Deputy Prime Minister.
The following blog outlines his thoughts, but also includes useful links to articles to read.
Using the crisis as a case study will hugely benefit A2 students as it encompasses many of the topics covered in the syllabus.
Following on from Ben Christopher’s article, a BBC Radio 4 interview with Andrew Balls, an investment fund manager, and younger brother of The Shadow Chancellor on the possibility of a Grexit - Greek exit from the Euro.read more...»
Government spending (or public spending) and in Britain, it takes up nearly half of our annual GDP. Spending by the public sector can be broken down into three main areas:read more...»
This PowerPoint contains four fiscal policy charts for the UK - I have been using them in a revision session this morning. I will blog a little bit more about them later on
A selection of economic terms linked to government fiscal policyread more...»
A short glossary of key terms connected to the economic cycleread more...»
Those who are interested in the ‘austerity’ title for the RES essay competition might find this article on the BBC website useful. Today there is a general strike planned in Portugal, in protest against the country’s austerity measures. Portugal’s three main parties all voted in favour of stringent austerity measures for the country. The new government, voted in last summer, has privatised several industries, cut public sector wages and raised taxes, including VAT. They have been praised by Brussels for their approach, and the latest government estimate put its budget deficit for 2011 at close to 4% of GDP, well below the official target of 5.9%. In this interesting piece of writing, many different perspectives are offered of the effects of these measures, ranging from an increase in bad behaviour in schools to an increase in home-grown vegetables.
As ever, there are loads of sources that students can use to analyse the Budget and to extract pieces of Evidence for the Examples they will need to add depth to their analysis in essays. Those who are attending the current round of revision workshops will recognise this as a key part of ensuring that they write essays which PEEL the answer (each paragraph makes one Point, using Examples with Evidence, offering Evaluation and Linking to the question). As start points, I would suggest these sources which are reasonably free of opinions:
BBC website: Budget 2012 at a glance, Farewell 50p tax rate, and Over 65-s tax-free income freeze
The Guardian Budget 2012: welfare cuts, tax cuts too, but retreat on child benefit and for the visual learners a nice graphic version: Tax and spending plans visualised
It will be interesting to receive my personal statement spelling out exactly how much of my income is paid to the state and what it is being spent on! However for those wanting this information sooner than this, there is a great resource from the Guardian data team which shows you, on a sliding scale, exactly how much direct taxation you pay on your income and specifically where that money is spent.
This is an excellent resource for fiscal policy and useful to start debates about how and why the UK taxpayer is taxed and where the government should be spending the revenue received. There is no doubt that following Wednesday’s budget, the role of fiscal policy will take centre stage in Economics classrooms up and down the country - keep your eye out for some top analysis in the media over the next few days.
Here is a fresh attempt by the British government to breathe life into the moribund housing market. People in England are being offered financial help to climb onto or up the housing ladder as the government’s new mortgage indemnity scheme launches. Under the terms of the scheme, both the construction industry and taxpayers will act as co-guarantors on new homes bought by existing or first-time buyers. Will it work in boosting demand for new build homes? Is this scheme designed to help house-buyers or builders? Or is there a real risk of government failure?
* Builders will pay 3.5 per cent of the price of the home
* Taxpayers will provide an additional guarantee of 5.5 per cent that will only be used if there is a major property crash.
* Mortgage lenders will be able to lend up to 95 per cent of the sale price which means new buyers in many instances will only need to find a five per cent deposit or £10,000 on a new £200,000 home. The typical deposit on a mortgage now is closer to £36,000
* The scheme is available on houses and flats valued under £500,000 in England only
We were looking today in AS macro at the policy options being considered as part of a strategy to drive a stronger recovery in demand, output, jobs and investment in the UK economy.
I am trying to encourage my students to put things into context as soon as possible in their longer essay-style questions. Here are some thoughts on a question on policies designed to bolster growth:read more...»
The Confederation of British Industry is a lobbying organisation and seeks to promote and protect the interest of many of the UK’s leading businesses across manufacturing and services. Ahead of the March Budget, their head John Cridland argues in this video for a series of targeted tax cuts as a stimulus for the economy. This is worth watching to get a feel for what are the priorities of business at this stage of the cycle. How much different would it be if the interviewee was representing the trade unions?read more...»
Nearly every country has a tax on petrol, although the amount varies widely. And given that the landed price of petrol is quite similar (see the graph below), it can be seen what effect the tax has on quantity demanded. The results are very much in line what economic theory would predict and there are also clear implications for countries that want to reduce petrol consumption.read more...»
How far, how fast and in what way should the UK government seek to cut the annual budget deficit and improve the state of public sector finances? These questions continue to be at the centre of a fierce debate among economists.read more...»
The yields on UK government issued bonds has been falling steadily in recent months and, as we turned into January 2012, the yield on ten year government debt edged below 2% - when the UK government continues to borrow eye-wateringly large sums, why are bond yields so low?
The yield on a bond is the income received from a fixed-interest bond, calculated as a percentage of the price paid for it. So a ten year bond bought for £10,000 and paying a fixed annual interest of £600 would offer a yield of £600 / £10,000 = 6.0% per annum.
If the market price of a bond rises - for example, it rises from £10,000 to £12,000, the fixed interest remains the same (£600) but the yield will fall. £600 / £12,000 expressed as a percentage = 5%.read more...»
AS level students who have studied AD, AS and macroeconomic equilibrium should be in a position to carry out an economic analysis of today’s Autumn Statement. Here is a suggested assignment, which borrows from the focus on ‘connectives’ in the Business Workshops this week to help to build a strong chain of argument.read more...»