Get Summer 2014 Right First Time with tutor2u Exam Coaching & Revision Workshops
With London’s Victorian sewage system struggling to cope, the 25km Thames Tideway tunnel is intended to boost capacity. But the £4.2bn Super Sewer project has run into considerable and vocal opposition. London's main sewers are over 150 years old and built for a city for 2.5 million people. The population of London is now over 8 million and when heavy rainfall arrives, there are frequent and sizeable discharges of raw sewage into the river Thames. 39 million tonnes of untreated sewage flushes into the Thames in a typical year - that’s enough to fill the Royal Albert Hall 450 times. The sewage discharges puts the UK in breach of the EU Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive.
Critics of Thames Water argue that they have under spent on sewage system maintenance over the years despite recording persistently high profits. Thames Water announced £150 million profits in 2012.
Residents around the 21 proposed construction sites have protested about the externalities connected to the project. Other opponents argue that the money would be better spent on cheaper sustainable urban drainage techniques.
Future generations will benefit but today's water users will pay most of the construction cost with higher water bills imminent for a number of years to come. The Thames Water proposes adding £70 to £80 a year indefinitely to the average bill of Londoners to fund the 16-mile sewer from Acton in west London to Abbey Mills in east London. But a report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance calculates that the tunnel could be built for between £30 and £35 per household per yearread more...»
A streamed presentation on aspects of the price mechanism with links to three revision quizzesread more...»
Here is an updated revision glossary covering key terms on markets and government interventionread more...»
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.read more...»
The Tutor2u slideshare channel has just notched up over a million hits and we continue to add new resources each week. Here is the link to the site.
Tim Harford explores the frustrations of using lifts. How much economics can you find in this BBC Newsnight report from November 2013?read more...»
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.read more...»
"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.read more...»
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."read more...»
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.read more...»
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.ukread more...»
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 courseread more...»
The FT video clip below provides a short interview with Dame Ellen MacArthur - the former ocean yachtswoman - and her idea of building a circular economy - this idea might be a fruitful area for student exploration when studying environmental economics. To quote from the web site:L
"The linear ‘take, make, dispose’ model relies on large quantities of easily accessible resources and energy, and as such is increasingly unfit for the reality in which it operates. Working towards efficiency—a reduction of resources and fossil energy consumed per unit of manufacturing output—will not alter the finite nature of their stocks but can only delay the inevitable. A change of the entire operating system seems necessary"read more...»
An autumnal hat tip to Jonathan Portes, Director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research for spotting this textbook example culled from the Daily Mail of the problem of social cost and how application of the Coase theorem might be a solution! Click here for the article.
If you would like to know more about the Coase Theorem and the work of Ronald Coase who died earlier in 2013 at the ripe old age of 102 then click here for a superb blog entry from Mo Tanweer.
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.read more...»
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%.read more...»
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.read more...»
Air pollution is widely regarded as a negative externality arising from consumption and production. New research from the World Health Organisation finds that exposure to air pollution increases the risk of cancer - this 2 minute news report looks at their findings. You can find extensive revision notes on externalities and market failure by clicking this link.read more...»
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!read more...»
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!read more...»
The dates and locations for our popular programme of exam technique coaching & revision workshops to prepare AS & A2 Economics students for exams in May & June 2014. The details are listed below together with important information about changes in way that bookings are processed.
Please note that for summer 2014 we are taking confirmed bookings only. Places are allocated on a strictly first-confirmed basis. Once each screen capacity is filled, the event is full and no further bookings can be accepted. Our overall capacity is lower than in previous years and we fully expect each workshop to be fully booked before the Christmas break - so please contact us early to ensure that your students can attend!read more...»
Inequality has been rising for 30 years. The gap between rich and poor is the widest since the second world war. If current trends continue, we will have reached Victorian levels of inequality in 20 yearsread more...»
The cost of living will be a key battleground in the next election and the main political parties seem to be coming up with offers covering utility bills, rail fares, banking charges and the cost of housing as a way of limiting increases in the living costs of "hard-working" families! One should always take promises from politicians with a huge pinch of salt - intervention to freeze bills is fraught with risks and unintended consequences. This Channel 4 news clip looks at the issue.read more...»
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.read more...»
Ed Milliband’s conference speech last week gave us one of those all-too-rare moments where we can illustrate a real (or potential) government policy with a standard economic diagram.
Mr Milliband clearly stated that, should the Labour Party win the next General Election (in 2015) they will cap the price of domestic fuel. His policy is aimed at restricting how much people would have to spend on energy so as to improve their general purchasing power as well as reducing business costs. The big losers would be the energy companies themselves who do not seem particularly keen on the policy. Mr Milliband argued that their profits were sufficiently high and, besides, they have been using the lack of competition within the market place to bolster their coffers.
Assuming that teachers have already covered the basics in Demand and Supply diagrams, this link will take you to a short (up to 10 minute) activity asking students to draw the ‘Price-Cap’ diagram and consider the economic arguments for and against the policy proposal.
AS economics student Ed Hardy offers his interpretation of this question: “Within a few years the common problems we associate with scarcity will be a thing of the past.” Do you agree?read more...»
There are lots of resources out there for students and teachers wanting to cover the debate about HS2 - here is a brief selection of video clips on the debateread more...»
Since the appalling fire a few months back at the Rana Plaza complex that cost the lives of more than 1100 people, there has been intense interest and scrutiny of working and living conditions of thousands employed in Bangladeshi clothing factories.
On Monday night the BBC programme Panorama broadcast an investigation into this and the findings were compelling and deeply disturbing.
In "Dying for a Bargain" Panorama discovered there have been at least 50 fires in Bangladeshi clothing factories in the last 10 months. Clothing factory workers filmed by
#BBCPanorama were released at 2:30 am, 19 hours after they started. They were due back at 7am. You can see a clip of this here. Events uncovered at the Ha Meem Sportswear factory will no doubt have left executives at Lidl scrambling to find out the truth about what is happening at one of their major clothing suppliers.
Tesco launches an own-brand seven inch tablet with the forgettable name Hudl - how will it be received by Tesco customers and the wider constituency of people looking for an affordable device? My first instinct is to add this product to my list of inferior products! Tesco says that it is every bit as good as the competition and you can get it in four different colours - what do you think?read more...»
Thousands of students have been helped by the online videos on economics concepts produced and presented by Phil Holden. The good news is that he is back and delivering two new lectures each week. They are ideal for supporting your work in school and nailing the new concepts and relationships as the AS course progresses. Here are some of the early video pieces.read more...»
Here are some news resources connected to the concept of the production possibility frontier. A production possibility frontier (PPF) shows the maximum possible output combinations of two goods or services an economy can achieve when all resources are fully and efficiently employedread more...»
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.
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.read more...»
As part of our introduction to micro economics we have been looking at the shortage of housing in the UK. The chronic shortage of affordable and suitable housing raises many micro (and macro) issues and I find it a good example of an issue where different policy measures can be looked at in a non-technical way as a path into supply and demand analysis. It also covers the ground with topics such as scarcity, changing needs and wants, affordability, cost-benefit principles, opportunity cost and production possibilities.read more...»
Channel 4 news investigates the impact of persistent and deep poverty on the lives and hopes of children in thousands of households. A potent and stark report that reminds us of the gulf in living standards and the challenges of meeting basic needs such as a decent diet that meets minimum nutritional standards.read more...»
One of the greatest economists of the last 100 years has died at the ripe old age of 102. This blog entry will feature an updated listing of obituaries and other resources on Coase's work. Coase was awarded the 1991 Nobel in economics “for his discovery and clarification of the significance of transaction costs and property rights for the institutional structure and functioning of the economy." His final book, 'How China Became Capitalist,' was published last year, when he was 101.read more...»
A new report from the Resolution Foundation provides evidence for students and teachers on the deep structural divides between well paid and low paid jobs in the British labour market. According to a report in the Guardian "Today more than one in three people aged 16-30 (2.4 million) are low-paid, compared with one in five in the 1970s (1.7 million at that time)."
There are many causes of low pay and students who look at labour market economics will be expected to explore some of them as part of their course. Most of the jobs at risk of poverty pay are relatively low skilled, temporary, mainly non-unionised, often part-time and concentrated in service sector industries such as catering, caring, catering, cleaning and retail. What are the long term economic and social dangers from a deeply embedded two-tier labour market?
The campaign for an (optional) living wage continues to gather momentum. Businesses are being urged to pay employees at least £1 per hour more than the minimum wage in a bid to lift those on the lowest pay out of poverty.read more...»
In the United States many thousands of workers employed by fast-food businesses on low pay have launched a strike complaining against endemic low pay in their jobs. Workers want to be paid $15 (£10) an hour, the median wage [for service workers] is $9.08 an hour and the minimum wage is just $7.25 an hour - unchanged since 2009.
What are the main reasons why workers in these jobs are low paid? One contributory factor is the frequent absence of trade union representation when negotiating pay and conditions. Virtually all private sector fast food jobs in the United States are non-union.
To what extent might a higher minimum pay floor cost jobs? Or could it have the reverse effect and bring about higher productivity and employment? Would the profits of businesses such as McDonald's suffer if they were required to pay more? McDonald's profits totaled $5.47 billion in 2012 and the US fast-food industry each year generates revenues in excess of $200 billion.read more...»
The International Business Times is producing a series of short videos on life, work and enterprise inside Tech City - a fast-growing hub of digital start ups and established tech businesses centred around Old Street / Digital Roundabout. The clips reveal the energy of the start-up economy in this part of London and the importance of network effects, collaboration and attracting human capital in accelerating routes to market for lean start-ups. This series of short videos is worth a look if you are interested in this potentially significant catalyst for growth in the UK economy and to learn more about the factors that influence the emergence and success/failure of start ups.read more...»
Here is a superb five minute news video from the Financial Times that could serve as an excellent introduction to both micro and macroeconomics. Helped by EU structural funds, Portugal has invested huge sums in their motorway network; indeed Portugal has four times more motorway road space per head of population than the UK. However beset by persistent recession and the lagged effects of high fuel prices, many of these gleaming new roads are virtually empty - a waste a scarce economic resources. Road traffic has fallen more in Portugal than in any other European country in the past 15 months. Peter Wise, Lisbon Correspondent, reports on why empty roads provide a revealing insight into the depth of the country's recession.read more...»
Here is a great example of factors of production at work in the mining industry. The BBC's Linda Yueh has been on a tour of Mount Whaleback - an iron ore mine in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. The mining is taking place on an epic scale and the commodities industries have been a major source of economic growth for Australia in recent years.read more...»
In a world dominated by hyper-productive (but often loss-marking) industrial milk farming here is a heart-warming, touching and rewarding documentary that has swept critics off their feet at film festivals during 2013. The Moo Man is a remarkable story of a maverick farmer and his unruly cows, filmed over four years on the marshes of the Pevensey Levels. In an attempt to save his family farm, Stephen Hook decides to turn his back on the cost cutting dairies and supermarkets, and instead stay small and keep his close relationship with the herd. How can a milk farmer operating on such a small scale compete and survive in today's world? The Moo Man provides some revealing answers!read more...»
What is it like to live in extreme poverty? Could you budget only one dollar a day to survive? Four friends from the United States spent their summer living in Guatemala on one dollar a day to try and understand the reality of poverty first hand. This is the official trailer of a new documentary being screened for the first time in August 2013 and comes from the Center for Global Developmentread more...»
This is a simply fabulous video to show to economics students of whatever vintage - there is so much relevant stuff in here it would struggle to fit into one of the containers that fill the world's largest ever freight ships. Challenge your students to find as much economics in this as possible and then make some connections between the topics!read more...»
Green was traditionally the colour of money, but with UK and EU energy policy, it is increasingly the colour of cost.read more...»
Prince Charles and eco-warriors rail against them, but genetically modified crops are becoming the superheroes of agriculture, and they have special powers. Some are being developed to be pest-resistant, potentially saving the 50 percent of crops destroyed each year by pests. This means less pesticides, less run-off and less river pollution; this limits soil erosion, pertinent in developing countries where over-farming poses a greater problem. GM crops have avoided 200,000 tonnes of insecticide and the multiple sprays of fungicide that potatoes need. One promising development is of crops that will host nitrogen-fixing bacteria instead of needing vast quantities of nitrate fertilizers.read more...»
The UK Energy and Climate Change Committee has stated that shale gas will not be a "game changer" in the future of UK energy, but they are wrong; it will be. The recent British Geological Survey report pointed to 1,300 trillion cubic feet of reserves, twice previous estimates. A recent study by the Institute of Directors found that the shale gas industry could generate 74,000 jobs and could supply up to half the country’s gas needs by 2030. Furthermore it could also trigger an investment boom worth £3.7 billion a year. Given the location of most of the reserves, it could also be hugely beneficial in reducing the north-south economic divide.read more...»
Some useful data here on the depth of cigarette taxes by countryread more...»
We are now into the 3rd year of falling coffee prices in the world economy and the combination of weaker revenues and rising costs are causing big problems for some of the coffee suppliers in the poorest countries. This Financial Times news video provides some background on the industry. The price has fallen 60 per cent from its peak and the market seems saturated.read more...»
Frustrated by the noise of trans-Atlantic airplanes flying low overhead, a school near London's Heathrow airport has come up with an innovative solution - superadobe structures originally designed for use in earthquake zones. This short news video from Reuters is a vivid reminder of the negative externalities created from jet aircraft - in this case disrupting lessons and playground activities.read more...»
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.