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Contestable Markets - A New Retail Landscape

Monday, July 07, 2014

Here is a short FT background video on the challenges facing established food retailers in the UK. The supermarket is under pressure. They face competition from both hard discounters and upmarket retailers. The FT's Andrea Felsted visits Romford, on the outskirts of London, to examine how supermarkets are adapting to their new retail landscape. The Guardian's articles in changing competition in the food retail sector provide some excellent background pieces - click here to access: http://www.theguardian.com/business/supermarkets

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Transport: competition in the cross channel market

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

When the Channel Tunnel opened in May 1994 bosses of many ferry companies were glum. But it was the backers of the channel tunnel who lost a fortune: according to The Economist (the source of the graph above), the train through the tunnel was meant to carry 28m passengers a year by 2010. Ferries were expected to lose foot passengers, cars and lorries. Like many predictions in business, this soon came to seem wrong; now it seems wrong only in the timing. Now it looks like competition in the market may be about to collapse, with ferries coming under increasing pressure.

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Development Economics: Rwanda’s Journey to Prosperity

Saturday, June 28, 2014

With World Bank Group support, millions of Rwandans are on their way to integrating to regional power and transport networks, boosting their agricultural productivity, and delivering results for their families. This is a short info graphic video from the World Bank together with some related links to useful resources on the Rwandan economy.

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Is Wayne Rooney an expert in rational economic theory?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

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

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LSE: The Amartya Sen Lecture 2014

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Christine Lagarde is Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund. She was appointed in July 2011. This blog links to the 2014 Amartya Sen lecture given at the LSE in the summer of 2014 on the topic of empowerment and in particular how women can build capacity and capabilities in countries seeking durable development - see also this blog from Mrs Lagarde in September 2013: http://blog-imfdirect.imf.org/2013/09/23/lagarde-w...

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Development Economics: Building Roads, An Economic Gain in Senegal

This new short video from the World bank looks at the economic benefits that flow from investment in an improved road network in Senegal

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Development Economics: Indonesia Has Developed, But Not Everyone Feels It

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Although Indonesia has experienced significant growth and development, not everyone has benefitted. This short video from the World Bank offers a personal story. Followed by up a July 2014 blog from BBC Global Business on the rise of the wealth elite in Indonesia.

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Paul Ormerod: Innovation, Job Losses and Living Standards

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Here is your starter for ten. What do the Uber app and David Ricardo have in common? Ricardo, I hear you ask. Scarcely known outside academic economics, he ranks equal with Adam Smith and Keynes as the greatest ever British economist. His classic Principles of Political Economy was published in 1816. He made millions of pounds on the stock market, at a time when a million was a vast amount of money.

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Inequality: a great induction topic for A2 economics

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The varied nature of Economics means there are so many (sometimes it can seem too many) themes to explore. And priorities change. Sometimes the main issue is production (making more stuff – and how the value of that is measured). Sometimes it’s exchange (looking at how markets work). Yet distribution (often overlooked, especially when economies are booming) seems the hottest topic at the moment. Inequality tops the bestseller lists.

Here are a few tips and links for using the topic as an intro to A2 economics, great for macro, with scope for analysis and evaluation of UK government policy and approaches to development economics.

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Development Data for Cambodia

Monday, June 16, 2014

Here is a selection of development data for Cambodia put into context with a selection of other Asian countries, drawing on published data from the Asian Development Bank. This blog will be added to shortly with summary notes on the economy and links to other useful resources

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RES Essay: Does immigrant labour benefit or impoverish the United Kingdom?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Question six for the RES competition in 2014 is bound to produce a large number of answers. Labour migration is an important economic, social and political issue and many students will have clear views on the issue. So what will make an essay stand out from the crowd?

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2014 World Cup Finalists - Human and Economic Development Indicators

Drawing on data from the 2013 Human Development Report, here are the 24 countries in the 2014 World Cup ranked according to the Human Development Scores

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RES Essay: Are the advanced economies in for a long period of economic stagnation?

Friday, June 13, 2014

This question gives students a superb opportunity to explore the debate surrounding economic growth in in the leading advanced nations of the global economy. It ties in well with research into the effects of globalisation and the legacy from the financial crisis. I have put together some reading and short video clips that might be relevant to the discussion:

Secular stagnation: (or .... growth pessimism!)

"Secular stagnation refers to the idea that the normal, self-restorative properties of the economy might not be sufficient to allow sustained full employment along with financial stability without extraordinary expansionary policies. The idea was put forth first by Alvin Hansen in the late 1930s." (Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/20...

One common interpretation is that - if we are in an age of secular stagnation - and this is an idea that might just be wrong! Maintaining demand often requires extensive periods of ultra loose monetary policy which in turn can create fresh bubbles in property and equity markets.

Is the secular stagnation argument too pessimistic? Can advanced economies rev up the engine of growth once more perhaps by using structural reforms to boost their competitiveness and drive new investment?

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Transport Economics: pollution costs from different modes

Thursday, June 12, 2014

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:

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​Disruptive technology: Uber

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Technology always disrupts markets. It provides dynamic efficiency improvements, creates new markets, destroys old ones, and in some cases destroys monopolies and in others, creates new monopolies.

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Higher or Lower Game - World Cup addition

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

You may have already seen my blog/tweet sharing the 'Higher or Lower' game.  Below you will find a brand new version of the game featuring the 32 countries taking part in the FiFA World Cup starting tomorrow.

The aim of the resource is to get a feel and understanding of some of the important statistics relating to the economic performance of the countries.  In this addition, students can attempt to work out whether the 'higher' or 'lower' statistic relates to predicted GDP growth, unemployment, inflation and Government debt alongside the country's FiFA world ranking.

Teams are presented with the name of a country and its statistic in their chosen category.  They are also presented with the name of a second country.  They must say whether the second country has a higher or lower statistic.  This is repeat a further three times allowing the team to score a maximum of 4 points per round.

Have some fun and get a feel for countries statistics at the same time!  Is there any correlation between economic and football performance?

Click here to download the file.

Note:  The economic statistics accredited to England are those of the entire UK.  Sorry, I was unable to find the statistics relating to just England!

Unit 3 Micro: Should Tesco be broken up?

Saturday, June 07, 2014

The supermarket giant Tesco is under increasing pressure! Tesco is Britain’s biggest retailer (it has 29% of the UK groceries market) and the biggest private-sector employer, and it runs about 7,000 stores worldwide. But it is facing significant commercial challenges from discount retailers such as Aldi and Lidl and seems to be squeezed in the middle as other shoppers look for the value proposition in stores such as Waitrose. Their recent trading figures made for sorry reading. For the three months to 24 May 2014, Tesco said like-for-like UK sales including VAT and excluding petrol fell 3.7%.

Is there a case for breaking up Tesco and getting the business to re-focus on what it does best? Two journalists from the Financial Times argue it out in the video below:

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ECB sets negative interest rates - what does this mean?

Friday, June 06, 2014

The European Central Bank implemented a negative interest rate policy yesterday. Whilst we have become very accustomed to a low base rate in the UK, the ECB policy seems extraordinary.

The policy has come about due to a continued concern over the economic situation in the Eurozone.  Growth remains weak, unemployment is high and inflation sits below the target of 2% in many of the 18 countries.  The ECB is unlikely to follow the UK (and others) strategy of quantitative easing and so is left with fewer choices.

By setting a negative interest rate, the ECB wants to discourage banks from keeping larger reserves and promote a greater level of lending (and thus stimulate economic growth).

If you want to download a short Powerpoint slideshow that explains the policy and its possible consequences then click on this link.

The Value of Drugs and Prostitution

Thursday, June 05, 2014

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has just increased the size of the British economy by nearly £10 billion, a figure equivalent to around 0.7 per cent of the economy as a whole. George Osborn has not waved a magic wand. We have not suddenly become more productive. The reason is that, for the first time, estimates of the value added by drugs and prostitution have been included. These activities are included in an economic sector called ‘miscellaneous goods and services’, which, as an indicator of its diversity, already contains things like life assurance and post office charges.

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RES Competition: Growth, Poverty and The Environment

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?

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OCR F585 Toolkit Available - June 2014

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Here are some selected streamed excerpts from the OCR F585 revision toolkit for the June 2014 paper:

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Transport Economics: The Return of Trams - Benefits and Costs

Trams have been experiencing a revival in a number of towns and cities in the past few decades. Edinburgh is the latest city to invest in trams, and hopes they will boost local economy. But do the benefits outweigh costs? Manchester, Sheffield, Blackpool, Nottingham, Newcastle and Croydon have all installed trams / light rail and others are considering investment. 

The Edinburgh trams at running (at last) but the jury will remain out for a long time about their net impact on economic activity, traffic congestion and the broader health of Edinburgh and the local environs.

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Unit 4 Macro: Growth, Trade and Development in Sub Saharan Africa

This blog entry will feature frequently updated revision resources on economic growth trade and development aspects for a range of sub Saharan African countries

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F585: Latvia and Iceland Compared and Contrasted

Latvia and Iceland figure prominently in the pre-release material for the F585 June 2014 paper. Both have chosen different approaches to addressing their internal and external imbalances. Latvia is now a member of the Euro Zone. Iceland has suspended her application to join the European Single Market and continues to operate with a floating currency + some residual capital controls.

These charts below track their recent economic performance focusing specifically on government debt, economic growth, unemployment, inflation and trade balances. Which country has achieved the best overall macroeconomic performance in the last few years? Which important bits of contextual information can you jot down to use - along with the pre-release material - for the exam?

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Unit 2 Macro: Sex and Drugs included in Measured UK GDP

Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Office for National Statistics has, for the first time, included estimates of the impact of prostitution and illegal drugs in the national accounts. By the ONS’ reckoning they add about £10bn to the British economy. The assumptions used in making the calculations have been the subject of some criticism. I have summarised below the assumptions behind the estimated spending / income and output effects of including prostitution:

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Unit 2 Macro: Fears for Portugal’s ‘lost’ generation

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 Portugal

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Development Economics: Mozambique eyes commodities boom

Mozambique has discovered large amounts of natural gas - can the extraction of this act as a catalyst for economic growth and development or will Mozambique be added to the long list of countries who have experienced a natural resource curse?

Manuel Chang, Mozambique's minister of finance, says economic growth is only part of the story of a country's development. He tells Javier Blas of the Financial Times how his nation plans to make the most of its vast natural resources.

Manufacturing output in the African continent accounts for less than 2% of global manufacturing production.

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Unit 3 Micro: Ban on Eurotunnel ferry service confirmed by CMA

Friday, May 30, 2014

An important judgement from the newly established Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). They believe that competition is best served by having three major cross-channel service operators - namely EuroTunnel (rail) and two ferry operators.

The CMA has ruled against EuroTunnel being able to cross-subsidise the loss-making MyFerryLink on the Dover to Calais service because in doing so, it is likely to lead to the market exit of a rival provider and ultimately cause higher prices for consumers.

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Footballs in Pakistan: An Innovation Story

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

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

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The link between unemployment and depression

Thursday, May 29, 2014

If you are like me, teaching unemployment starts with explanation of its causes and then moves on to its impact (before discussing possible solutions).  I've always found the 'impact' aspect relatively straight-forward; it would seem students find the concept of loss of output and its consequences fairly logical.  Discussing the long-term effects can be more difficult as young adults in full-time education may not be wholly empathetic towards the outcomes of job loss.

An interesting report came out from the Nuffield Trust recently (a copy is available from this link) about the increase in the prescription of antidepressants.  The increase from 15 million items prescribed in 1995 to 40 million items in 2012 is quite large but the report shows that the biggest jump has come during the economic downturn since 2008.  The report hypothesizes on a number of causes of this increase but does suggest a link between unemployment and the increase in prescription of antidepressants.  Perhaps it isn't a quantum leap to illustrate that there is a relationship between unemployment and depression but evidence of this nature may be valuable when making a point about the impact of unemployment (and its cost to society as a whole) in the class or as part of an exam answer.

Unit 4 Macro: Ten Years of EU Membership for Poland

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

May 2014 marks the tenth anniversary of Poland's accession to the European Union. Poland was easily the largest of the ten countries that came into the EU single market a decade ago. It was an important economic and geo-political moment for a country of just under forty million inhabitants. 

The country has always traded heavily with the EU and that trade dependency has deepened over the last ten years. According to economists at HSBC, Poland is well placed to sustain strong export growth even though much of Western Europe as a whole is struggling to escape from below trend growth.

Poland has had the most stable growth of any economy in Europe in recent years. It avoided a recession in the aftermath of the Global Financial crisis - helped in part by the depreciation of the Polish Zloty. The economy is the sixth biggest in Europe and in the top twenty five countries ranked by GDP. Steady progress in lifting relative incomes per capita towards the EU28 average has helped to grow the size of the middle-class consumer sector - a big opportunity for British businesses looking to invest in the country.

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Unit 4 Macro: Guinea and Rio Tinto Agree Investment Deal that might Double GDP

Guinea has agreed a huge new capital investment framework with a number of transnational partners including Rio Tinto and Chinalco to develop one of the world's biggest iron ore assets. This is a project that may double the country's GDP not least because as well as mining the iron ore, there is a proposal to seek funding to construct a 650km railway and a deep-water port to transport the rocks and minerals. 

It is one of those examples that comes along every once in a while that prompts both students and teachers to re-visit the economics of large scale foreign direct investment projects. Is this nation building of the old style? Or is the proposed investment framework one that could be genuinely transformative for one of the world's poorest countries?

Key points:

  1. Forecast of 45,000 new jobs created across the entire project
  2. State of Guinea will retain 15% of any proceeds from the mine
  3. In exchange, the joint venture with Rio Tinto / Chinalco will enjoy eight years' tax free operations in the country
  4. Production at the Simandou mine is expected to start within five years
  5. It will be Africa's biggest mine
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Obama allies lead the way on a positive approach to climate change

The fracking debate continues apace, with the announcement by the British Geological Survey that there are over 4 billion barrels of oil in the shale rocks of the South of England. The government has proposed new rules of access to land in order to speed up the exploitation of this oil, with payments of £20,000 being made to those living above the land where fracking takes place.

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World trade and global wage inequality

Large trade surpluses in developing countries lead to higher wage inequality in both poor and rich countries, which suggests that the way to alleviate global wage inequality is to target trade imbalances. These are the central findings of research by Rosario Crinò and Paolo Epifani, published in the May 2014 issue of the Economic Journal.

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Welfare benefits and job search - evidence from Norway

Unemployment benefits can address the failures of credit markets by enabling unemployed people to spend more time searching for a new job – even in countries like Norway, which have an equitable wealth distribution and a generous welfare state. That is the central conclusion of research by Christoph Basten, Andreas Fagereng and Kjetil Telle, published in the May 2014 issue of the Economic Journal.

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QE - New evidence of the impact on bond yields

New Bank of England research adds further weight to the view that central bank asset purchases (‘quantitative easing’ or QE) can affect government and corporate bond yields. In particular, the study, which is published in the May 2014 issue of the Economic Journal, finds evidence that QE works by reducing the supply of government bonds remaining in the private sector – what are known as ‘local supply effects’.

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Unit 3 Micro Business Economics Revision Guide

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Until the 3rd of June we are making available in streamed format the Unit 3 Business economics revision companion - a superb resource for AQA and ExExcel in particular

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World of Business: Focus on Business Pricing

What do prices mean and how are they set. A recent BBC World of Business podcast explored this and other issues.

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Two cheers for the global recovery, but doubts remain in the Euro zone

Worries are growing about some of the countries in the Euro zone slipping back into double dip recession. By convention, a recession is when national output (GDP) has fallen for two successive quarters. But this is far from being news. In a substantial number of economies, output is lower than it was not just two quarters ago, but three whole years ago, at the start of 2011.

The quarterly numbers have wobbled around up and down over this period, but they are now unequivocally below the 2011 figure in Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain. No surprises there. But the list goes on to include Finland, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic.

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Costs, benefits and ‘discounting’ the future

Thursday, May 22, 2014

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.

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Unit 4 Macro: Economic Benefits of EU Membership

European countries are on average 12% richer a decade after they join the EU than they would otherwise be -- and the UK is 24% better off since joining the EU in 1973 than it would otherwise be. Those are among the findings of research by Nauro Campos, Fabrizio Coricelli and Luigi Moretti as written about on VoxEU.org. 

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Unit 4 Macro: China accepts creative destruction

Here is a short interview in which it is argued that China will increasingly focus on the quality of growth rather than the quantity. A Chinese slowdown may affect countries that have exported to China more than China itself.

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25 Questions on the UK Economy (Exam revision)

Monday, May 19, 2014

Here is a 25 question general knowledge quiz on the UK economy - great for last minute revision! Good luck!

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

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

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

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Unit 2 Macro: PPP - What $1 Buys in China

Sunday, May 18, 2014

This short World Bank info-video looks at what $1 buys in China. In China, over 98 million people live on less than 6.3 yuan ($1) per day. 

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Unit 2 Macro: AS Macro Course in a Nutshell

Here is a listing of many of the presentations linked to our Quick revision guide for AS macro - I hope they are useful for the exam in the coming week

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Development Economics: The Clean Stove Initiative

Saturday, May 17, 2014

It is a staggering statistics, but around 3 billion people in the world cook and heat their homes using open fires and simple stoves burning biomass (wood, animal dung and crop waste) and coal. Over 4 million people die prematurely from illness attributable to the household air pollution from cooking with solid fuels. And more than 50% of premature deaths among children under 5 are due to pneumonia caused by particulate matter (soot) inhaled from household air pollution. This short World Bank video looks at the subsidies available to stove manufacturers under the Clean Stove Initiative.

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Thomas Piketty on Economic Inequality

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:

Bad maths in Piketty's capitalism critique? (BBC)

Are we living in the second gilded age? (Linda Yueh, BBC)

Articles on Thomas Piketty from the Guardian

Review of "Capitalism in the Twenty First Century"(The Independent)

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Unit 4 Macro: The New Pacific Alliance

Here are some resources on the newly created Pacific Alliance which - in the short run - has achieved significant tariff  reductions but which in the long run seeks to create a new economic community / single market in the region.

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Inequality in New York - Can New York bridge the income inequality gap?

Friday, May 16, 2014

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.

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