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Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Autumn Statement

Following the Chancellor's Autumn Statement yesterday, I found this excellent summary available on the BBC for you guys to read. It explains the key points and breaks down what he discussed into sections of the economy. Click here to view it.

There are also many pages on the FT from yesterday's statement. There are videos and interactive graphics so do look at them. The FT would have a more critical analysis of the issue and critique some of the policies and schemes introduced so read them to develop a better evaluation for the exam. Click here for it.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

The Andrew Marr Show

This morning the Chancellor, George Osborne and the shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls, were on The Andrew Carr show talking about the economy and the government's fiscal position. The Chancellor outlines the new schemes that are being introduced to help small medium sized businesses and Britain's position in the Eurozone crisis.

Here is the link for BBC iplayer to watch it:

Next week Nick Clegg is on the show, so for those of you who are still interested in what he has to say, watch the show next week as well. Alternatively, I will post up the iplayer link next week as well.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

BBC programme called 'Your Money and How They Spend It'

There is a really good programme by the BBC's political editor, Nick Robinson. It concerns itself with the fiscal policy of the UK in the past and the future. It describes the government's decisions in the allocation of resources and how the government spends our money. The programme is on the link here and is broadcast every Wednesday at 9pm on BBC2.  The issues discussed include:

  • Politics
  • UK's budget
  • Ageing population
  • Winter fuel allowance
  • Pensions
  • NHS
  • Financial crisis 2008
  • Tuition fees
  • Inequality
  • Infrastructure spending
Please watch it, there are case studies that you can use in your exam and some statistics that, if you learn, will make your exam answers different than others. It is also useful to know about previous governments' fiscal policies. The extra knowledge that you will receive will definitely be beneficial.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Energy in the 21st Century - Commodity Markets

'Cheap resources underpinned economic growth for much of the 20th century. The 21st will be different'.

Read the short article about the future for commodities to give you a better overview of the commodities market. You might need to register to read the full article, but if you don't want to register, I have posted up a summary below.

  · Research from McKinsey Quarterly shows that in the past eight years, prices have risen to levels not seen since the 1900s.

  · Price are very volatile – similar to that of the oil shock in the 1970s.

  · The future oil prices look set at remaining high and volatile because of two factors:
o Global supply is changing. If oil reserves begin to decline, prices will shoot up, until a factor such as new reserves being found, affects the price and they begin to drop.
o Inelastic supply. This means that OPEC for example, can charge high prices because they know that demand from Western countries particularly, will not decrease so much. To refresh your memory on elasticity, click here.

· Demand for energy, food, water and raw materials will rise exponentially as three billion new middle-class consumers will arise in the next 20 years.
o In India, calorie intake is predicted to rise by 20% within the next 20 years and per capita meat consumption is set to rise by 60%
o Demand for infrastructure will rise

  · Through the 20th century, demand rose between 600-2000% for some commodities, however the reason prices did not rise so dramatically was due to improvements in exploration and extraction techniques enabling new reserves and sources to be found.

· Climate change and rising carbon emissions illustrates the rise in resource usage.

· For the future, outlook for supply increases in bleak because it is becoming harder to find new reserves of raw materials and freshwater in the short run.
o Supply is increasingly becoming inelastic in the future
o The marginal cost for resources is increasing as they are depleted faster and costs of extracting in unconventional methods/locations rise. For example, tar sands, the alternative to pure crude oil, requires separation from sand, using up more energy and water.
o In Uganda, water shortages have led to higher energy prices in a country already trying to develop. This has led to burning wood for energy à deforestation à soil degradation à food supplies fall.

·  A future solution includes trying to increase productivity from natural resources by, for example, improving mining recovery rates, making households more energy efficient (home insulation, solar panels…etc) and reusing wastewater.  

·  If you want to find out more, check out this live stream of the event ‘Resource Revolution: Meeting the World’s Energy, Water, Food and Material Needs’ that you catch watch on Thursday 24th November through this link:

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The Quantity Theory of Money

The quantity theory of money

·       Explains that a rise in the money supply leads to excess demand, leading to a rise in prices, inflation. To put it simply, too much money chasing too few goods.

·       The quantity theory is a special case of demand pull inflation.

·       The Fisher Equation of Exchange provides evidence for the quantity theory of money.

M = money supply               
The total amount of money in circulation in the economy at any given time.

V = velocity
The number of times the money circulates around the economy at any given time. V is influenced by methods of payments such as cash, bank overdrafts, credit or debit. Methods of payments are limited therefore V remains constant.

P = price level

T = total transactions
The measure of all the purchases of goods and services in the economy. T remains constant because the theory assumes money is a medium of exchange, not a store of value, therefore people spend quickly any money they receive.
If V and T remain constant, they cancel each other out and thus a M = P. This means that a rise in M will create a rise in P, therefore explaining the theory.

Keynesians generally reject the theory because….

1. There are too many assumptions that the theory relies upon. They don’t believe that people quickly spend any money they receive. Instead, people hold money balances if share prices/bonds are likely to fall for example, thus V and T cannot remain constant.

2.  If there is spare capacity in the economy, Keynesians believe that real output and employment will increase, not the price level. However a counter-argument for that would be the Phillips Curve (more on that to come!).

3. If M has increased, the effect it can have on P is limited if V balances out the increase in P. Reflation of the economy can further limit the effect of a rising money supply on the price level.

4. Reverse causation: Inflation causes an increase in the money supply, not the other way round. Cost push inflation occurs and the money supply adapts (by rising) to finance a higher price level set for consumers to pay.

Normal Good

A normal good is one where, as incomes rise, demand for the good rises. For example, my demand for clothes and shoes would rise if my income rose.

In contrast to a normal good, is an inferior good, where notes on that can be found here.

Trade Unions

A collective association of workers whose aim is to improve the pay and conditions of member workers.

Aim to:
·     Improve real incomes
·     Working conditions
·     Pensions
·     Security
·     Unfair dismissal
·     Counter monopsony power
·     Protect against discrimination

Trade union membership has declined to less than 30% of all those employed in the UK (2007). Reasons for this include:

·     Membership is considered to be a waste since the economy was in a boom creating less of a need to bargain for higher wages

·     Tougher employment laws

·     Little evidence for significant mark-ups in wage levels bought about by trade unions

·     You become less employable if you belong to a trade union

·     Changes to the labour market: decline in jobs in heavy industry to more service sector based, shifts towards shorter employment contracts and more people working part-time/flexible hours

·     Some employers restricted trade unions in their work place

Unions influence pay by:

Ø     Collective bargaining
o      negotiate pay levels above the current levels that exist. This is only effective if the union has control over the total labour supply available in the industry.
Ø     Closed shop agreementemployer and union agree that all workers be part of the union
o      Pre-entry: workers must join the union before starting employment
o      Post-entry: non trade union members get the job but have to join to keep the job. This prevents free-riders benefiting from the mark up bought by the union on wages
o      This was considered to be a labour restrictive practice and is now illegal in the UK

Pre-entry closed shop

The diagram below briefly displays a pre-entry closed shop agreement made by unions.

S1 shows the supply for labour in the market before the closed shop agreement. Supply shifts to the left and becomes more inelastic because the increase in wages has minimal effect on employment if the workers have already been employed by the firm. Employment still, however, falls from L1 to L2 when wages rise from W1 to W2.

Perfectly competitive market

To refresh your memory of the PC market, click on the revision notes of the PC market in the short run and long run.

This diagram shows the effects of a trade union in a perfectly competitive market. The equilibrium wage rate is W1 where the number of workers employed is L1. The effect of the trade union is that wages are pushed up to W2 à the acceptable wage rate for union members. The supply curve becomes W2XS. From W2X, the supply curve is perfectly elastic. Along XS, the curve is upwards sloping because more workers are attracted to higher wage rates. The employer wishes to hire L3 workers but the number of workers willing to work at the wage rate of W2 is L2. Thus there is excess supply of labour, causing classical unemployment between L2- L3

This diagram argues that the trade union causes unemployment, however one can counter-argue, as in the Keynesian view. It is unrealistic to assume that demand conditions remain unchanged because higher wages would normally increase demand for output, thus increasing output and increasing demand for workers to produce more output.

This diagram can also be used to explain the effect of the National Minimum Wage, as well as trade union mark-ups.

Look out for more on the effects of trade unions in a monopsonistic market soon! (To prepare yourself, you could read Word of the Day)

Monday, 14 November 2011

Case Study for Supply Side Economy

A new government scheme has been launched today to tackle our sluggish economic growth. 'Business Link' (for more information and research, visit their website) has started a new scheme called 'My New Business' to give advice to potential entrepreneurs. Could this be a potential supply side policy aimed at shifting our LRAS curve rightward?

Read this short article which explains the potential benefits the scheme will bring to our economy. Click here.

To find out more about supply side policies and supply side economics, see my notes posted here!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The New Global Economics

On Monday 14th November, one of a two part programme will be on at 8:00pm about the future of the global economy. The show will be broadcast by Martin Wolf, the chief economics commentator of the FT, where he'll discuss the short and long run effects and how things will be changing in the world.

Please do listen to it, if you can't then listen on iplayer when convenient for you, because this programme will give you valuable analysis that you can use in your exam and possible case studies...etc. To find out more about the programme, click here.

The Credit Crunch

For those of you who are unsure what the 'credit crunch' is, and how it started, watch this simplified, but concise video that explains it.

To summarise, occurring in 2008, the credit crunch was the result of over lending to people who are high risk and thus the inability of debtors to pay back their loans. In a simplified version, banks make money through a process called credit creation, lending more than is initially deposited. They know that people will deposit money back into the bank that they borrowed from and so can afford to lend more than they have (given a low liquidity ratio: the proportion of their assets - savers' money - that they keep).

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Code for Fiscal Stability (1998)

·     Based on the 5 principles of tax
o      Equitable
o      Economical
o      Efficient
o      Convenient
o      Flexible


·     The Golden Rule
o      The government should only borrow to fund new social capital (capital spending, i.e. schools, roads…etc) and not current spending (e.g. welfare benefits)

·     The Sustainable Investment Rule
o      Public sector net debt should not rise above 40% of national income at the end of each financial year of the economic cycle

·     If the government stuck to the two rules, the public sector budget should, in theory, balance out over the course of one economic cycle because the government is not increasing current spending. A deficit is run on capital spending instead, thus balancing it out.

·     Aims
o      To limit how much the government borrows and for what purpose
o      Allow automatic stabilisers (see here) to smooth over the economy
o      Support the role of the monetary policy
o      Avoid an unsustainable increase in public sector debt
o      Ensure that tax revenues that are collected finance public spending as far as possible

·     Australia and New Zealand had a similar code

·     The government complied with the rules from the full economic cycle between 1997-1998 to 2006-2007, just before the recessions/economic crisis.

·     In November 2008, it was written in the pre-budget report that the code had been suspended to allow for the government to act appropriately in response to the global recession.

·     It was replaced by a less restrictive ‘temporary operating rule’ where the target was to manage public finances over the medium term. 

Please note, the Fiscal Policy Framework and the Code for Fiscal Stability should be used in the exam for demonstrating your understanding of past and previous fiscal policy used by governments. As it is no longer in use, be careful when mentioning in the exam.

Stealth Tax

An indirect tax that government's try to implement as they think people will not notice them. They can be thought of as being 'secretly' implemented.

When the UK government introduced the Fiscal Policy Framework and the Code of Fiscal Stability (1998), one disadvantage was that it didn't stop the introduction of stealth taxes. For more on the Code of Fiscal Stability, look here

Tuition fees

Hi everyone, I would first like to apologise for the inactivity on my blog.

Second, I've just read something intriguing about universities and tuition fees. This article here, from The Independent, explains that universities have appealed to the Offa (Office for Fair Access), the universities watchdog, to try and amend the agreement they made earlier this year, to try to reduce their fees.

27 universities have appealed, possibly suggesting a price war in the higher education market. Is this a case against the market provision of higher education?

This is a good example of a possible price war that is currently occurring and a good example to use in the exam.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

UK Growth Figures

Today it emerged that the UK economy has grown 0.5% in the third quarter of this year. Economists predicted a 0.4% growth rate, beating expectations. My verdict: at least it's not negative growth!

These two articles here and here, are good readings explaining the recent ONS figures.