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Friday, 21 December 2012

A Video on The Minimum Wage

Building up a strong argument is essential for getting good grades. When evaluating the minimum wage, its not good enough just to write that it creates unemployment. What are the other effects?

Here is a video describing the effects of a minimum wage. Sure it is slightly biased (free marketeers), but that's why their argument against it is really good.

Notes on the labour market, trade unions and the minimum wage can be found here!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Deck the Halls with Macro Follies

Here's something to get you all into the Christmas spirit, economics style!

This is a video summing up the different economic schools of thought from Keynes, Malthus (less relevant), J. B Say (from Say's Law) and Hayek in playful song.

Its surprisingly enjoyable to listen to and is also a nice quick and dirty memory refresher for the key economics viewpoints. Here you go:

About a year ago I posted up other playful videos from Econstories on Boom and Bust and Fight of the Century.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Very useful website (part from this one obviously!)

Hi everyone, I came across this brilliant website for economics explanations, recent news analysis..etc. They have recommendations for textbooks, tailored exam board guidance, lots and lots of notes and graphs! Read it!


Saturday, 12 May 2012

Michael Portillo's 'Great Euro Crisis'

On BBC2 on Wednesday night was a very information documentary about the Eurozone crisis, in particular Greece. You can watch it here on BBC iplayer. Remember it won't be there forever, do take time to watch it.

  • One quarter shops have closed since the crisis began in 2008
  • Social costs: Graffiti everywhere, dereliction
  • Michael Portillo's view is that Greece's joining the euro created the crisis
  • Introduction of the Euro: purpose - to help the poorer European countries catch up to their richer counterparts
  • The Euro has made Greece uncompetitive, considering the Drachma was weak and this helped fuel demand for their exports
  • The Euro also increased the amount of exports entering the country, particularly cars (what made it easier was the wide availability of credit for Greeks to finance the purchase of these cars)
  • In 6 years, Greece's deficit from Germany went up from under €3bn to over €8bn
  • Another contribution to the debt: transport advancements (equipment could not be manufactured in Greece, so had to be imported by German companies) were paid for with debt, and tax evasion
  • Devaluing the currency (going back to the Drachma) can help improve their competitiveness
  • Government put national assets (e.g. the airport) among other austerity measures, to try to save the country

Friday, 27 April 2012

Case Study: Separation of Ownership and Control

Sometimes it is difficult to understand how some economics concepts can be used in the real world (although with economics, it should be easier to relate that other subjects..) so here is a perfect example of the principal/agent problem.

There seems to be a conflict between what shareholders want and what managers (executives) want at Barclays. At Barclays, £730m was paid out to shareholders last year in contrast to £2.15bn that was paid in bonuses.

Read notes on the Principal Agent Problem here.

Saturday, 21 April 2012


·       A type of market structure where there are a small number of firms dominating the market, all selling similar goods

·       What’s your definition of ‘dominating’ the market? How do economists go about determining whether a market is dominated by a few firms or not? They measure the concentration ratio – the market share of the biggest firms in the market. For example, a four firm concentration ratio shows the percentage of output produced in the market by the four largest firms. Statistically, this method is okay to use, but at A-level (and GCSE), it is better that you know that the essence of understanding the oligopoly market is that firms in the market make decisions on price and output based on the decisions of rival firms. They attempt to predict what the other firms are doing, to compile their own strategy.

·       An example of an oligopoly market is supermarkets

·       Can compete on price (resulting in a price war, see here and here) or not, instead competing on other bases such as:
o   Loyalty schemes (Tesco Clubcard, Sainsbury’s Nectar points)
o   Advertising and marketing
o   Home delivery options (e.g. Asda and Tesco)
o   Discounted petrol  (e.g. Asda, Morrisons)
o   Extension of opening hours (e.g. Metro Bank open on Sundays)
o   Lateral growth in other industries (Asda opticians, Tesco banking and insurance)

·       There are barriers to entry in the market

Kinked Demand Curve Theory

The theory explains how a competitive oligopolist may be affected by rivals’ reactions to its price and output decisions.

 Look at the AR curve for now. The AR curve is relatively elastic from P* to P1 and relatively inelastic P1 onwards.
The oligopolist sets price to P1 initially. When the curve is relatively elastic, if a firm in the market increases the price, other firms will not follow because the resulting fall in demand is greater than the proportionate change in price. The firm loses too much demand to attract other firms to follow.
When the curve is relatively inelastic, if a firm lowers the price, other firms will follow because they benefit from the resulting increase in demand. Even though the resulting increase in demand is lower than the fall in price, firms benefit because consumers ‘shop around’ for lower prices; if Tesco are selling a notebook for £1 and Asda are selling a notebook for 80p, provided that Asda is just as accessible as Tesco, the consumer may decide to shop at Asda instead. This is under the assumption that the oligopoly market compete on price. If this happens, a price war may result.

Now consider the MR and MC curves. The oligopolist sets price and output level to P1 and Q1. The profit maximising level of output is Q1. The initial MC curve is MC2, but if the MC curve was to shift to above MC1 or below MC3, the oligopolist would have to charge a different price to ensure profit maximisation (assuming AR = selling price). Price stability is achieved because the MC curve can be anywhere between MC1 and MC3.
Furthermore contributing to price stability, the oligopolist may decide to leave price and output at point X because of the uncertainty from rivals’ price and output decisions.

The Kinked Demand Curve is only a theory and an estimate of how demand changes when the oligopolist changes price because there is not perfect information in the market for olipogolists to know the exact position and shapes of their demand and revenue curves. The theory is useful because it illustrates how firms are interdependent on rivals, and affected by uncertainty.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Government Policies to Reduce Market Failure

If you've watched the news recently, you guys should know that the government are considering changing the packaging on cigarettes to discourage new smokers. Use this as a case study in your exam to demonstrate government policy to reduce market failure caused by demerit goods (See notes on Negative Externality and Market Failure. These notes specifically apply to negative externalities, but it is relevant because the consumption of demerit goods causes negative externalities, e.g. second hand smoke).

The new plain branding is being considered to deter youths from starting to smoke, but critics say that the branding will make no difference to those who are already in the habit of smoking. What is your view? Good idea? Tell the examiner!

Monday, 9 April 2012

Another Contribution to the Business Cycle

Read an interesting article on the BBC about the cost of bank holidays, according to research from The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR).

Each bank holiday costs the economy £2.3m and that means the economy could gain an extra £19bn if bank holidays were scrapped. This can be a contribution to the business cycle (see here) because bank holidays reduce GDP. If the economy was suffering a downturn, the loss of GDP can cause the economy to worsen from a downturn to a recession. For the UK, especially at a time where we are not experiencing strong growth, forecasters are predicting the worst from the working days that are lost.

15% of the economy, which includes pubs, clubs, restaurants, cafes and visitor attractions, do well on bank holidays and 45% of the economy suffers, which includes offices, factories and building sites, where people do not go to work on the bank holiday. The areas that benefit do not balance out the loss of productivity from the services sector of the economy.

Do read the full article for more information.

Principal-Agent Problem

The divorce/separation of ownership and control helps explain the principal/agent problem.

Among large firms, the managers and the owners of the company tend to be separate. One who has the financial capacity to invest into a company (in extreme cases this can be through inheritance, lottery..) can do so without running it. This is the separation of ownership and control.

Because the owners are different to those who run the company (the managers), they may have different objectives. Managers want to benefit from perks (e.g. company car contribution, pension contribution, discounted gym membership) and bonuses. Owners want to maximise shareholder value. They also want to satisfice: achieve minimum targets that are acceptable and satisfactory to all member groups of the coalition that make up the firm. Satisficing helps resolve the conflict bought by the separation of ownership and control because in order to achieve ‘minimum’ targets, both parties must compromise. For more on satisficing, click here.

The principal-agent problem is the conflicting objectives of the owners and the shareholders of the company.

How does the principal-agent problem affect a firm?

The owner can never be sure that the employed managers are aiming to maximise profits or succumb to the temptation of maximising their own benefits, possibly leading to decreased profitability.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Quantitative Easing (QE)

QE causes a change in the money supply. Steps:

  1. The Bank of England (BoE) purchases assets such as government bonds and corporate bonds
  2. Pays for these assets by creating money electronically and crediting the accounts of the companies that it bought assets from
  3. These accounts are called reserves. All banks hold reserves at the BoE and the essence of QE is that it builds up these reserves
  4. QE is likely to lead to inflation because banks lend more and increases the money supply (see Quantity Theory of Money). Another reason for inflation is, holding everything else equal (ceteris paribus), more people have more money that they supposedly use for consumption, creating demand pull inflation
Explained by Stephanie Flanders

Stephanie Flanders in the BBC’s economics editor, the link above provides a short video RSAnimate of QE. A summary of the video is as follows:

·         The Bank of England creates money and spends it so that there is “extra cash” flowing into the economy. They spend it by buying government bonds or IOU’s (formal definition: documentation confirming that the debt is owed) from financial institutions such as pension funds or insurance companies.
·         This puts more money into the economy (higher money supply) because these financial institutions that sold these bonds have more money to spend on new businesses or on housing for example.
·         Because of this, it is cheaper for the government to borrow as the BoE pushes up demand for the Treasury’s IOUs and supply of bonds has been reduced. Long term interest rates are lower than they should be making it cheaper for everyone else to borrow as well, because higher demand means more spending and this leads to faster growth.

The last point explains the theory WHY the government uses QE even with the risk of inflation, particularly during recessions. If demand rises, consumption may increase and the economy begins to recover. 

Sunday, 11 March 2012


Here is a great selection of videos on Greece, posted in Tutor2u. I remember using this website for my revision, please have a look at their other posts.

Cigarettes on the Black Market

This post is an example of the Law of unintended consequences. One in three cigarettes sold in London in the beginning of this year is illegal, in contrast to the one in five that it was at the end of 2011. The black market for tobacco is responsible a loss of revenue to the Treasury accounting to more than £2billion, going to smugglers and criminal gangs instead. 

Key points to remember from this case study: 

1. Increasing taxes on demerit goods may not provide incentives for people to give up/consume less, instead giving incentives for people to sell illegitimate 'illicit whites'. 

2. They are bought and shipped from China very cheaply and sold cheaply for people to consume (Black Market). Evidence against free trade and China?

3. Taxation is designed to raise money for government expenditure, however £25million is spent by the government to reduce black market activity. 

4. Demand for tobacco (as with any demerit good) is inelastic, meaning that the proportionate rise in price will lead to a less proportionate fall in demand, because consumers are satisfied with illegitimate copies.

Smugglers can make approximately £1.65million from bringing in a container of 10million counterfeit cigarettes. Each packet is made for just 20p and they have been found to contain substances such as asbestos (a harmful substance known to cause lung cancer and other illnesses). 

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Profit Maximisation Point

The profit maximisation point is MR=MC. Below are the diagrams for the profit maximisation point for both monopoly and perfect competition markets. The profit maximisation point is the quantity and price level that the firm will produce at to ensure the most benefit. Before point X, MR is greater that MC thus profits will rise and rise. After point X, MC is greater than MR, thus firms do not see it profitable to produce after that point because they lose money.

For a monopolist, firms charge a price level higher than profit maximisation because it maximises producer surplus and consumers are still willing to purchase at that price level (See notes here). The quantity produced remains at Q1. For a firm in perfect competition, the level of output produced is at X and the price charged to consumers is P1, making the firm productively and allocatively efficient. For more notes, see here.

For more notes on perfect competition and monopoly markets, see here and here, respectively.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Inflation for January 2012

Inflation fell to 3.6% in January, as forecasters predicted. Read more on the Financial Times. The ease in inflation may give signs that this 'stagflation' that the economy has been experiencing may be shifting away. The coming months will tell how unemployment will change in response (Phillips Curve). Inflation faces downward pressure from the effects of higher unemployment, slow exports markets (due to the Eurozone) and lower energy prices (causing a rise in imports).

A further £50bn Quantitative Easing that the MPC authorised earlier this month shows that there is still deficient demand in the economy and it may continue to stay low. Thus economists are predicting more QE to keep inflation from falling below the government's 2% target.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Fiscal Policy video

Paj Holden's video on fiscal policy is a great material for revision or learning fiscal policy from scratch.

Key points/summary of topics explained

Fiscal policy - manipulating government spending and taxation levels in order to manage the level of AD in the economy.

Definition of AD (C+I+G+X-M)

In a weak economy (low AD), the government might consider loosening fiscal policy - lower taxes (boost consumption) and increasing government spending. Disadvantage of loose fiscal policy, if spending becomes too high, deficits rise, creating problems, such as the Eurozone crisis.

Explains the Euro crisis

Business cycle and output gaps

Note: The AD/AS diagram he uses shows the Keynesian LRAS (notes to come!)

Case Study: Greece

---> GDP growth of -6.6%

---> Budget deficit (2009) was 15% of GDP. In 2010, it was 11% of GDP and in 2011 it was 8% as a result of increased taxes and lower government spending (austerity measures). However the Greek government is still spending 8% more than revenues gained from taxation. There is also interest gained from the additional spending, demonstrating the importance of their fiscal constraints.

Quantitative Easing

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Bad News for Britain

The UK's budget deficit (amount by which government expenditure is in excess of tax revenues) rose above £1 trillion (£1,000,000,000,000!) for the first time, in December 2011. This spells bad news for us because:

1. It means the government's deficit reduction plan is not working, which could mean deeper cuts for the rest of 2012.

2. The Eurozone crisis

Use this as a case study for what happens if the government uses Keynesian policies to increase economic growth (Labour's government policies....). Unemployment rose the same time as the deficit reaches an all time high, evidence for crowding out?

Monday, 23 January 2012

Government Policies to Reduce Unemployment

For government to use the correct policy to reduce unemployment, they must first recognise the cause of unemployment (see here). Using Keynesian fiscal policy to increase AD may be ineffective if structural unemployment is taking place, for example, since this will simply result in inflation.

Free market view
Government policies should only be aimed at reducing structural, frictional and real wage unemployment. Cyclical and seasonal unemployment can be resolved through the market mechanism. Setting markets free can encourage competition and enterprise culture, creating more jobs. Supply can create its own demand.

Keynesian view
The government should intervene to correct the market failure that causes unemployment. They should try to make markets function better, giving them a greater role that the free market economists believe.

Case Study – Government ‘Work Programme’

·       Aimed at reducing long term unemployment and tackling youth unemployment
·       It is a partnership with private companies

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Unemployment Notes

Full employment is, according to the Beveridge definition, when 3% or less of the work force is unemployed. At current, the unemployment rate is 8.4% of the labour force, indicating that the UK is performing far from full employment and full productive capacity. More detail can be found from notes published on 5th August.

The Natural Rate of Unemployment (NRU) is the rate of unemployment that occurs even when the aggregate labour market is in equilibrium (ADL = ASL). Below is a diagram illustrating NRU.

Point X is the equilibrium, ADL = ASL, the market going wage rate is WFE and full employment occurs when EFE workers are hired. ASLN shows how many more workers are willing and able to work at different wage rates but cannot due to frictional (geographical immobility) and structural unemployment (lack of skills). The NRU can be calculated by EFE – E1.

NRU can also be linked with inflation. NRU is also known as the Non- Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment (NAIRU). This means that it is the only rate of unemployment that does not alter the rate of inflation.

Causes of unemployment

·     Frictional unemployment relates to the time taken to find a new job, the period between switching from one job to another. Frictional unemployment is caused by:

Ø  Occupational immobility of labour: Workers need more time to switch between jobs because they don’t have new skills to offer new employers. Lack of training courses, for example, makes the search period longer. Along with that, the longer the search period, the less employable the worker gets because they are losing their employability skills (work ethics, behaviour…).
Ø  Furthermore, new employment practices such as laws on equality (race, gender, sexual orientation...) can prevent perfectly capable workers from finding a job. This is one case against government intervention in the economy.

Ø  Geographical immobility of labour: The difficulty of moving to another location to find a new job. For example, the North South divide in the UK means house prices are too high in the South where more jobs may be available. Other reasons that cause difficulties are family ties and attitudes towards moving to new and unknown locations.

Ø  Search theory of unemployment: Those who are unemployed will continue to look for the ‘right’ job, comparing their old job with the other jobs available, for example, pay, travelling distance….etc. Because of this, workers may reject job offers, leading to a longer period of unemployment.

·   Structural unemployment means that workers lose their jobs due to changes in the structure of the economy. For example, the UK’s economy moved from an industrial one in the early 1900s to one based on providing financial services now. This led to the loss of jobs in the manufacturing sector (read this article:

·   Seasonal unemployment occurs because of changes in the weather. When the UK’s climate changes, it affects the agricultural and tourism industries, leading to job losses in the winter.

·   Cyclical unemployment is caused by deficient aggregate demand. Also known as Keynesian unemployment or demand deficient unemployment, the diagram below displays a fall in  ADL after a fall in AD. This causes employment to drop from EFE to E2. See a more detailed explanation as posted on 3rd October.

·   Real wage/classical unemployment is caused by wage stickiness. Collective bargaining by trade unions (see here) causes wages to remain high, causing unemployment.

Ø  The diagram shows that point X is the equilibrium point. The real wage rate is WFE and employment is EFE. When trade unions cause the real wage rate to rise, wages become W1. This causes an excess supply of labour because at W1, E1 workers are willing and able to work at this wage rate. However, demand for labour is only E2, more workers are willing to work than firms wish to hire, thus creating unemployment equal to E1 – E2. W1 is known as the disequilibrium wage rate.

Ø  Free market economists believe that labour market competitiveness would drive down wage levels in time, however trade unions cause wage rigidity preventing it from going back to equilibrium.

It is important to note that unemployment is a waste of human capital. The disadvantages of unemployment are shown in the table below.

One positive of unemployment that classical economists believe is that it brings a downward pressure on inflation. But that’s up to you to decide whether you agree and be sure to write your opinion in the exam. See tomorrow’s post on government policies aimed at reducing unemployment.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Discretionary Fiscal Policy

Using fiscal policy in response to economic conditions, e.g. a recession, to induce changes in the economy. Some economists say that discretionary fiscal policy can be a good way to reduce the volatility of business cycles. For example if economic growth is slowing and forecasters predict that a down turn/recession may occur by the next year, expansionary fiscal policy may be used to reduce the impact. However, forecasters' predictions do not always come true, thus giving the case against using discretionary. Also, effects of fiscal policy do not show immediately due to the time lag, thus there is danger of in fact worsening the economic situation than improving it.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Evidence of Price War

Following 16th October's post giving you an oligopoly case study, forecasters have predicted that over the Christmas period Tesco lost market share while Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrisons grew market share. This just shows how price wars can adversely affect companies within a market. The 'Big Price Drop' campaign was matched by Asda's '10% cheaper' and others from the competitors. However a counter-argument is that the price led to increased market share for all the major firms regardless that Tesco has lost.

Latest figures

A good website to use to find out the latest growth, inflation, interest, exchange and unemployment rates is You can spend a while looking at the most recent data and pick out patterns and make comparisons.

Interesting facts to note and use:

Japan's interest rate is 0%

The Euro area has the highest unemployment rate

China's inflation rate is 4.2% while India's is over 9%!

Ireland has the highest budget deficit, 31.30% of GDP. Greece, the USA, UK, Portugal and Spain follow soon after.

India's GDP was 6.9% in the third quarter of 2011, compare that to China's 2.3%

Channel 4: Unemployment Video

This video,, provides a good case study about unemployment in the UK and highlights the inequality between the North and South. Sorry if it is slightly outdated, but there are still some very useful points you can pick out.

Monday, 9 January 2012

The World Tonight 5/1/12

From 21:50 listen to The World Tonight to find out more about Brazil's economy, report by Justin Rowlatt.  For those who also do A Level geography, type 'Justin Rowlatt bbc' into Google to watch his previous BBC documentaries. Key points:

Growth has been falling from an average of 7% per year to 3.5% now

Brazil's economic growth has been fueled by China's demand for Brazil's beef, soya and raw materials

The world's second largest soya producer, first coffee, sugar cane, orange juice and beef producer.

Brazil's relationship with China

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Growth in 2012

This chart here shows the predictions for growth worldwide along with the reasons for it. Read it to learn more case study examples and improve your knowledge of the world economy, ready for 2012!