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Deflation – are we going to feel deflated?

While deflation was quite common right up to World War II, it has not been seen in the UK since 1947. The podcast considers whether it might return and looks at the impact of deflation on economic activity. There is a short case study on the deflationary years suffered by Japan between 1997 and 2006 and a consideration of policies that might be appropriate to overcome defaltionary pressures.

Turn up the Abba – back to the 1970s?

The Chancellor, Alistair Darling, announced in January that the government wanted three-year pay deals with public-sector workers. He argued that this would help with planning for public-sector finances. But many commentators likened it to the pay freezes and incomes policies of 30 years ago. The articles linked to below from the Guardian look at the similarities between the economic situation now and 30 years ago.

Turn up the Abba, as Alistair takes us back to the 1970s Guardian (9/1/08)
A Labour PM and Led Zep. But does the song remain the same? Guardian (13/12/08)

Questions
1. Assess the likely success of a three-year pay deal in keeping the level of public-sector pay under control.
2. “The story of the past 32 years is of how three big factors – privatisation, globalisation and curbs on the power of trade unions – have made it far harder for pay bargainers to use low levels of unemployment to win hefty pay awards.”Explain how these factors have changed the balance of power in the labour market. Discuss the extent to which this assertion is true.
3. Discuss the extent to which the economic situation in 2008 is similar to that in the 1970s.

Plastic bags – an environmental basket case?

Billions of plastic bags are used and discarded each year around the world and these cause considerable environmental damage – a form of market failure. In this podcast we consider the extent of the problem and policies that countries around the world are adopting to try to minimise this market failure. Many countries, including China, have banned single-use plastic bags completely, while others, such as Ireland, have chosen to tax them to try to limit their use.

Recession – are we sliding inexorably towards it?

The possibility of recession in the UK, the USA and Europe has attracted a great deal of media attention and in this podcast Andy Beharrell considers whether there is any real evidence of recession. The podcast considers the definition of recession, the causes of recession and the different approaches taken by governments to try to keep their economies out of recession. While the UK and Europe have adopted essentially rules-based policy approaches, the USA has taken a more interventionist and discretionary approach with a significant loosening of both monetary and fiscal policy.

Capitalism – RIP?

The current financial crisis has led many to wonder whether this may mark the ‘death of capitalism’. While this may almost certainly be an over-statement, it may mark a fundamental sea change in the way in which we oversee and manage a capitalist system. The articles below look at some of the implication of this possible change in approach.

Positive thinking Guardian (18/10/08)
A category error Guardian (10/10/08)
History can guide, yet there are new limits of the possible Guardian (10/10/08)
I’ve watched the economy for 30 years. Now I’m truly scared Guardian (28/10/08)
The new New Dealers Guardian (26/9/08)
Europe and America in the shadows as a new era dawns Telegraph (26/10/08)

Questions
1. Explain what is meant by a capitalist system of economic organisation.
2. Assess the extent to which a ‘soft-touch’ regulatory approach can be blamed for the current financial crisis.
3. Discuss the extent to which greater levels of government intervention and economic regulation are likely to result from the current financial crisis.
4. Are we witnessing the death of capitalism?

Keynes – do we need him more than ever?

The potential relevance of Keynesian economic theory has been sharply brought back into focus as governments struggle to find an appropriate mix of policies to try to avoid or mitigate the impact of recession on their economy. Chancellor Alistair Darling has relaxed fiscal rules to allow spending to rise in an attempt to boost aggregate demand and compensate for falling consumer demand.

How to kick start a faltering economy the Keynes way BBC Magazine (22/10/08)
Situation vacant: a theorist is sought to succeed Mr Keynes Guardian (11/10/08)
In praise of ….. John Maynard Keynes Guardian (9/10/08)
Spend, spend, spend: Alistair Darling adopts John Maynard Keynes doctrine Times Online (20/10/08)
Darling invokes Keynes as he eases spending rules to fight recession Guardian (20/10/08)
Follow Gordon Brown again and spend out of recession Times Online (14/10/08)
Economists condemn Chancellor Alistair Darling’s spending plan Telegraph (26/10/08)
Keynes, the man to get the Government out of a crisis The Independent (20/10/08)

Questions
1. Explain briefly the Keynesian approach to the management of the level of aggregate demand.
2. Using diagrams as appropriate, show the impact of the relaxation of fiscal spending rules on the UK economy.
3. Discuss the extent to which a Keynesian approach to economic policy is likely to help the government avoid a recession in the UK. Is leaving the control of interest rates in the hands of an independent Bank of England a constraint on the effectiveness of this policy approach?

The rise and rise of unemployment

The financial crisis and economic downturn have started to impact on unemployment which, in the UK, has risen at the fastest rate for 17 years. A study by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has said that the downturn may add 20 million to the global unemployment total bringing the figure to around 210 million.

Unemployment rises at fastest rate in 17 years Times Online (15/10/08)
Smoke clears to reveal the monster of rising unemployment Guardian (19/10/08)
Unemployment total may be more than 2 million by Christmas Guardian (16/10/08)
Back to the future? No, thanks Guardian (15/10/08)
White collar workers next victims as unemployment accelerates Times Online (16/10/08)
World jobless ‘to add 20 million’ BBC News Online (20/10/08)
UK recession is here to stay, experts warn Telegraph (26/10/08)
Recession Britain: Just how bad is it … and will it get much worse? The Independent (25/10/08)

Questions
1. Explain the likely impact of the economic downturn on the UK labour market.
2. Discuss the view that “Unemployment won’t be solved by labour market flexibility ……. “.
3. Assess policies that governments around the world can adopt to try to mitigate the likely impact of a 20 million rise in unemployment. 

Demanding exports

The article below is an economic briefing from The Times, published to support the Bank of England’s Target 2.0 competition. It considers the importance of the exchange rate in determining the demand for imports and exports and therefore the impact that exchange rate changes are likely to have on aggregate demand.

Economic briefing: exchange rate is crucial to export demand and influences inflation Times Online (20/10/08)

Questions
1. Explain how import prices and export prices change in response to a fall in the value of sterling.
2. Define the terms (a) price elasticity of demand for imports and (b) price elasticity of demand for exports.
3. With reference to your answers to questions 1 and 2, assess how the balance of payments will change in response to a fall in the value of sterling. What is the relevance of the Marshall-Lerner condition to these changes?

Credit crunch and the public purse

US national debt has got so large that the national debt clock in Time Square has run out of zeroes and they have had to order a new one. UK national debt is also set to rise in the current financial crisis as government borrowing rose sharply in September. The impact of greater public spending and the part-nationalisation of the banks is all likely to lead to a rapid rise in public borrowing and therefore national debt, but is this sustainable for the UK economy?

How the bank crisis hits Britain’s public finances Guardian (14/10/08)
National debt clock runs out of zeroes – new larger clock ordered Guardian (9/10/08)
Banks’ bail-out: ‘The money’s being spent on buying bank shares, so it shouldn’t hit public borrowing’ Guardian (14/10/08) (podcast)
Rescue plan underlines likelihood of tax rises and spending cuts Guardian (9/10/08)
Darling must spend now Times Online (20/10/08)
Public borrowing hits record high Times Online (20/10/08)
Gordon Brown defends level of national debt Guardian (20/10/08)
UK borrowing hits a 60-year high BBC News Online (20/10/08)
Crisis ‘to double UK borrowing’ BBC News Online (22/9/08)
Deep pockets The Economist (9/10/08)

Questions
1. Explain the relationship between the level of public borrowing and the national debt.
2. Examine the reasons why public spending has risen.
3. Discuss whether this increase in aggregate demand will be sufficient to prevent the UK economy falling into recession.

Marx – back from the dead?

In a remarkable turn around, the current financial crisis has seen mentions of Karl Marx and Marxism creeping their way back into the economic media. Whilst no-one expects a resurgence of Marxist economics, the current financial crisis has led people to wonder whether his work may have some relevance in trying to analyse the current instability in the capitalist and financial system. Even the Archbishop of Canterbury has argued that Karl Marx was right in his assessment of capitalism. So is Marx turning in his grave, or is he due for a revival of fortunes?

Banking crisis gives added capital to Karl Marx’s writings Times Online (20/10/08)
The red Archbishop? Guardian (25/9/08)
Marx is dead: don’t resuscitate him Guardian (27/9/08)

Questions
1. Summarise the key tenets of Marxist economics.
2. Step 5 of Karl Marx’s ten essential steps to Communism was “Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state…..“. Assess the relevance of this as a possible solution to the current financial crisis.
3. An over-expansion of credit can enable the capitalist system to sell temporarily more goods than the sum of real incomes created in current production, plus past savings, could buy, but in the long run, debts must be paid”. Discuss the extent to which this quote from Marx is relevant in the analysis of the current financial crisis.