Category: Economics 10e: Ch 11

According to most conventional measures, income inequality in the developed world has been rising. This trend has been argued to be particularly prevalent in the UK and USA, but the article below from The Economist argues that conventional measures may be mis-representing the differences between the better off and the less well off. Instead of looking at income inequality, it looks at consumption inequality.

The new (improved) Gilded age The Economist (19/12/07)

Questions

1. Define the terms (a) income inequality and (b) consumption inequality.
2. Assess the extent to which income represents a good measure of economic wellbeing.
3. Discuss two policies that could be used to reduce (a) income inequality and (b) consumption inequality.

During the period that Mrs Thatcher was in office, the post-war trend towards greater equality of income was reversed. Although some of the changes the Labour government has made since 1997 have helped those on lower incomes, the rise in incomes at the top of the scale has meant that the gap between rich and poor has widened again. The article below from the Guardian looks at the latest figures on income inequality.

Inequality at same level as under Thatcher Guardian (18/5/07)


Questions
1. Define the terms (a) Lorenz curve and (b) Gini coefficient.
2. Given the changes in income distribution outlined in the article, discuss how the value of the Gini coefficient has changed since 1997.
3. Draw Lorenz curves to show the changes that have taken place in income distribution during Mrs Thatcher’s period in office and during Tony Blair’s time in office.
4. Analyse two policies that the government could introduce to reverse these income distribution trends.

The national minimum wage will rise again in October 2007 by about 3% from £5.35 to £5.52. However, the Work Foundation has warned that the effectiveness of the minimum wage may be at its limits and that further rises in its level may not have the desired impact in terms of addressing inequality. The articles and press release below consider these issues.

Minimum wage up to £5.52 per year BBC News Online (7/3/07)
National minimum wage at the limits of its effectiveness The Work Foundation – press release (6/3/07)
Warning over minimum wage level BBC News Online (6/3/07)

Questions

1. Using diagrams as appropriate, illustrate the likely impact on the UK labour market of the proposed increase in the national minimum wage from October 2007.
2. Assess the arguments given by the Work Foundation that the minimum wage is reaching the limits of its effectiveness.
3. Evaluate two methods other than a national minimum wage for reducing levels of both relative and absolute poverty.

The kibbutzes in Israel have always been renowned as a system where everything is evenly shared. However, with the news that Israel’s oldest Kibbutz has agreed to essentially privatise itself and start paying people according to ability, it seems that the reach of capitalism and the market system is now almost total. What alternative systems are left to organise and allocate resources? With most forms of socialist organisation more or less discredited as an efficient way of allocating resources, it seems that globalised capitalism is all that is left. However, in the article from the Guardian below Timothy Garton Ash argues that capitalism may, by its very nature destroy itself.

Global capitalism now has no serious rivals. But it could destroy itself Guardian (22/2/07)
Israel’s oldest Kibbutz votes for privatisation Guardian (20/2/07)

Questions

1. Describe the changes that have taken place in the system used to allocate resources in the Degania kibbutz.
2. Assess the reasons why the Degania kibbutz has decided to pay members according to ability.
3. Discuss the validity of Timothy Garton Ash’s argument that global capitalism is in danger of destroying itself.

In the Guardian article linked to below, Ashley Seager argues that the only way to reduce the extent of social exclusion is to tax the main asset of a large proportion of the population; their house. He argues that the massive increases in land values that have taken place with rising house prices have increased divisions in society and that a land tax is required to address this. It may be interesting to consider this issue along with News Item 4 about global wealth distribution.

A land tax is 200 years overdue Guardian (8/1/07)

Questions

1. Explain what is meant by a land tax and suggest different ways that this could be levied.
2. Discuss the likely impact of a land tax, as proposed by Ashley Seager, on the major economic targets.
3. Analyse possible alternative policies to reduce the levels of exclusion in UK society.