Category: Economics 10e: Ch 15

The article linked below looks at the extent to which economic downturn and rising inequality are likely to affect crime levels in the UK. Traditionally the view has been that an economic downturn will raise crime, but is it necessarily the downturn that is causing the increased crime?

Consumed by crime Guardian (24/9/08)

Questions

1. Explain why an economic downturn may lead to increased levels of crime.
2. Discuss the extent to which deregulation of markets may have exaggerated the relationship between crime and the level of economic growth.
3. Assess the view espoused in the article that “a culture obsessed with material goods” and “competitive individualism” have led to stronger link between crime and economic growth.

The Phillips Machine may, in this era of super-computers modelling the economy, appear an outdated artefact. However, when it was first unveiled at the London School of Economics in 1949 it caused a sensation. The Phillips Machine is a model of the economy which uses water, pumps, valves and, in the case of the original, an electric motor scavenged from the windscreen wiper of a Lancaster bomber. For some photos of a Phillips Machine at the Science Museum, follow the links below:

Phillip’s Economic Computer (1949)
Enginuity article (Cambridge Engineering Department)

The computer model that once explained the British economy Guardian (8/5/08)
The computer model that once explained the British economy Guardian (8/5/08) (Cartoon)

Questions

1. Explain what is meant by the term ‘economic model’.
2. What were the limitations of the Phillips machine? Assess whether the Phillips machine could be of value to modern economists.
3. Discuss the value of economic models to policy makers when formulating economic policy.

GDP is quite a good measure of a nation’s production of goods and services, but it doesn’t include many other factors relating to the standard of living in an economy and for this reason, various other measures of living standards have been developed. However, there is also another issue with GDP and that relates to how best to measure a country’s economic performance. Should we use GDP per head or GDP growth? Population changes can significantly distort economic welfare and so do need to be taken into account. The article below from The Economist looks at these issues in depth and considers the best way to measure economic performance.

Grossly distorted picture The Economist (13/3/08)

Questions

1. Explain how GDP per head can fall while economic growth is rising.
2. Explain why the use of GDP per head as a measure of economic performance may lead to the definition of recession being flawed.
3. Assess the principal factors that result in economic growth and GDP per head rising together.

Concerns have been growing that the UK faces a downturn in economic growth during 2008. The articles below consider this possibility. With a credit crunch taking place and manufacturing output falling, the concerns for a recession may well not prove unfounded.

Is this the big one? Guardian (3/1/08)
Your survival plan if a recession strikes Times Online (5/1/08)
Top of the flops – 10 pointers to a downturn in 2008 Guardian (6/1/08)
Recession fears as manufacturing drops Times Online (11/1/08)
Crash that ‘won’t happen here’ looms large Guardian (3/12/07)

Questions

1. What are the key indicators of an impending recession?
2. Assess the likelihood of a recession in the UK in 2008.
3. What policies could the UK government adopt to avoid a recession during 2008. What would determine the success of such policies?

The French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, has asked a panel of economists, including Joseph Stiglitz, to come up with new measures of the quality of life as an alternative to the more traditional measures of GDP and production. He believes that traditional GDP measures understate the developments that have taken place in France.

Sarkozy seeks le feel-good factor Times Online (10/1/08)
France seeks new growth measure BBC News Online (8/1/08)
Beyond GDP – odd numbers Conde Nast Portfolio.com (9/1/08)

Questions

1. Explain why traditional GDP measures may not be a good measure of the standard of living.
2. Define what is meant by an Index of Sustainable Welfare.
3. Use the ‘Make your own ISEW‘ on the Friends of the Earth web site to assess the factors that make the most difference to the standard of living.