Category: Essential Economics for Business 5e

The article linked below is a blog article by George Monbiot looking at the rise of neoliberal economic views and discussing whether these are simply an intellectual justification for the rich and powerful to reinforce their position.

How the neoliberals stitched up the wealth of nations for themselves Guardian (Comment is free) (28/8/07)

Questions

1. Write a brief summary of the neoliberal views of the founder of the Mont Pelerin Society – Friedrich Hayek.
2. Explain the neoliberal argument that “….. we are best served by maximum market freedom and minimum intervention by the state. The role of government should be confined to creating and defending markets, protecting private property and defending the realm.
3. Discuss the view espoused by George Monbiot in the article that neoliberal policies like “minimal taxes, the dismantling of public services and social security, deregulation, the breaking of the unions” serve to make the elite even richer and simply act as a “wealth grab“.

British Airways has been fined £270m for their part in a price-fixing cartel. Fines were levied by both the US Department of Justice and the UK Office of Fair Trading following an agreement between British Airways and Virgin to fix the level of surcharges charged to passengers as a result of rising fuel prices.

Where’s Branson’s apology? BBC News Online (Robert Peston blog) (7/8/07)
BA’s price-fix fine reaches £270m BBC News Online (1/8/07)
OFT defends ‘snitch’ policy Guardian (5/8/07)
BA boss speaks out over price fixing Guardian (3/8/07)
How arch rivals colluded to hike up cost of air travel Guardian (2/8/07)

Questions

1. Define what is meant by the term ‘price-fixing cartel’.
2. Explain the characteristics of a market that are most likely to result in a cartel.
3. Discuss policies that the government could put in place to prevent this kind of price-fixing arising in the future..

The widening of the M6 will cost £3bn or £1000 an inch. What does this fact tell us about the government’s green priorities? Are we really leading the world on climate change as the government likes to claim? In the article below Ashley Seager (Economics Correspondent for the Guardian) looks at these issues and argues that we may be the poor man of Europe when it comes to ‘green’ policies.

Green means slow to this government Guardian (6/8/07)

Questions

1. Explain what Ashley Seager means by the sentence “What the government has also not done is send out new “price signals”, as economists call them” (paragraph 7).
2. Explain what is meant by a feed-in tariff (FIT). Why does Ashley Seager argue that this is a vital policy tool in the fight against climate change?
3. Discuss two policies that the government could adopt to help raise the proportion of renewable energy generated in the UK.

The combination of high global demand for milk and variable weather has led to a rapid rise in the price of milk. Cheese is made from milk (sorry to state the obvious!) and so cheese prices have risen to a new high in excess of £2000 per tonne and further price hikes are expected. One conclusion that could be drawn from this is that it is better to have a takeaway pizza now rather that in a month’s time, but what other effects is this price increase for milk likely to have?

Cheddar hits £2,000 a tonne as global milk demand soars Guardian (15/7/07)

Questions

1. Identify the key determinants of demand for cheese.
2. Using diagrams as appropriate, illustrate and explain the changes that have taken place in the market for cheese.
3. Assess the extent to which the price increase for milk can be passed on to consumers of associated products like yoghurt and cheese.

Reading the first article linked to below, you may be forgiven for thinking that farming has moved into the realms of science fiction. Dairy farming has moved determinedly into the era of technology and now benefits from extensive economies of scale with much higher productivity levels than even a decade ago. Yet 3000 dairy farmers are planning to leave the industry in the next two years and even the largest farms are struggling to make money. The processing sector has become significantly more concentrated and margins are being squeezed ever further by the power of the supermarkets, so has the market become unbalanced with too much power in the hands of supermarkets and processors?

Rising prices, failing farms. The strange story of milk Guardian (24/4/07)
Why British dairy farming is in crisis Guardian (24/5/07)

Questions

1. Describe the market structure of the milk industry.
2. Discuss the extent to which this market structure has changed the level of prices in the market for milk in recent years.
3. Evaluate possible measures that governments could implement to make the market for milk more competitive.