Category: Economics 10e: Ch 12

Transfer pricing is a technique used by multinational companies to avoid tax liabilities in countries they regard as having high levels of taxation. The articles below from the Guardian give the results of an investigation by Guardian journalists into the elaborate structures that have been created by multinational companies in the banana industry to funnel their profits through tax havens like the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands. In some cases they have paid an effective tax rate as low as 8% when the tax rate in their home country is 35%.

Revealed: how multinational companies avoid the taxman Guardian (6/11/07)
Bananas to UK via the Channel islands? It pays for tax reasons Guardian (6/11/07)
‘I get up at 4am, work to 6-7pm – it doesn’t feel like a life’ Guardian (6/11/07)

Questions

1. Define the term ‘transfer pricing’.
2. Explain how multinational banana companies use transfer pricing to reduce their tax liabilities.
3. “The trend in the last 30 years has been to shift the burden of tax away from companies on to the consumer and labour. Capital is increasingly going untaxed.” Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this shift in the method of taxation.

Al Gore’s contribution to the global climate change debate is not in question and he has, along with the IPCC, been awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his work in raising awareness. If you haven’t seen his film “An inconvenient truth” then do get hold of the DVD – it may just be the most interesting PowerPoint presentation you will ever see! However, does he really understand the nature of the debate? The article below suggests that he has not yet taken account of the most fundamental trade-off in dealing with climate change – the trade-off between our own quality of life and that of our descendants in the future.

Save the earth in six hard questions MSN Slate (22/10/07)

Questions

1. Explain what is mean by a trade-off “between the quality of our own lives and the quality of our descendants’ [lives]”.
2. What is meant by the term ‘risk-averse’ and how is this relevant in the climate change debate?
3. Consider the questions raised by the article. Discuss how relevant the conclusion reached is in the light of these questions.

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“.

President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has built up the pace of turning Venezuela into a socialist state with sweeping reforms, including extensive nationalisation. This has always been a controversial policy (not least with the private companies which will be taken into state ownership) and threatens to create further social tension in Venezuela.

Nationalisation sweeps Venezuela BBC News Online (15/5/07)


Questions
1. What are the economic implications of the creation of a ‘socialist state’?
2. Many of the poorest in Venezuela do not have full access to key services such as telecoms. Assess the extent to which nationalisation will help extend the reach of these services to all groups in society.
3. Discuss the arguments for and against bringing key industries into state ownership.

China, in a contentious new law, has given its people additional private property rights and protection of private assets. Many were worried that this eroded fundamental socialist principles, and it can be argued that this moves China further towards becoming a market economy.

China announces new property law BBC News Online (9/3/07)
China passes new law on property BBC News Online (16/3/07)

Questions

1. Examine the implications for the Chinese economy of the new additional property rights.
2. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the new law giving additional private property rights.
3. Assess the extent to which this moves China closer to being a free market economy.