Category: Economics 10e: Ch 15

The Chancellor’s pre-Budget report was a massive political and economic gamble. The government has clearly recognised the potential seriousness of the economic situation and, in an attempt to avoid a prolonged recession, has injected £21bn into the UK economy in the form of tax cuts and spending increases. The headline grabbing changes were a cut in VAT and an increase in the top rate of income tax to 45% for those earning over £150,000 per year, but there was a raft of other changes including £3bn of public-sector infrastructure projects being brought forward.

Will this fiscal kick be enough to prevent a deep recession? The Chancellor clearly thinks so. He has amended his forecasts for economic growth to acknowledge that GDP will fall by 1% in 2009, but he believes growth will bounce back to 1.75% in 2010. The links below are to a selection of articles relating to the pre-Budget report, but there are plenty of other sites offering discussion and analysis of the issues relating to this unprecendented Keynesian fiscal boost.

Pre-Budget Report: Alistair Darling’s £1 trillion debt gamble Times Online (25/11/08)

Pre-budget report 2008 Guardian (25/11/08)
Pre-Budget report 2008 BBC News Online (25/11/08)
Average earners lose out in PBR BBC News Online (25/11/08)
Pre-Budget Report – the documents BBC News Online (25/11/08) Links to all pre-budget report documents as pdf files
Robinson and Peston analysis of PBR BBC News Online (25/11/08) Video from the Daily Politics show
Darling needs to cure a nation hooked on debt Guardian (24/11/08)
Darling unveils borrowing gamble BBC News Online (24/11/08)
Analysis: is this the death of New Labour? Times Online (24/11/08)
Alistair Darling announces £20bn economic boost Times Online (24/11/08)
Alistair Darling’s £20bn tax giveaway Times Online (24/11/08)
The mother of all gambles Guardian (24/11/08)
Obama and Darling: compare and contrast Guardian (24/11/08) Video comparing the packages announced by Alistair Darling and Barack Obama
The £21bn tax gamble Guardian (25/11/08)
Call this a cure? Guardian (25/11/08)

Questions

  1. Write a short paragraph outlining the main policies set out in the pre-Budget report.
  2. Evaluate the likely success of the policies announced in the pre-Budget report in preventing a prolonged recession for the UK economy.
  3. Discuss the short-term and long-term impact on the UK money markets of the high levels of borrowing required to fund the tax and spending changes set out in the 2008 pre-Budget report.
  4. Assess the likely impact of the increase in the top tax rate of income tax to 45% on (i) consumer expenditure growth, (ii) tax revenues, and (iii) the incentive for higher rate tax payers to work harder.
  5. Discuss whether a fiscal solution, such as that set out in the pre-budget report, or a monetary policy solution will be more effective at preventing a prolonged recession in the UK..

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.

A key introductory economic concept, brought to us from Adam Smith, is the invisible hand that manages the workings of the market economy. However, is the current financial crisis an indication that the invisible hand has failed us? Should we be looking more at the invisible heart of community when we try to build an economic system? The first article linked below look at whether we may be more successful at delivering economic happiness and welfare if we follow the invisible heart rather than the invisible hand.

This way happiness lies Guardian (19/10/08)
Why do we need economic growth? BBC Magazine (16/10/08)

Questions

1. Explain how the ‘invisible hand’ allocates economic resources in a market economy.
2. Assess whether the current financial crisis may indicate that the invisible hand has failed to allocate resources appropriately.
3. Discuss whether the pursuit of economic happiness may be more appropriate than the pursuit of economic growth.

“‘Capitalism,’ Schumpeter wrote, ‘is by nature a form or method of economic change and not only never is but never can be stationary … This process of Creative Destruction is the essential fact about capitalism”. In the article below William Keegan looks at this process of creative destruction and relates it to the current financial crisis and the downturn in the business cycle.

Moral hazard? It’s just another danger along the capitalist way Guardian (5/10/08)
Time To Drop The Baggage That Comes With Moral Hazard Financial Times (4/10/08)

Questions

1. Explain what is meant by the term ‘Creative Destruction’.
2. Explain what is meant by the term ‘Moral Hazard’.
3. “In theory, enlightened economic policies can moderate the workings of the business cycle”. Discuss possible policies that can moderate the workings of the business cycle.
4. Discuss the extent to which the recent economic boom was an ‘asset-price boom’ rather than a ‘traditional one’.

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.