Category: Essential Economics for Business: Ch 09

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.

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.

In its first report on the impact of bio-fuels, the United Nations (UN) has warned that such fuels may increase poverty in developing countries and have a wider environmental impact than has in the past been suggested. With oil prices at a record high and with climate change pressures, much of the developed world has adopted targets for bio-fuels, but environmentalists have warned that the rush to grow the raw materials for bio-fuels may be more damaging to the environment than the fossil fuels they will replace.

Global rush to energy crops threatens to bring food shortages and increase poverty, says UN Guardian (9/5/07)
UN warns on impacts of biofuels BBC News Online (9/5/07)
UN raises doubts on biofuels Guardian (9/5/07)


Questions
1. What are the external costs and external benefits resulting from the use of bio-fuels as opposed to fossil fuels?
2. Using diagrams as appropriate, show the impact of increased use of bio-fuels on the social equilibrium in the market for fuel.
3. Assess policies that European governments could put in place to ensure that the move towards increased use of bio-fuels has a positive environmental impact.