It is something of a media sport in these recessionary times to find ‘economic scapegoats’. One minute the recession is the fault of the banks and their poor lending practices; the next minute it is the fault of the media themselves, who are constantly reporting doom and gloom; the next minute it is the fault of the politicians, who have failed to react quickly enough to the economic uncertainties; the list goes on! However, the one group that is rarely blamed is ‘us’ – the consumers. Given that the state of the economy is the outcome of our collective decisions, it could be said that we have no real right to complain, as our collective lack of confidence could be what has caused much of the current situation. As James Meek puts it in the article below:
What makes the situation peculiar is that the crisis that threatens us also seems to be us; we are simultaneously menaced by the wave, and exist as elements of the wave. After all, that is what an economic crisis is: the sum of all the actions of billions of people around the world, deciding whether to lend or hoard, borrow or save, sell or buy, move or stay, hire or fire, study or look for work, be pessimistic or optimistic.
To live in remarkable times Guardian (5/1/09)
- Explain how changes in consumer confidence can affect the level of aggregate demand.
- Examine the importance of consumer confidence in determining the length and depth of a recession.
- Discuss policies that the government can implement to try to boost consumer confidence.
- Analyse the impact on an economy of a prolonged period of poor consumer confidence.
In successive months the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England (MPC) has cut Bank Rate from 4.5% down to 2% – the lowest level since November 1951. The dramatic changes show that the Bank is concerned that inflation and economic activity will fall sharply. Indeed the Governor has recognised that there is a possible danger of deflation (defined, in this context, as negative inflation: i.e. a fall in the price index, whether CPI or RPI). To the extent that these cuts in Bank Rate are passed on in interest rate cuts by banks and building socities, they will reduce the cost of borrowing. It is hoped that this, in turn, will result in a boost to aggregate demand – particularly in the run-up to Christmas.
Below is a selection of articles relating to the interest rate cuts, with many commentators wondering if the cuts will be enough and whether interest rates have much lower to go. For some background on interest rates, you may like to look at the History of Britain’s interest rate published by the Times Online. Martin Rowson’s cartoon in the Guardian clearly summarises the view that this may not be enough to revive an ailing British economy!
Bank enters uncharted territory BBC News Online (4/12/08)
Q&A: The Bank Rate cut and you BBC News Online (12/12/08)
Where will interest rates go now? BBC News Online (4/12/08)
Bank of England still has ammunition for the new year Guardian (4/12/08) Video
Farwell, convention Guardian (5/12/08)
No doubt that we’ve got further to go in this rate cutting Guardian (5/12/08) Podcast
Bank cuts rate by 1% to historic low Times Online (4/12/08)
Analysis: Shock and awe of rate cut Times Online (4/12/08)
Rates cut again as recession deepens Times Online (5/12/08)
Unconventional steps may slow the slide into global recession Times Online (7/12/08)
Bank cuts UK rates to 57-year low Times Online (4/12/08)
The global financial crisis has led to a significant number of countries going into recession. Recession is defined by economists as two successive quarters of negative economic growth. Banking collapses and a collapse in consumer confidence, and therefore expenditure, have reduced aggregate demand. This situation has been exacerbated as each country’s exports fall due to the slowdown in other countries. The combination of these and other factors has led to negative economic growth resulting in recession. We have linked below to a range of news articles looking at different countries that have fallen into recession in recent months.
German economy now in recession BBC News Online (13/11/08)
Germany tumbles into recession as exports dive Times Online (13/11/08)
Germany slides into recession Guardian (13/11/08)
Threat of worst postwar slump grows as major economies enter recession Times Online (14/11/08)
Eurozone officially in recession BBC News Online (14/11/08)
Eurozone tumbles into first-ever recession Times Online (14/11/08)
Spain has that shrinking feeling as economy heads south Times Online (20/11/08)
Economic clouds gather as Spain faces recession Times Online (6/12/08)
Japanese economy now in recession BBC News Online (17/11/08)
Global slowdown and resurgent yen finally drag Japan into recession Times Online (18/11/08)
Japan in sharpest plunge to recession since war Times Online (28/11/08)
Japan slides into recession as global slowdown hits exports Guardian (17/11/08)
Singapore officially in recession BBC News Online (21/11/08)
Hong Kong slides into recession BBC News Online (14/11/08)
- Choose one of the countries above and analyse the principal reasons why it went into recession.
- Discuss whether a fiscal policy or a monetary policy stimulus will be more effective at boosting aggregate demand in a country that is in recession.
- Assess policies that the governments of the countries above could use to minimise the impact of recession on the level of employment in their country.
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.
The potential relevance of Keynesian economic theory has been sharply brought back into focus as governments struggle to find an appropriate mix of policies to try to avoid or mitigate the impact of recession on their economy. Chancellor Alistair Darling has relaxed fiscal rules to allow spending to rise in an attempt to boost aggregate demand and compensate for falling consumer demand.
How to kick start a faltering economy the Keynes way BBC Magazine (22/10/08)
Situation vacant: a theorist is sought to succeed Mr Keynes Guardian (11/10/08)
In praise of ….. John Maynard Keynes Guardian (9/10/08)
Spend, spend, spend: Alistair Darling adopts John Maynard Keynes doctrine Times Online (20/10/08)
Darling invokes Keynes as he eases spending rules to fight recession Guardian (20/10/08)
Follow Gordon Brown again and spend out of recession Times Online (14/10/08)
Economists condemn Chancellor Alistair Darling’s spending plan Telegraph (26/10/08)
Keynes, the man to get the Government out of a crisis The Independent (20/10/08)
||Explain briefly the Keynesian approach to the management of the level of aggregate demand.
||Using diagrams as appropriate, show the impact of the relaxation of fiscal spending rules on the UK economy.
||Discuss the extent to which a Keynesian approach to economic policy is likely to help the government avoid a recession in the UK. Is leaving the control of interest rates in the hands of an independent Bank of England a constraint on the effectiveness of this policy approach?