Tag: capitalism

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.

During his lifetime Galbraith warned extensively of the problems likely to be associated with financial excesses, and if alive today would almost certainly allow himself a ‘told you so’ moment. He was a lifelong liberal who argued that capitalism was inherently a fragile and unstable system. So what relevance does his work have to the current financial crash?

Galbraith saw this coming Guardian (15/10/08)
In praise of …The Great Crash 1929 Guardian (15/10/08)

Questions

1. Write a short paragraph summarising Galbraith’s life and work.
2. Assess the extent to which his arguments in relation to the fragility of the financial system are still relevant today.
3. Galbraith commented that all stockmarket bubbles exhibit seemingly imaginative, currently lucrative, and eventually disastrous innovation in financial structures“. Discuss the extent to which this kind of innovation (e.g. derivatives and sub-prime mortgages) may have been responsible for the current financial crisis.

“‘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’.

Recent economic history has led many commentators to believe that a free-market capitalist economy is the only efficient method of allocating resources. The transition of former Eastern Bloc economies has furthered this perception. In the article from the Guardian linked below, Andrew Murray considers this argument and argues that capitalism may not be the be all and end all of economic organisation.

No, capitalism is not the only way to order human affairs Guardian (8/3/07)

Questions

1. Discuss the arguments for and against using a free-market economy as the principal method of resource allocation.
2. Assess the principal reasons for the transition of planned economies to market economies over the past two decades.
3. Examine the validity of the arguments raised by Andrew Murray in his article.

The kibbutzes in Israel have always been renowned as a system where everything is evenly shared. However, with the news that Israel’s oldest Kibbutz has agreed to essentially privatise itself and start paying people according to ability, it seems that the reach of capitalism and the market system is now almost total. What alternative systems are left to organise and allocate resources? With most forms of socialist organisation more or less discredited as an efficient way of allocating resources, it seems that globalised capitalism is all that is left. However, in the article from the Guardian below Timothy Garton Ash argues that capitalism may, by its very nature destroy itself.

Global capitalism now has no serious rivals. But it could destroy itself Guardian (22/2/07)
Israel’s oldest Kibbutz votes for privatisation Guardian (20/2/07)

Questions

1. Describe the changes that have taken place in the system used to allocate resources in the Degania kibbutz.
2. Assess the reasons why the Degania kibbutz has decided to pay members according to ability.
3. Discuss the validity of Timothy Garton Ash’s argument that global capitalism is in danger of destroying itself.