Tag: efficiency

Many industries are struggling in the current climate and, in particular, car sales have been at an all time low. General Motors was the biggest car company in the world, but recently we have seen them becoming the biggest industrial bankruptcy, which will have consequences for many car manufacturers around the world. UK car sales were 25% lower in May 2009 than at the same time last year and Chrysler will sell most of their assets to Fiat when they form a strategic alliance in a bid to help them exit bankruptcy protection.

The troubles of the carmakers have passed up the production chain to automotive suppliers, component manufacturers and engineering firms, and down the chain to the dealerships at a time when consumer confidence has taken a knock. The following articles look at some of the recent developments in the car industry and consider their likely economic impact.

UK new car sales 25% lower in May BBC News (4/6/09)
Creditors cry foul at Chrysler precedent The Wall Street Journal, Ashby Jones, Mike Spector (13/6/09)
The decline and fall of General Motors The Economist (4/6/09)
GM pensioner’s fears for future BBC News (1/6/09)
Opel staff face wait for job news BBC News (2/6/09)
From biggest car maker to biggest bankruptcy BBC News (1/6/09)
GM sales executive lays out company’s direction Chicago Tribune, Bill Vidonic (14/6/09)
Chrysler and Fiat complete deal BBC News (10/6/09)
Fiat gambles on Chrysler turnaround Telegraph, Roland Gribben (1/6/09)
Obama taskforce faces Congress over car industry rescue Times Online, Christine Seib (10/6/09)
Has pledge of assistance revved up the car industry? EDP24, Paul Hill (10/6/09)

Questions

  1. What is a strategic alliance and how should it help Chrysler?
  2. What are some of the methods that governments have used to help stimulate the car industry? Consider their advantages and disadvantages.
  3. Think about the consequences beyond the car industry of the decline of General Motors. Who is likely to suffer? Will there be any winners?
  4. General Motors was established in 1908. How were they able to expand so quickly and what do you think are the main reasons for their current decline?
  5. The article in The Economist suggests that, despite the current problems in the car industry and the global recession, selling cars will never really be a problem. What do you think are the reasons for this?

There has been much discussion recently on the use of fiscal policy to combat recession. What measures should be used? How effective will they be? How will the resulting large budget deficit be brought back into balance in the future?

But what are the microeconomic implications of all the tax changes? Are the changes fair? What implications do they have for incentives? Perhaps it’s time for a completely fresh look at the structure of our tax system – a system that has been changed piecemeal over the past years to meet short-term macroeconomic and political goals. Can it be redesigned to meet the two microeconomic goals of efficiency and equity? The following article looks at what form a redesigned tax structure might take.

Our tax system is a mess. But Darling has a chance to fix it. (Peter Wilby) Guardian (11/4/09)

Questions

  1. In what ways does the present tax system fail to meet the goals of (a) fairness through redistribution and (b) creating appropriate incentives?
  2. Explain what is meant by “The whole system has been framed by Tory thinking to assist social engineering, Tory style”.
  3. Provide a justification and critique of the reforms proposed in the article.

Public choice theory is an area of economics that uses standard economic tools to consider the decisions made by politicians and others within the public sector. In essence the theory applies economic principles to politics. In the article below Simon Caulkin argues that public sector reform and the application of public choice theory has failed and likens the public sector reforms that have been implemented to Soviet central planning.

Labour’s public sector is a Soviet tractor factory Observer (4/5/08)

Questions

1. Explain what is meant by public choice theory.
2. Describe the principal public-sector reforms that were implemented under the Blair government
3. Discuss the extent to which recent public-sector reforms have succeeded in delivering a more responsive and efficient public sector.

As economists we often argue that choice is a good thing as it will help to create more efficient and dynamic markets. Public-sector reform has tended to focus on the introduction of choice as a way of making public services more responsive to consumer needs. But is choice always a good thing? The article linked to below from the Guardian considers the trade-off between choice and central planning.

We’re getting choice, whether we want it or not Guardian (16/3/2008)

Questions

1. Explain how increased choice helps to make the public sector more responsive to consumer needs.
2. Discuss whether centrally planned provision of public services, such as healthcare, is likely to lead to more or less efficient services.
3. Assess the extent to which increased choice in the provision of health services is likely to make health care more responsive to people’s healthcare needs.

Shell have announced record profits of $27bn. This is the highest profit ever made by a European company and is only surpassed worldwide by the annual profits of another oil company ExxonMobil at $40bn. These high profits have led to calls for a windfall tax to be imposed on the oil companies and the articles below consider the likely impact of a tax of this nature.

Threat of windfall tax to energy companies is ‘legalised piracy’ Times Online (28/2/08)
Tax uncertainty a sure-fire killer Times Online (28/2/08)
Q&A: Windfall tax on Shell BBC News Online (31/1/08)
The great fuel folly Guardian (5/2/08)

Video

Windfall tax suggested for fuel profits BBC News Online (February 2008)

Questions

1. Using diagrams as appropriate, show the impact on the equilibrium level of price and output of Shell of a windfall tax being imposed on their profits.
2. Discuss the extent to which the high level of profitability of oil companies is determined by the oil price.
3. Analyse whether a windfall tax is an economically efficient form of taxation. What alternatives could a government consider that might be more efficient?