Tag: markets

“As the global economic crisis forces everyone to downsize, the self-sufficient worker once again has a chance, whether as a farmer growing vegetables for local consumption or as an open-source software developer who makes a living in his basement office.” So argues the first article linked to below. Does this mean that economies of scale are over-exaggerated? Should developing countries provide more support to small-scale production as a growth and development strategy? And does small-scale production provide benefits beyond those of production and profit? Does it meet broader human and social needs? The articles explore the issues: the first two in the context of the developed world and the other four in the context of developing countries.

The Return to Yeomanry New America Foundation (22/6/09)
Entrée: Small-scale farmers on the forefront of a greens revolution The Vancouver Sun (19/6/09)
Extracts – the future of small-scale farming Oxfam International
Malawi’s fertile plan Mail & Guardian Online (25/6/09)
Development: Investment in small farmers crucial in Africa Bizcommunity.com (24/6/09)
Toward Agricultural Sustainability Philippines Business Mirror (24/6/09)

Questions

  1. What are the benefits of ‘a return to yeomanry’ (a) to the individuals themselves; (b) to society and the environment?
  2. Why might it prove a risky strategy for those embarking on small-scale production? How could governments help to reduce the risks for the producers? Should they?
  3. Discuss whether fostering small-scale farming is an appropriate development strategy for developing countries. What specific policy measures should governments adopt?
  4. Is land reform (a) a necessary condition; (b) a sufficient condition if small-scale farming is to flourish in developing countries? What pitfalls are there from a policy of land reform?

The pound has been rising against the US dollar recently. And as the dollar has fallen, so the prices of various commodities, such as gold and silver, have been rising. So what are the reasons for these currency and commodity price movements? The simple answer is that they merely reflect changes in demand and supply. But why have demand and supply been changing? Are there changes in the underlying economic fundamentals, or do they largely reflect speculation in times of uncertainty and resulting market overcorrection? The following articles address these questions.

Sterling rises on hopes of recovery Financial Times (4/6/09)
Jeremy Warner: Dollar weakness is a sign that things are on the mend Independent (4/6/09)
Stephanie Flanders Blog: What goes down… BBC News (3/6/09)
Dollar on the rack International Business Times (1/6/09)
Sterling hits six-month high against the dollar Times Online (29/5/09)
Exchange rates: What next for the pound? This is Money (2/6/09)
Gold News BullionVault (3/6/09)
The Top 10 Reasons to Hold Gold, Bar None! The Motley Fool (2/6/09)

Questions

  1. Explain why the pound been rising strongly against the dollar.
  2. What is likely to happen to the exchange rate of the pound against the dollar and the euro over the next few months?
  3. If it were possible to predict the future exchange rate today, what would happen to the exchange rate today?
  4. Why might it be a good time to buy gold? Why might it be too late?

The current financial crisis has led many to wonder whether this may mark the ‘death of capitalism’. While this may almost certainly be an over-statement, it may mark a fundamental sea change in the way in which we oversee and manage a capitalist system. The articles below look at some of the implication of this possible change in approach.

Positive thinking Guardian (18/10/08)
A category error Guardian (10/10/08)
History can guide, yet there are new limits of the possible Guardian (10/10/08)
I’ve watched the economy for 30 years. Now I’m truly scared Guardian (28/10/08)
The new New Dealers Guardian (26/9/08)
Europe and America in the shadows as a new era dawns Telegraph (26/10/08)

Questions

1. Explain what is meant by a capitalist system of economic organisation.
2. Assess the extent to which a ‘soft-touch’ regulatory approach can be blamed for the current financial crisis.
3. Discuss the extent to which greater levels of government intervention and economic regulation are likely to result from the current financial crisis.
4. Are we witnessing the death of 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.

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“.