Tag: social optimum

In times of recession, some companies can do well, even in industries where there are supply problems. One such example is Pacific Andes, a Hong Kong based frozen seafood firm. Many fishing companies have found times tough in an era of dwindling fish stocks and fishing quotas imposed by governments anxious to preserve stocks. The following article looks at Pacific Andes and how it has managed to prosper despite supply challenges and the global recession.

Casting a wide net The Standard (Hong Kong) (24/8/09)

Details of overfishing in the UK can be found at: EyeOverFishing
The site provides a “map of the UK fisheries system, the problems with it, and solutions that are possible today”.

Questions

  1. To what extent can the concept of income elasticity of demand be used to help explain why Pacific Andes has managed to prosper during the recession?
  2. What specific business strategies has Pacific Andes adopted and why?
  3. Why, if overfishing is to the detriment of the fishing indsutry, do fishing fleets still overfish many parts of the oceans? Explain why this is an example of the ‘tragedy of the commons’.
  4. What would you understand by an ‘optimum level of fishing’ for a particular type of fish in a particular part of the oceans? Explore whether the concept of a ‘social optimum’ in this context is the same as an ‘environmental optimum’?

2008 may yet come to be seen as the year that marks the death of the single-use plastic bag. Many countries around the world, including China, have banned their use and February 2008 has seen Marks and Spencer announcing a 5p charge per plastic bag in an attempt to reduce their usage. Even government departments have faced criticism over their use as promotional tools. For more details on plastic bag bans and policies relating to limiting their usage, see our 2007/8 podcast on The economics of plastic bags elsewhere on the site.

M&S hopes to cut plastic bag use with 5p levy Guardian (28/2/08)
Brown may legislate against free plastic bags Guardian (29/2/08)
Q&A: Plastic bags Guardian (28/2/08)
M&S to charge 5p for carrier bags BBC News Online (28/2/08)
Brown threatens supermarkets over plastic bag reduction Times Online (29/2/08)
Government accused over plastic bag waste Guardian (29/2/08)
Agency scraps use of plastic bags for Whitehall promotions Guardian (1/3/08)
Plastic bag bans around the world BBC News Online (28/2/08)

Videos
M&S to charge for carrier bags BBC News Online (February 2008)
M&S boss on plastic bags BBC News Online (February 2008)
M&S to start charging for plastic bags BBC News Online (February 2008)

Questions

1. What are the social costs and benefits resulting from the use of single-use plastic
bags?
2. Using diagrams as appropriate, show how the equilibrium price and quantity of plastic bags differs from the social optimum.
3. Evaluate two possible policies that the government could use to reduce the use of plastic bags.

In the article below, Ashley Seager from the Guardian argues that the government is doing little to encourage the take-up and adoption of alternative forms of energy generation for households. Indeed he argues hat the situation has got worse and not better in recent months with changes in the system. Only 270 houses were helped with the fitting of photovoltaic systems last year. In Germany the equivalent figure was 130,000.

Reasons to see red over green energy Guardian (18/2/08)

Questions

1. Assess the external costs and external benefits resulting from installing a photovoltaic electricity generation system on a house.
2. Using diagrams as appropriate, show how the installation of photovoltaic cells on houses will alter the socially optimal market equilibrium.
3. Evaluate two policies that the government could use to encourage the more widespread adoption of alternative methods of generating power.

A report from Cycling England has suggested that a £70m investment in cycling each year could save the government £520m per year. The savings result from the positive benefits of increased cycling – lower carbon dioxide emissions and lower NHS costs as we become healthier. But, do the numbers add up?

Investment in cycling could save £520m, government told Guardian (17/9/07)

Questions

1. Define the terms (i) external benefits (ii) external costs and (iii) marginal social benefit.
2. Identify three external benefits that result from increased cycling.
3. Using diagrams as appropriate, show how the market equilibrium and the socially optimum level of cycling will differ.
4. Discuss policies that the government could adopt to move the market closer to the social optimum.

In a surprise move, the Tories have announced plans to tax air travel as part of their environmental policy. It was no surprise to hear the airlines criticise this, but disquiet about this policy has been expressed in traditional Tory circles and it amounts to a significant departure from the past for the party. Are they just flying a kite, or is this a serious policy initiative?

Tories reveal plans for green tax hike on air travel Guardian (11/3/07)
Tory plan for sky-high flight taxes Scotsman (11/3/07)
Airlines shoot down Tory ‘tax on fun’ Telegraph (12/3/07)
Green tax won’t help the planet or the Tories Telegraph (11/3/07)
Tories plan green tax on flights BBC News Online (11/3/07)

Questions

1. Why might a free market in air travel not result in an optimal number of flights.
2. Discuss the likely effectiveness of the tax on flying for reducing the demand for air travel. (You should consider the likely value of the price elasticity of demand in your answer.)
3. With the use of appropriate diagrams, assess the likely impact of the tax on flying on the equilibrium level of price and output in the market for air travel.