4 Ways We Are Not Rational And How It Affects Economics

At the core of economics (especially economics teaching) is the idea that people are fundamentally rational, self-interested, utility maximising individuals who make decisions after logically considering all the relevant facts. As these people know best what’s best for themselves, these decisions are optimal for society. However, one of the newest and fastest growing school of thought is the Behavioural School which uses the insights of psychology to show that this simply is not the case. These insights are sometimes viewed only in isolation or glossed over as minor trivia. However, when you put all the different pieces together, you see that the conclusions are far reaching for how the economy operates. Continue reading “4 Ways We Are Not Rational And How It Affects Economics”

Are Interest Rates Really That Important?

There is something I never got about interest rates. There is a consensus across economists that interest rates have a very important impact on the economy. Economists of all stripes agree that lower interest rates boost economic growth and higher rates reduce growth. Some go as far as saying that it is through interest rates and monetary policy (not spending and fiscal policy) that governments should manage the economy. It’s a standard classroom exercise to draw curves showing the impact of interest rates on growth. Too low interest rates are one of the main factors blamed for causing the bubble and resulting recession. But I always felt that something didn’t quite add up and I began to doubt how important interest rates really are. Continue reading “Are Interest Rates Really That Important?”

Why Competition Alone Is Not Enough

Free marketers view competition as the solution to most if not all problems in the market. If a business is charging too high a price or selling poor quality products then a new business can simply enter the market and take its place. If workers are mistreated or underpaid, then there will be an incentive for competitors to offer better conditions. Competition will cure all problems, prevent excessive profits, exploitative wages, protect the environment, increase your IQ and make you ten years younger (you may think I’m being facetious, but I have yet to come across a problem that libertarians haven’t claimed competition would solve). Continue reading “Why Competition Alone Is Not Enough”

Why Economics Is Not A Science

Economists like to pride themselves on their job and how scientific it is. Politics might be full of emotional rhetoric and unthought out ideas, but economists rely solely on cold hard facts. Flicking through my old textbooks, I see many references to “thinking like an economist” where we were supposed to cast aside fallacies and view the world with a rational and scientific eye. If only it were so. In reality, economics lacks the basis in real world evidence, the scientific method, and predictive power to be considered a science and is instead a highly politicised topic. Continue reading “Why Economics Is Not A Science”

How Economics Should Be Taught

On this blog I criticise mainstream economics and how it is taught in colleges a lot. In fact that’s one of my main aims with the blog. However, rather than just always criticise and say how things shouldn’t be done, today I would like to put forward a few proposals. Now to list everything that should be taken out of economics would take many, many posts, so this will be a short general overview. It should also be said that the economics curriculum is in dire need of reform (and there are encouraging signs that a growing number of people realise this). For example, my lecturers would tell me that we could buy editions of textbooks either from before or after the 2008 recession; there was no real difference between them. When the greatest crisis in decades doesn’t cause any serious review, then you know we have a problem. Continue reading “How Economics Should Be Taught”

What Is Capitalism And Socialism?

Even though we all live in a capitalist economy, few people seem to understand what this means. The word is thrown around in economic and political debates without much consistency. The situation is even worse for socialism which seems to be a label thrown onto random policies without any understanding. So to help clear up the confusion, I thought I would give a clear and simple explanation to what these words mean. Continue reading “What Is Capitalism And Socialism?”

A Thought About Property Without The State

It is common on the internet to encounter libertarians who decry the existence of the state which they view as nothing short of oppression. To them the state is a tyranny to which no one has agreed to. The world would be a better place if the state was drastically reduced in size or even abolished. Why should be people forced to obey rules against their will? Instead everyone should be free to do as they wish on their own property. However, I’d like to use a thought experiment to show how a world of solely private property is little different from our current world and how private property contains many of the arbitrary coercion that libertarians so passionately denounce in states. Continue reading “A Thought About Property Without The State”

A Less Than Pleasant Working Experience

Some things happen in life that are so strange, that you wonder if they really happened. Some things happen that are so horrible you wish they didn’t. Some things are like a living nightmare that you can’t escape. My following story is a mix of all of the above and is so strange and awful that I can’t come up with a title that isn’t sensationalist and clichéd (so I went to the other extreme of understatement). I was so shaken by the whole event that it’s only now that I am far away that I feel comfortable telling it (I’m getting very shaky again just remembering it all while writing this).

It all began three months ago Continue reading “A Less Than Pleasant Working Experience”

Economists And Their Assumptions

The standard (or neo-classical) view of economics makes a lot of assumptions. The main ones are that people have rational preferences, they are self-interested, they are utility maximisers and they have access to all relevant information (including information about the future). The economy is assumed to be in equilibrium, markets are efficient and perfect competition reigns (of course this is a simplification). These assumptions come in for a lot of criticism but they are defended as necessary simplifications. However, the assumptions economists make have a huge effect on the world of economics and therefore world economies. Continue reading “Economists And Their Assumptions”

The Case For Capital Controls

The standard economic view used to be that capital controls were a damaging relic from the past. Almost all economists opposed them as they believed they discouraged foreign investment, created barriers to trade and lead to an inefficient allocation of resources. The notion that the government could restrict how people used their money was found abhorrent by many. However, since the Financial Crisis, there has been a shift in opinions. Many economists support some capital controls to reduce instability in the economy, particularly in the financial sector. 250 economists from around the world signed a petition calling on the US government to reconsider its opposition to capital controls. Even major institutions like the IMF, the World Bank, the Federal Reserve and the European Union have admitted that there may be some cases in which capital controls are beneficial. Continue reading “The Case For Capital Controls”