Why We Need The European Union

In two weeks time, Britain will vote on whether or not it will leave the European Union, a major decision which could have wide reaching ramifications. Even though as an Irish citizen I cannot vote, the decision will have a large impact on both Ireland and myself. Leaving aside the specifics of Brexit (whether Britain could still have access to the common market and whether it would still be bound by EU regulations) and political ironies (the same people who opposed Scottish independence are making essentially the same agreement in support of leaving the EU) I think it’s worthwhile to discuss the EU as an institution in general and consider whether it is beneficial or not. Continue reading “Why We Need The European Union”

No One Has Time For A Completely Free Market

The free market often sounds quite simple and straight forward. Consumers simply decide whether product A or B benefits them more and then choose accordingly. If the same or similar product is sold by shop A or B consumers simply choose whichever is cheaper, better quality or otherwise benefits them. It is easy and doesn’t require any complicated plan or someone telling consumers what is best for them, people simply decide themselves. This is the market as described by economists, politicians and writers, especially when they are trying to make a political point. After all, if the market is so simple and straight forward, why do we need the government interfering? All these rules and regulations only get in the way, surely it is better for everyone if we just leave the consumers to decide for themselves. Continue reading “No One Has Time For A Completely Free Market”

Why Do People Work Hard When They Have No Economic Incentive To Do So?

Let’s play a game. I will name two forms of football and you tell me which you think offers better incentives to players. On the one hand is soccer, the world famous sport which receives huge funding from sponsorship, merchandise and ticket sales. This allows large investment in the sport and the ability to pay good (sometimes even exorbitant) wages. On the other hand is Gaelic Football, played only by Irish people mainly in Ireland. Unlike soccer, it is an amateur sport and none of its players get paid. All athletes must also have full time jobs, meaning they can only train in the evenings after work.

This should be obvious. Continue reading “Why Do People Work Hard When They Have No Economic Incentive To Do So?”

What Motivates People To Work?

It’s funny that despite being such an important part of the economy and our lives, not much thought is given to why we work. It is generally taken as a given while economists focus on more important work. It is usually assumed that work is something that people don’t want to do and they must be compensated with money to make them do it. No one would work unless they had to, its only the need of money that gets people up in the money. It is an article of faith among economists that people respond to incentives and this usually refers to monetary incentives. After all, didn’t the Soviet Union fall because people weren’t paid enough and therefore motivated enough to work? Simply, if you want to motivate someone to work, you must pay them to do so. Continue reading “What Motivates People To Work?”

The End Of Bitcoin

For the last two years, I have been following the rocky road of Bitcoin, as it soared on the promise of revolutionary change and collapsed in a fog of fraud and bad economics. After losing almost 85% of its value in the last twelve months, plunging from $1,200 to $200, has bitcoin finally reached the end of the road? Does it have any chance of recovering or is it destined to simply fade away? Continue reading “The End Of Bitcoin”

The Power Of Employers

Many economists like to think of the markets as a place where equals negotiate and bargain to find mutually beneficial deals. Employers and workers need each other and so come to a deal that benefits them both. As these agreements are reached voluntarily, there can be no injustice in the system, as otherwise why would they have agreed to it? There is therefore no need for government intervention as people are well able to look after themselves. Unfortunately, in the real world, things are very different. In the real world, employers have market power over workers that prevent the market reaching a fair balance. It is for this reason that strong unions and government intervention is needed. Continue reading “The Power Of Employers”

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”