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”

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?”

Both The State And The Market Are Based On Coercion

It is common to hear people on the internet complain about the power of the state. It is regularly denounced for forcing people to obey its laws and pay taxes. Libertarians criticise this use of coercion and regularly compare it to a gang of thieves or the mafia. Many advocate that we either abolish or minimise the size of the state and replace it with a world where everything is based on voluntary co-operation and you are free to do what you want so long as it does not harm anyone (known as the Non-Aggression Principle). It seems like a simple choice between peaceful liberty or violent oppression. It is a handy debating trick as it allows libertarians to paint themselves as defenders of freedom while opponents look like tyrants. As nice as it sounds, it suffers from the fatal flaw that the market is just as reliant on the coercion as the state is. Continue reading “Both The State And The Market Are Based On Coercion”

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”

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”