Advertising is a hugely influential part of society and business yet it is never mentioned in traditional economics. In neo-classical economics, firms do not advertise. This is not a trivial omission because advertising has an enormous effect on the market. Roughly $500 billion dollars was spent on advertising in 2011. Nor is its omission a simple mistake. Rather it is deliberate because once you examine advertising, you see what an enormous distorter of the market it is. Continue reading “Economics Of Advertising”
One of the most glaring omissions from modern economics is the complete absence of any mention of power. Textbooks describe a world where everyone is equal and no one has power to influence others to benefit themselves. Norbert Haring and Niall Douglas make a huge contribution to correcting this omission by discussing the importance of power relations in economics and during the financial crash in their brilliant book, Economists And The Powerful. They show how power got removed from the economics discourse for ideological reasons, the power and influence of the financial industry, the corporate elite, how the economy is best described as monopolistic competition, how the money supply is controlled by banks, how the labour force is shaped by market power and how the government is manipulated by corporate interests for their own gain. It is a superb book that I highly recommend.
I decided to study economics because I wanted to change the world. I wanted to improve people’s lives, particularly the poor and powerless. I wanted to find solutions to the present crisis so that the scourge of mass unemployment no longer haunts us. What I got instead was completely different. My economics textbooks did not deal with important issues like unemployment, recessions and debt. In fact, they barely mentioned them. Instead they are filled with nonsense that has more to do with pushing a free market ideology than describing how the world really works. The Economics Anti-Textbook brilliantly takes apart the mainstream textbooks and their flawed arguments. It clearly and concisely debunks the mainstream myths contained in microeconomics textbooks. It is one of the best economics book I have ever read and essential for any economics student.
Abolish government regulation of food, what could possibly go wrong? Over the last few weeks the Irish and UK food industry has been rocked by the discovery that many beef products actually contained horse meat. This has raised all such of questions and it is highly likely that other frauds were committed. In this context, it is worth examining why we have government intervention in the economy. It is regularly asserted that the government is only a burden on the private sector and that we would all benefit if the market was left alone. Do consumers need the government to protect them from unscrupulous businesses or can the market regulate itself? Continue reading “Horse Burgers And Food Regulation”
In Chapter 9 and 10 (I combined them as they’re quite similar) of “Predictably Irrational” by Dan Ariely, the concept of how are expectations affect our decision making is discussed. We are not rational actors making choices in a vacuum but rather we are deeply affected by our expectations. If we expect a movie to be good, then it often is. This placebo effect is always to be found with prices. If we pay more for something, we value it more and get more from it. This creates serious problems for those who claim that market distortions will be corrected by market forces pushing a return to equilibrium. Continue reading “Predictably Irrational Chapters 9 & 10 – The Effect Of Expectation & The Power Of Price”
Predictably Irrational byDan Ariely is a fascinating and deeply insightful book that is a pleasure to read and full of gems. It is bursting with interesting and ground breaking experiments that completely debunk many of the assumptions of economics. It will reshape how you view economics and how consumers react in real life, as opposed to in economics textbooks. It is a book I would highly recommend and should be considered a behavioural economics classic. In fact it’s so great that I couldn’t fit all I wanted to say about it into one post (or three) so instead I will summarise my favourite chapters (which is most of them) and highlight the important points they make. What is particularly interesting is that the book is heavily based upon evidence and empirical studies, so no claim is made without being backed up. In fact Ariely does most of the experiments himself so you are really hearing it from the horse’s mouth.
Introductions to economics usually start with gushing tales about the magic of the free market. It is usually stated that the free market allows everyone to get the best quality goods at the cheapest prices. The magical invisible hand guides everyone to the best place without any unnecessary government intervention. Below is a link to a video typical of the kind. (I’ll ignore for the moment that it completely misrepresents what Adam Smith said). Its short and simple, but it is a simple argument. This is the typical free market argument with its claim that left alone it will bring the best world for everyone.