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.
Libertarians advocate reliance on the private sector and the down play or even abolition of the public sector. However, what they don’t seem to realise is that this system is enormously wasteful. Privatising public industries would result in duplication, under capacity and under use of resources. Libertarians fail to recognise the power of economies of scale that the state wields to keep costs low. There are simply are some times when we are better together than alone. Continue reading “The Waste Of Privatisation”
On this blog I have been very critical of mainstream economics, to the point that I feel most of it should be thrown out. I believe the orthodox theory of demand, supply, labour theory, wages, recessions, competition and information are fundamentally flawed. The obvious question is, if we are to ditch these unrealistic and useless theories, what do we replace them with? I cannot only criticise and knock down, I also have to create. I believe we should replace the current theory based on graphs of supply and demand with one based on power. The economy is not governed by unseen and unchangeable impersonal forces but by the competition of different sources for power. I believe neo-classical economics has outlived its usefulness and instead should be replaced with “The Theory of Power”. Continue reading “A New Economic Theory”
On this blog I have discussed a lot of economic theories and ideas. I wrote about many flaws in the market, problems of competition, the need for the government etc. But all of that is hypothetical so I decided to use some practical examples. Over the next couple of posts I will apply economic theory to different parts of the economy. It’s not going to be a rigorous examination, more just things I notice during the day. I’m a firm believer in the relevance of economics and that it must be based on the real world. The best way to test a theory is to see how it matches the real world. Continue reading “Applying Economics To Bacon”
Whenever I tell people that I’m studying economics they usually ask me how to solve the recession or what to do about the banks. Each time I’m embarrassed over the fact that we have never even mentioned these issues in lectures. In my course I have basically been taught that the free market is the most efficient and best system in the world and trouble always results when it is interfered with. In my textbooks recessions are not mentioned, they do not happen. There is no explanation of unemployment, the biggest issue of our times. There is no mention of profit, the heart of capitalism. Nor do they talk about banks or money or advertising or how systems are guided by power relations. No mention is made of poverty, in effect ignoring three-quarters of the world.
Continue reading “What Economics Doesn’t Talk About”
There is no such thing as a free lunch . . . except for free trade which makes everyone everywhere better off
It is naive and foolish to imagine there is some magic pot of gold which will make us all magically richer . . . but competition magically makes everyone richer
As Adam Smith said, the “invisible hand” of the free market ensures everyone is best off . . . even though Smith never said that about the market but rather about protectionism.
We should never rely on one-size-fits-all solutions that don’t take account of the specifics of each case . . . and cut taxes in response to every problem
The government makes everything worse . . . which is why countries like Somalia which have no government are so much better off Continue reading “Conservative Logic”
Conservatives everywhere condemn the use of tax increases for fear of the Laffer Curve. This is the idea that if taxes are too high, people will lose the incentive to work and therefore revenue will actually decrease. It is most famous for its counter-intuitive argument that a tax cut could increase revenue. Unfortunately there is little or no evidence to support this claim. History clearly shows that cutting taxes does not increase revenue. The Laffer curve is a political idea used to justify tax cuts for the rich. It is not based on sound economics.