Where Does The Price Come From?

Even though prices are an essential part of the economy, surprisingly little effort goes into researching them or attempting to understand how they are set. The standard economics textbook gives only the briefest mention to the factors involved in their level. The standard summary is that prices are set in response to demand and supply. However, lately I’ve been thinking that this doesn’t quite make sense. The price of ice cream is the same in winter (a time of exceptionally low demand) as in summer (a time of exceptionally high demand). Pubs and restaurants usually charge the same prices during the day and mid-week (when they’re quiet) as during the night and on weekends (when they’re packed). In fact they seem to follow a policy of rationing space rather than allowing the price mechanism to adjust and convey information.

My epiphany came to me as I was wedged at the bar where I had been waiting for half an hour trying to order a drink during Black Monday. Why didn’t the student bar just raise its prices to deal with the excess demand which they knew would occur (as it did every year)? Why did they opt for an option that any first year economics student is taught is highly inefficient? Continue reading “Where Does The Price Come From?”

Say It Isn’t So

Few economists openly admit to believing in Say’s Law anymore. It is generally considered a relic of the past, a once dominant theory that had faded away. Although it was prominent in the 19th century, it was swept away in the Keynesian revolution like so much of Classical economics. However, economic theories never die. Say’s Law lives on in conservatives think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and when Marco Rubio (who many favour as the next Republican candidate for President) rose to reply to Obama’s State of the Union address, it was Say’s Law he invoked. Even in the world of economics, some economists unconsciously channel the spirit of Say when they preach about the worries of crowding out and through Walras’ Law which is just a weak version of Say’s. This year’s joint winner of the (pretend) Nobel Prize in Economics Eugene Fama constructed an argument against government stimulus (unconsciously) based more or less on Say’s Law. Continue reading “Say It Isn’t So”

Debunking The Broken Window Fallacy

One day a boy was playing football when he accidently broke a window. Rather than get mad, the people shrugged their shoulders and said breaking windows is good for the economy. After all, if no windows were broken, then all the glaziers would be out of a job. By breaking the window, the boy ensured money would be spent on repairs, thereby ensuring someone kept their job and giving the window making business a boost. However, at this point Bastist in his seminal essay “That Which Is Seen And That Which Is Not Seen” jumps in to point out why this is a fallacy. While we see the money spent on repairing the window, we don’t see what would have happened had the window not been broken. Instead of repairing the window, the money could have been spent on a new pair of shoes. So while the glazier is better off, we don’t see the people who are worse off as a result. Continue reading “Debunking The Broken Window Fallacy”

A Minsky-Fisher-Koo-Keynes Theory Of Boom And Bust

The financial crisis and recession has turned economic thinking on its head. Economic textbooks which presume recessions never occur and unemployment is a voluntary decision have failed to keep up. However, luckily there have been a group of economists who have created theories that describe the world as it really is, not as they wish it was. They took key insights from the Roaring Twenties and the Depression Thirties and individually developed theories for how the economy boomed and why it went bust. There is Hyman Minsky’s Financial Instability Hypothesis, Irving Fisher’s Debt-Deflation Spiral, Richard Koo’s Balance Sheet Recession and John Maynard Keynes theory of aggregate demand. Each explains a part of the business cycle, today I want to piece them altogether to create an overarching theory. Continue reading “A Minsky-Fisher-Koo-Keynes Theory Of Boom And Bust”

I’m In A Book!

I nearly fell out of my chair with shock when I read the e-mail asking me to write a chapter for a book on Ireland’s future. Twenty young people from all different areas were to present a vision for Ireland’s future and the wonderful Lou Hodgson thought (for some reason) that I had something to offer. Six months later, the first copy of the book has arrived and it will be in shops next week. Its called “New Thinking, New Ireland” and I still cannot believe I’m part of it. Continue reading “I’m In A Book!”

The Most Important Lesson Of Economics

Economics is a broad and vast field comprising intricate areas that would take years to master. This makes it very hard to summarise or reduce it to a simple point. However, if there was one simple lesson that I wished everyone knew about economics, one easy sentence or sound bite that could explain the essential core to people who know nothing else about economics, it would be: “My spending is your income”. This simple point, properly understood, explains everything you need to know about the important policy issues of the economy. It doesn’t explain everything, but it explains the important parts.

My Spending Is Your Income

Continue reading “The Most Important Lesson Of Economics”

Why The Austrian Business Cycle Theory Is Wrong

One of the surprisingly popular theories as to why the recession occurred is known as the Austrian Business Cycle Theory (ABCT), which argues that not only is the government not the solution to the recession, but in fact, it is also the cause. It claims that the recession was caused by the government artificially lowering the interest rates and distorting the economy leading to a recession. As you can imagine this theory is very popular among libertarians eager for an excuse to absolve the market of blame for the crash. It is promoted by Ron Paul and Peter Schiff who claim to have predicted the Financial Crash (and the next one too). It is also completely wrong and dangerously so. Continue reading “Why The Austrian Business Cycle Theory Is Wrong”

Why Cutting Public Sector Pay Is Always a Bad Idea

At the moment the government is trying to negotiate a deal to best cut public sector wages. However, any such deal will only make the recession worse without reducing the deficit. Here is a guest blog I wrote on the topic.

Irish Student Left Online

– Robert Nielsen discusses the ongoing dispute over the Croke Park II proposals, and why cutting wages is always a bad idea.

At the moment there is a great deal of controversy over the Croke Park Deal. In essence the government is trying to cut the wages of public sector workers while the public sector unions are opposing this. Regardless of the politics of the agreement, cutting wages is bad economics. It depresses the economy, worsens the recession and doesn’t even achieve its objective of reducing the deficit. The union membership was absolutely right to reject the Croke Park Deal and the government must completely reconsider its plan of action, because the current one isn’t working.

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A New Economic Theory

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”

The Truth About Spending And The Stimulus

Republicans regularly criticise Obama’s stimulus plan, claiming it was an ineffectual waste of money. The internet is full of people arguing it failed to work, that unemployment is still high and growth is low. However what few people realise is that the stimulus did work. Without unemployment would be higher and growth lower. In fact the only problem is that it was too small to solve the greatest crisis since the Great Depression. Continue reading “The Truth About Spending And The Stimulus”