Economic Thoughts and Essays

By Rhys Williams

Should changes in consumption be predictable?

The classical consumption models (Modigliani’s Life-Cycle hypothesis and Friedman’s Permanent Income hypothesis) tell us that consumption is dependent on life-time income. This is based on the assumptions of credit market access (so we don’t have liquidity constrained individuals) and certainty. In short this means that consumption will only change if income changes, and a temporary income change will cause consumption to rise by less (i.e. MPC is low) than a permanent income change (i.e. MPC is close to 1).

Due to the theory of consumption smoothing – whereby individuals prefer to have similar incomes over two periods (or a lifetime) than extremities in either period – we would expect change in consumption to be low over a lifetime. [...]

Behavioural Economics – Some notes

The advent of the neoclassical approach to establish economics as a science, led to the disappearance of many psychological insights already made by economists, for example Smith says “we suffer more… when we fall from a better to a worse situation, than we ever enjoy when we rise from a worse to a better.” And Edgeworth points out that one agent’s utility can be affected by another agent’s payoff. One development of neoclassical economics was the formulation of the expected utility framework which makes precise assumptions that can be falsified, it assumes stable and consistent preferences, the ability to perform complex computations, and an ability to memorise a large amount of information. [...]

Labour Matching Models

Labour matching models stem from the fact that when a worker becomes unemployed, he needs to look for a job and such a process is not instantaneous. He cannot simply occupy any vacancy, but has to search for a job in a certain area, in a certain profession and which matches a list of criteria such as wage, hours of work and subjective factors like “would I enjoy working here”. This all takes time and requires effort. Before such matching models were devised, economists assumed in their models that unemployment could instead be modelled by looking at the number of unemployed and the number of vacancies and then working out how many of the unemployed could take these vacancies. [...]

Neoclassical Business Cycles

According to Prescott the reason for business cycles is due to technology shocks which manifest itself as changes in the TFP productivity term (or Solow residual) A. Summers criticises this explanation believing that Prescott doesn’t provide evidence for where these technology shocks come to. Furthermore he cites Berndt who shows that the oil shock crisis – recessionary periods in the 1970s for both the US and the UK – had little effect on labour productivity which would cast doubt on Prescott’s story. Summers also points out that US GNP declined by 50% between 1929 and 1933, and questions whether it is really plausible that such an output shock could be caused by a productivity shock which lead to inter-temporal substitution on such a scale, as Prescott’s model would predict.

Measuring Inequality

Inequality is the difference between the incomes of the rich and the poor and there are a number of different measures to see how inequality has been changing over time and between countries. National accounts do not provide any data on how income, consumption or wealth is distributed across households [OECD] instead they provide overall income for the country, and dividing this by the population gives us the average income of the nation. Instead we need to use household survey data to give us a measure of inequality. Such surveys are not consistent across countries and therefore make international comparisons of inequality difficult. To overcome these issues, and allow more precise measures of international inequality, we might consider aggregating the national accounts data with the survey data. Unfortunately, this is a very difficult task, and may cause more issues than it solves. One such issue is that in survey data, households who own their home when asked their income may not include an imputed value of their rent, but this is done when we construct the national accounts. Deaton believes that this factor alone is responsible for explaining a large majority in the difference between national income as given by the national accounts versus the household surveys.

Search Markets

Economic theory may initially have us believe that firms shouldn’t offer a higher wage than the reservation wage of workers. If they did so then another firm could enter the market, charge below the reservation wage, have lower costs, sell output at a lower price and capture the market. Yet the theory of efficiency wage provides another story, that higher productivity can offset the cost of higher wages (so that a firm offering w>w* isn’t competed out of the market), and more importantly that a firm must offer a wage greater than the reservation wage in order to operate.

The Credit Channel

The credit channel is an enhancement mechanism for traditional monetary policy transmission, not a truly independent or parallel channel. Discuss

The traditional monetary policy transmission works through a number of conventional channels: interest rate effect, exchange rate effect, asset price effect and through expectations.People used to go to the website and takes the advantage of low interest rates. The stance of monetary policy acts as a signal to firms and individuals about what the central bank thinks the future state of the economy will look like, and thus affects investment and spending decisions by agents now based on this. A higher interest rate could imply that the central bank thinks the economy is doing well, which may induce firms and consumers to spend more, because of this signal. [...]

What is Social Ontology and why should Economists care?

Literally, social ontology is the study of social nature and it concerns itself with “how existents exist”1. It is the study of the social realm which includes the “domain of all phenomena, existents, properties”2 whose existence depends upon humans and their interactions. To paraphrase Little “almost all human action is social: socially oriented, socially embedded or socially constructed”6.  So how can it be useful for illuminating the study of economics? If economics is the study of people, and how they interact to form markets, bargain with each other, and more generally interact economically, then we need to examine an economist’s worldview on how these interactions are governed. [...]

The Relationship Between Debt and Growth

The debt-growth nexus has received renewed interest among academics and policy makers alike in the aftermath of the recent global financial crisis and the subsequent euro area sovereign debt crisis. Discuss whether there exists a tipping point, for public indebtedness, beyond which economic growth drops off significantly; and more generally, whether a build-up of public debt slows down the economy in the long run.

This essay explores the effects of debt on growth, by first examining the theoretical mechanisms that high debt can lead to lower growth before examining some of the empirical literature to see whether we observe such a relationship. [...]