Economic Thoughts and Essays

By Rhys Williams

Did small scale firms inhibit Victorian Growth?

Britain’s manufacturing firms have been accused of remaining family-run and small scale in the period 1850-1914, so ignoring the benefits of the large corporation evident in the USA. Discuss whether this represents a form of entrepreneurial failure by the owners of British firms.

Chandler identifies that corporation’s in America are vertically and horizontally integrated, invested in new technology and produced the latest industrial wares such as electricals, chemicals and automobiles. Britain was characterised by an “atomistic organisation of production”, according to Elbaum and Lazonick, with many small firms that were run by families. This is evidenced by the fact that in 1880s less than 10% of the manufacturing sector was accounted for by the largest 100 firms, the US figure was 22% (Hannah 1983). [...]

Marshallian Industrial Districts and the Rise of the Internet

Recently I attended a Conference for the 40th Anniversary of the Cambridge Journal of Economics where a talk was given on “Industrial Districts, Organisation & Policy”. This article is a summary of some of the discussion from this talk as well as my further thoughts on extending Marshallian Industrial Districts to incorporate the internet.

What is a Marshallian Industrial District?
A Marshallian Industrial District is normally considered a clustering of firms in a similar industry operating from a certain geographic area. Being close to many other firms in the same industry allows a number of benefits, sometimes called benefits of agglomeration or Marshallian atmospheric externalities. [...]

Was there a Victorian Failure in Manufacturing?

Comparisons of Britain’s labour productivity in manufacturing with that of other industrialised countries, such as the USA and Germany, from 1850-1914 suggest no dramatic decline in this sector during the period. However, labour productivity performance at the whole economy level was poor in comparison to other countries. (a) How can this be explained (b) Does it suggest a failure occurring in the UK economy?

Over the period 1850-1914 there was a decline in Britain’s overall labour productivity comparative to its competitors – against the US Britain was more productive in 1870 but was overtaken during the 1890s – in 1870 US/UK labour productivity in the aggregate economy was 89.8 which rose to 117.7 in 1910 (Broadberry 2006) demonstrating the ability of foreign nations to overtake Britain on this measure. [...]

Brief: Cannibalisation

Cannibalisation occurs when a company reduces the sales of one of its products by introducing a similar, competing product in the same market.
Igami and Yang study this phenomenon in relation to burger outlets, pointing out that entry of new outlets harms the profitability of existing stores (cannibalisation) but that this occurs so as to preempt the threat of rivals’ entry: i.e. a firm may have an incentive to cannibalise its market share if it thinks this will keep rivals out (by saturating the market and depriving it of store locations).
One of their main findings is that “shops of the same chains compete more intensely with each other than with shops of different chains, which implies cannibalization is one of the most important considerations for the firms’ entry decisions”. [...]

Strategic Pricing

This article will explore an overview of pricing strategy. We begin by explaining the simple Cournot and Bertrand games, which are game theoretic analyses of a firm’s pricing strategy. With this information we proceed by explaining what strategic complementarities and substitutes are before looking at a paper by Fudenberg and Tirole entitled “The Fat-Cat Effect, the Puppy-Dog Ploy, and the Lean and Hungry Look”.

Cournot Game
In this scenario we have (at least) two firms who compete on the amount of output they produce, choosing the quantity simultaneously and independently whilst taking the output decision of the other firms as given. [...]

Standards of Living during the Industrial Revolution

The debate about living standards in the Industrial Revolution has recently focused on anthropometric measures, such as height and mortality, and linked these to the ability to work more intensively. Describe how these factors may be related. Discuss what the anthropometric evidence reveals about living standards in this period.

Anthropometric measures add a new light on the debate and show whether people were healthier as a result of the industrial revolution. If they were then they would have been able to work more intensively because they would need fewer days off work due to fatigue or illness. Schultz believes that there is a positive relationship between height and productivity because height is a measure of nutritional status and better fed, healthier people could work harder. [...]

Negative Interest Rate Policy and the Zero Lower Bound

Neoclassical Story of the Monetary Policy Transmission Mechanism

The traditional orthodox story tells us that interest rates affect the economy through a number of channels including (i) the investment channel whereby higher interest rates reduce investment, as it becomes more costly to invest thereby inducing firms to either invest with retained earnings or forego investment because expected profits will be too low at higher interest rates (ii) the consumption channel, which is similar to the investment channel, in that higher interest rates make borrowing more expensive and so higher rates mean consumers cut back on big-ticket items such as houses, cars and white-goods; furthermore higher rates not only make borrowing plans more expensive, but also make actual borrowing more expensive: those with loans already will face higher payments and may thus cut-back elsewhere (iii) the wealth effect stems from the effect of rates on asset prices; higher interest rates mean investors can get higher rates from putting their savings in bank accounts rather than in the stock market (and other financial assets) and so demand for assets falls causing a fall in their price (pushing up the return on that investment) which leads to a negative wealth effect as asset prices fall (iv) finally we consider the export effect, whereby a higher interest rate increases demand for a domestic currency (hot money flows in to take advantage of the higher rate) causing an appreciation which leads to fewer exports and hence lower aggregate demand. [...]

International Trade and Economic Growth

Does international trade increase economic growth? In this context, what are the trade policies that have been followed by developing countries?

Standard textbook economic theory tells us that international trade benefits both parties in the trade, based on the gains from comparative advantage as laid out by David Ricardo. However, recent research into New Trade Theory suggests that trade may not always be beneficial, and there are examples when it could inhibit growth. This essay will examine when this could be the case and then relate this to the example of developing countries.

The Ricardian story goes that countries have comparative advantages in producing certain goods. [...]

What is the WACC?

The weighted average cost of capital (WACC) is simply an average cost of the two types of capital: debt and equity. It tells us the amount an investor would need in compensation to invest in a project. Therefore if we were to offer a lower return than the WACC, we would find that we have no investors; a return greater than WACC would lead to a situation where we have excess demand for our project.

To theoretically calculate the rate of return on a project we would need to compare it with existing returns on projects which have similar risk characteristics, and then set the return similar to these projects to ensure that we can attract finance. [...]

What is economic development?

‘What is economic development and how would you measure it? Does an increase in per capita national income always constitute an increase in the standard of living?’

Economic development is hard to define, but is an improvement in the living conditions of the population as a whole. Whilst closely linked with economic growth – high growth could result in high development – they are not the same thing and economic growth, as we shall discover, does not necessarily equate to economic development. It can be measured in a variety of different ways and Streeten believes it is necessary for its own sake, to improve the condition of people, because it results in higher productivity and lower fertility (which is generally seen as a good thing), can lead to a better environment and a healthier civil society, democracy and social stability. [...]