Posts from the ‘Economics’ Category

Unit 4 Macro: Electronic Payments Modernise Rwandan Banking

July 10th, 2012 at 9:59 pm by Geoff Riley

This three minute video from the World Bank looks at how secure electronic banking systems leveraging the fast-growing mobile phone network can act as a spur to economic development in Rwanda. And here is another example from BBC news of some of the benefits of using mobile phone technology. Smart hand pumps promise cleaner water in Africa

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Unit 2 Macro: EU Crisis Prompts Labour Migration

July 10th, 2012 at 2:40 pm by Geoff Riley

The financial crisis in the European Union is prompting an exodus of many young people from struggling EU countries – this short new report looks at the effects of people from France migrating to the Ivory Coast – does the host nation benefit in the medium term?

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Unit 3 Micro: High Profit from Pay Day Loans

July 10th, 2012 at 3:40 am by Geoff Riley

The pay-day loan boom is a symptom of more than three decades of financialization in the UK economy. Households and also some businesses are using the loans made available by companies such as Wonga. But borrowing from them involves astronomical rates of interest on an annualised percentage basis. In this clip we see how pay day loan businesses are becoming an ever more frequent sight on our high streets – but are tehey targeting the poorest and most vulnerable in society? Should regulators get tougher on them? Are they a sign of these difficult times?

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Unit 3 Micro: How Did Amazon Get To Be So Powerful So Quickly

July 9th, 2012 at 3:09 pm by Ben Christopher

Great Infographic below and found here outlining the scale of Amazon’s market penetration (One third of all internet shopping is done through Amazon – More than $48 billion in revenues in 2011) and how they achieved it. Some nice examples for A2 students for Unit 3 of abuse of monopoly and monopsony power. An obvious question may ask why the regulators haven’t been involved before now – by the looks of things, it’s just a matter time!


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Unit 3 Micro: Barclays receives massive fine for price fixing

July 9th, 2012 at 2:36 pm by Geoff Riley

Barclays have been hit by record fines for distorting key interest rates including the London Interbank Offer Rate and the consequences of this appalling contamination of the market for interest rates for lending and borrowing between the banks are likely to be far-reaching for the banking industry as a whole. Barclays has agreed to pay $453m for using underhand tactics, including price-fixing, to rig the markets. Keep an eye on the new because this interest-rate fixing scandal is set to engulf HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland.

The Governor of the Bank of England has launched a scathing attack on the culture of the UK banking industry

Channel 4 News

Al Jazeerah News

Bank of Englandf Governor

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Economics Revision Workshops – Spring 2013 (Units 2 & 4, including F585)

July 9th, 2012 at 10:05 am by Jim Riley

The dates and locations for our Spring 2013 AS & A2 Economics revision workshops are now confirmed – please see below.  The focus of the Spring 2013 workshops is on core topics for macroeconomics, including A2 sessions also directly relevant for the OCR F585 pre-release case study. The full session programme is now being developed and will be made available via this blog entry later in 2012.

Provisional bookings can now be made using our online form:

Dates and locations for Spring 2013 Economics revision workshops

Monday 11 March 2013 – Portsmouth (Vue, Gunwharf Quays)
Wednesday 13 March 2013 – Fulham (Vue, Fulham Broadway)
Thursday 14 March 2013 – Stratford City (Vue, Westfield)
Friday 15 March 2013 – Bristol (Vue, Cribbs Causeway)
Monday 18 March 2013 – Birmingham (Vue, Star City)
Tuesday 19 March 2013 – Manchester (Vue, Salford Quays)
Thursday 21 March 2013 – Newcastle (Odeon, Metro Centre)
Friday 22 March 2013 – Leeds (Vue, The Light)
Monday 22 April 2013 – Stratford City (Vue, Westfield)

Important notice: Please only make provisional bookings if you genuinely intend, and have school/college permission, to bring students to the revision workshops. Schools and colleges that persistently cancel their provisional bookings close to the workshop dates will only be permitted to make confirmed bookings if there are spaces available.

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Economics Revision Workshops – Winter 2012 (Units 1 & 3)

July 9th, 2012 at 10:04 am by Jim Riley

The confirmed dates and venues for our popular one-day, intensive revision days for AS & A2 Economics in November and December 2012 are now available. These are as follows:

Monday 26/11/12 Portsmouth – Vue Cinema Gunwharf Quays
Wednesday 28/11/12 Fulham – Vue Cinema Fulham Broadway
Thursday 29/11/12 Stratford – Vue Cinema Westfield Stratford City
Monday 3/12/12 Bristol – Vue Cinema Cribbs Causeway
Tuesday 4/12/12 Birmingham – Vue Cinema Star City
Thursday 6/12/12 Manchester – Vue Cinema Lowry Salford Quays
Monday 10/12/12 Gateshead – Odeon Cinema, Metro Centre
Tuesday 11/12/12 Leeds – Vue Cinema, The Light

As in previous years, our Winter workshops will focus on microeconomics, covering the core topics required for Unit 1 (AS Econ) and Unit 3 (A2 Econ). The A2 Econ workshop will include case studies from the labour market and transport economics as part of the content covered during the day.

We’ve kept the student price for each workshop at £20 (+VAT) for the seventh year running. Teacher places remain free, although please note that individual teachers may not attend on their own; the free teacher place arrangement is designed to support colleagues bringing student groups.

Provisional bookings can now be made here:

Important notice: Please only make provisional bookings if you genuinely intend, and have school/college permission, to bring students to the revision workshops. Schools and colleges that persistently cancel their provisional bookings close to the workshop dates will only be permitted to make confirmed bookings if there are spaces available.

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Unit 4 Macro: Green Technology in World’s Fastest City

July 9th, 2012 at 1:12 am by Geoff Riley

Over 1,000 people a day are arriving to live and work in Dhaka – the world’s fastest growing city. Rural-urban migration is putting huge pressures on the local environment as this news report shows. Can foreign investment in eco-friendly brick manufacturing factories help to the cut the dangerously high level of toxins from Dhaka’s construction industries? How does the EU carbon trading system link into this video resource?

More research: Cleaner Bricks for a Better Air Quality in Dhaka (World Bank)

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Unit 1 Miro: Greener Fuels for Improved Public Health

July 8th, 2012 at 2:29 pm by Geoff Riley

Innovation is crucial to achieving a disconnect between economic activity and harmful externalities for third parties. Passive smoking is one such example, another is the impact of diesel fumes – he World Health Organization has recently declared that diesel exhausts are more harmful than second-hand cigarette smoke. This short news clip highlights the work being done by Dutch innovators to reduce these harmful emissions.

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Unit 4 Macro: Malnutrition and Economics Development

July 8th, 2012 at 1:03 am by Geoff Riley

Malnutrition has been called by economists at the World Bank as the “non-human face” of poverty. High rates of malnutrition can severely impair development and bring untold human misery. In 2006, around 40% of Indian children under the age of five were undernourished. Progress in reducing this has been painfully slow.


• Impairs brain development among the young
• Is responsible for nearly half of all child deaths
• Increases the risks of HIV infection and cuts the numbers of children and mothers who survive malaria
• Malnourished children are more likely to drop out of school and suffer reductions in their lifetime incomes

According to the World Bank, “the effects of this early damage on health, brain development, educability, and productivity caused by malnutrition are largely irreversible.” The surge in global food prices has had a terrible effect on the risk of malnutrition in many of the world’s poorest countries. It has certainly led to a sharp rise in premature deaths and severe illnesses linked to poor nutrition in countries such as India.

Malnutrition in India

The Root of Hunger

Policies to reduce malnutrition

1. Schemes to promote health and nutrition education plus direct provision of micro-nutrient supplements and fortified foods

2. Growth monitoring schemes for the newly born and infants supplemented with vitamin provision from community organisations

3. Targeting cultural norms – in some countries, young girls are often allowed to eat only after their brothers

4. Cash transfers – i.e. direct consumer subsidies that can be spent on certain foods

5. Government subsidies for grain prices and export bans on domestically produced foods

6. Better food prices paid to small-scale farmers

7. Opening up retail markets to international supermarkets where food prices might come down through economies of scale and increased competition

8. Infrastructure spending to improve access to sanitation and clean water supplies

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Environmental Economics – Earthrise Case Studies

July 7th, 2012 at 7:03 pm by Geoff Riley

The Earthrise series from Al Jazeerah news provides some super short case studies relevant to AS and A2 economics courses that cover environmental market failures, innovations in government interventions and many vivid examples of threats to sustainable growth and development for many countries around the world.

Our Storify series below provides a regularly updated selection of news videos from the Earthrise series.

Earthrise – Environmental Economics

A selection of relevant Earthrise news stories from Al Jazeerah covering topics and issues relevant to sustainable economic growth / environmental economics. many are ideal for using in AS and A2 lessons.

Storified by Geoff Riley · Sat, Jul 07 2012 11:02:12

earthrise – Solar Shippingaljazeeraenglish
earthrise – Green Goldaljazeeraenglish
Local Hero: Sam Stephensaljazeeraenglish
earthrise – Banned in Belizealjazeeraenglish
earthrise – ‘How it Works’‘Animation: Osmotic Poweraljazeeraenglish
earthrise – Protecting Peoplealjazeeraenglish
earthrise – Holding the Linealjazeeraenglish
earthrise – The Searchersaljazeeraenglish
Sundrop Farms Aljazeera English Earthrise Coveragesundropfarmstv
earthrise – Conserving Canada’s Great Bear Rainforestaljazeeraenglish
earthrise – The Power of Rubbishaljazeeraenglish
earthrise – Energy Farmeraljazeeraenglish
earthrise – Veta La Palma, ‘Algae-Culture’ fish farmaljazeeraenglish
earthrise – Nepal’s Forest Futurealjazeeraenglish
earthrise – Oslo, City of the Futurealjazeeraenglish
earthrise – Saltwater Greenhousealjazeeraenglish
earthrise – Eco Toiletsaljazeeraenglish
earthrise – Bee Fencealjazeeraenglish
earthrise – Parallel Plantingaljazeeraenglish
earthrise – Car Sharingaljazeeraenglish
earthrise – Local Hero: Tree Peoplealjazeeraenglish
earthrise – Rechargeable ridesaljazeeraenglish
earthrise – The Great Crane Projectaljazeeraenglish
earthrise – On Patrolaljazeeraenglish
earthrise – A change in the windaljazeeraenglish
earthrise – Reef Ballsaljazeeraenglish
earthrise – The Big Green Applealjazeeraenglish
earthrise – Abu Dhabi’s Masdar Planaljazeeraenglish
earthrise – White Roofsaljazeeraenglish
earthrise – 24/7 Solaraljazeeraenglish
earthrise – Devil Arkaljazeeraenglish

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Unit 2: The £ appreciates against the Euro

July 7th, 2012 at 2:47 pm by Blogger Bryn

…..ta a 4 year high, according to the BBC

a) Using a suitable diagram, explain why the £ has appreciated against the Euro
b) Who benefits and who loses in the UK from this appreciation of the £?

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Unit 2: China cuts interest rates

July 7th, 2012 at 2:42 pm by Blogger Bryn

….according to the BBC

a) Explain how this cut in interest rates should lead to increased economic growth in China
b) Comment on how successful this policy is likely to be in achieving the objective

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Unit 1: Economics and the death penalty

July 7th, 2012 at 2:27 pm by Blogger Bryn

Regardless of the moral arguments, the economics of California operating a death penalty is under scrutiny, reports the BBC

a) Using the concept of opportunity cost, explain why some Californians might like to see the death penalty abolished

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Unit 1: The PED for plastic bags in Wales

July 7th, 2012 at 2:13 pm by Blogger Bryn

An interesting post from tutor2u on the impact of a 5p per bag charge on non-reusable plastic bags in Wales

a) To what extent does the demand for plastic bags in Wales appear to be price elastic?
b) Given this data, comment on whether the policy should be extended to the rest of the UK

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Unit 2: Increasing duration of unemployment in the USA

July 7th, 2012 at 2:03 pm by Blogger Bryn

A disturbing post from Planet Money

a) Explain why this increasing length of unemployment  means unemployment is a growing problem for the US government
b) Comment on the most appropriate action the US government could take to reduce the number of long term unemployed

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Unit 4 Macro: Poverty and Inequality in Latin America

July 7th, 2012 at 12:52 am by Geoff Riley

Latin America continues to have the biggest gap between rich and poor in the world but progress is being made in reducing the scale of extreme poverty especially from specially targeted poverty-reduction programmes initiated by governments in making sure that each household has an income. This short news report focuses on the battle to cut the estimated 170 million people who live in absolute poverty.

More research available here


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Hayek’s Gift!

July 6th, 2012 at 3:30 pm by Ben Christopher

Another amusing clip (albeit brief) from featuring Keynes (”I love Champagne!”) and the under-appreciated “Freddie” Hayek..oh and you can also buy the t-shirt if need be.

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Environmental Economics: Natural Capital

July 6th, 2012 at 11:27 am by Geoff Riley

There is growing interest among policy makers about the importance of protecting and enhancing natural capital to support sustainable growth and development. I have put together a selection of recent news video resources on natural capital that might be useful for students and teachers who are new to the idea and who might want to look at it as part of their study of environmental and development economics.

Economics of Natural Capital

There is increasing emphasis on the economic and social importance of natural capital – this is a selection of video resources on the concept of natural capital

Storified by Geoff Riley · Fri, Jul 06 2012 03:25:49

Big Question: What is nature worth?umnione
Natural capital – Joshua Bishop at IUCNmovebeyondtheline
Natural capital accountingalertnet
Time to Account for Natural Capitalworldbank
The Now Show – Natural Capital Assessmentlabcall

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Unit 4 Macro: Limited Healthcare access constrains India

July 6th, 2012 at 12:37 am by Geoff Riley

The Indian government spends little over one per cent of its GDP on healthcare and the state-run hospitals suffer a severe shortage of doctors and beds in state hospitals, but provides tax concessions and cheap land to its booming private healthcare industry providing expensive treatments to India’s most wealthy people. India in total spends only 4% of their GDP on healthcare.

India spending on health care (% of GDP)

India Healthcare Spending

Private hospitals were ordered in August 2011 to provide free medical treatment to the poor. They are too poor to afford their own healthcare.

This short news report looks at the human impact of an Indian health care system where many millions of people simply cannot afford basic care and treatment.

What would be some of the consequences for Indian development of a greater investment in health care for their poorest citizens?

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Unit 4 Macro: Erratic Energy Supplies Threatens Indian Growth

July 5th, 2012 at 10:13 am by Geoff Riley

This news video report from the Wall Street Journal is superb in highlighting the economic consequences of the chronic shortages of energy and fuel in the fast-growing Indian economy. The focus is on a newly opened coal-fired power station (note the investment in it from Hong Kong and China) which has already had to close dow production twice because it has run out of coal supplies.

Erratic electric power forces people to rely on more expensive fuels such as diesel – it is a persistent problem facing many Indian businesses from poor farmers to chemists who need reliable power supplies to keep their drugs cool. The Indian economy too becomes more reliant on imports of oil, coal and gas worsening their trade balance.

Here is the video

The long term weaknesses of energy / power infrastructure in India are prompting huge investment in renewable energies. More than 400m people still lack access to electricity, and the International Energy Agency estimates that India’s consumption demands are likely to double by 2035. Early progress on scaling up renewable energy in the Indian economy looks promising – see here

India looks for alternative energy options


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Unit 1 Micro: Welsh Plastic Bag Charge Reduces Demand

July 5th, 2012 at 7:49 am by Geoff Riley

A tax on plastic bags in Wales has seen the number given away drop by sizeable amounts according to this news report Since 1 October 2011, there has been a minimum charge of 5p on all single use carrier bags.

The Welsh government acted in a bid to encourage re-use of bags and therefore lower demand for single-use free bags. The justification was on economic and environmental grounds:


According to the website set up to explain the carrier bag charge:

Every single use carrier bag, no matter what it is made of, is a waste of resources as they all need:

* raw materials to create them;
* energy to be produced – which creates emissions;
* to be transported; and
* to be disposed of

The plastic bag charge / tax is collected by the retailer and the revenue is ear marked for distribution to charitable causes.

Pricing plastic pangs creates an incentive to cut usage and this certainly seems to have happened. But the effect of the charge appears to have been amplified by behavioural changes driven by network effects. Public support for the charge has risen and herd behaviour seems to be working to cut plastic bag consumption.

The early figures reveal differences in plastic bag reductions – why might food service retailers have seen a smaller reduction?

Food retail – between 96% and 70% reductions
Fashion – between 75% and 68% reductions
Home improvement – 95% reduction
Food service – up to 45% reduction
Telecommunications – 85% reduction.

More reading:

Guardian: Plastic bag use in Wales plummets due to 5p charge, figures show

Welsh government: Single carrier bag charge

There are plans for 5p plastic bag charge in Scotland but the Coalition government seems reluctant to act in England.


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Unit 4 Macro: Climate Change threatens South African tea exports

July 5th, 2012 at 12:20 am by Geoff Riley

Production and export of a caffeine-free tea produced in a tiny part of South Africa is threatened by the impact of climate change which is causing increased variability in rainfall. This short news piece illustrates the challenge of climate change and the importance of the crop of a unique tea called Rooibos which has helped create a multi-million dollar a year industry in the Western Cape of South Africa

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Unit 2: The London Olympics and the multiplier effect

July 4th, 2012 at 9:45 pm by Blogger Bryn

…………………as explained by Sky

and this BBC video

and this BBC audio clip

a) Explain how the hosting of the Olympics will have a multiplier effect on the economy
b) Discuss how will this effect the Governments 4 macroeconomic objectives

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Unit 4 Macro: Dambisa Moyo – Winner Take All

July 4th, 2012 at 11:20 am by Geoff Riley

Dambisa Moyo was on great form when she spoke to the Economics Teacher National Conference in London last week. Her new book Winner Take All investigates the causes and consquences of rising global demand for commodities. In particular Dambisa Moyo predicts increasing geo-political tensions and conflicts as countries scramble to secure ownership and supplies of land, water, energy and minerals. In this blog I have linked to some of Dambisa’s recent media appearances as Winner Take All was launched in the USA and here in the UK.

New York Times Business Day Live – China’s role in Africa


BBC World News America: China’s rush for resources


Bloomberg: Oil Reserves Won’t Satisfy Demand, Moyo Says





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Reflections on Economics Teaching

July 4th, 2012 at 10:59 am by Geoff Riley

A few days ago I answered some questions from students at another school writing their own economics magazine – this is a fabulous way to build enthusiasm and passion for a subject and develop skills as budding economics journalists. I have reproduced my answers below.

1) How has the teaching of Economics changed since you yourself were at school?

I have vivid memories of the teaching that I had over thirty years ago! It was really good and I benefitted from having two passionate teachers who loved their subject. There was little technology used in the classroom, indeed those of a certain age will remember the infamous Banda machine for duplicating handouts! At the time there was a fierce debate between Keynesians and the rising school of Monetarism, we were coming out of a difficult and turbulent period of stagflation in the mid 1970s and Thatcherism was just around the corner. So it was an exciting time to be a student of economics and in that sense similar to today!

2) What spurred your personal interest in Economics?

No question – it was the teaching that I received at Harrogate Granby High School, a state school in Yorkshire. There was also plenty of coverage of economics on the television and I have happy memories of watching the Money Programme on the BBC (still around today but it has been dumbed-down over the years). My twin brother Jim also studied economics so there was quite a bit of competition in the classroom!

3) Do you think the current A level syllabus allows students to develop a deeper interest in the subject?

No! I have not been a fan of exam board courses for several years now and one of my common exhortations to students is that they should leave the syllabus behind and stop being slaves to the mark scheme! Fortunately there are now so many opportunities for students to engage with the subject and deepen their understanding and passion for economics by using online resources, getting involved with external competitions and dipping into a rich array of new books on the subject! I help to run the annual essay competition for the Royal Economic Society and this year we had a record number of entries with a high overall standard, I was greatly enthused and encouraged by this, students showed a desire to be independent learners and be ambitious in their reading and referencing.

4) Do you think the current A-level syllabus is preparing students for university, and in turn for a future job?

This is a big question! A syllabus is essentially a starting point for deeper study and the Economics syllabus offers a basic introduction to concepts and theories which is fine and also tends to cherry-pick some of the really interesting applied questions and debates. The Mathematics content at AS and A2 level is basic at best and many students find their university courses quite a challenge if they do not have the requisite mathematical skills. Job wise? For most jobs these days, the choice of A-Level and degree matters relatively little.

Time and time again employers ranging from business start-ups to major transnational corporations look me in the eye and say that what a student has done is more important than what they have studied. My advice to students is to get their hands dirty during the holidays – work in a shop or on a building site; spend time raising funds for a charity or perhaps take the first steps in launching a business.

Avoid like the plague a week in Daddy’s accountancy office or a week making the tea for some hedge fund crony!

5) What do you feel the biggest omission from the current A level syllabus is and why?

Our subject moves on internet time and no subject syllabus could ever hope to keep pace! Keep in mind also that putting something extra into a syllabus would probably involve leading something else out! But in a talk that I gave at the Bank of England a few months ago I argued that revised AS and A2 syllabuses should include more of the following:

• Behavioural Economics
• Money, Banking, Finance
• Fast Growth Economies
• Statistics and Simulations
• Economics of Technology
• Economic History

6) Do you feel the teaching of economics has been/will be changed by the financial crisis?

This is a wonderful time to be teaching Economics because many of the conventional theories of the last twenty to thirty years are being challenged and questioned. For example, the investor George Soros has invested millions of dollars to establish an Institute for New Economic Thinking and there is growing interest in the ideas of heterodox economists such as Steve Keen, Ha Joon Chang and Hyman Minsky. Keynes has made a long overdue revival and we are seeing some really exciting work in microeconomics, development economics and behavioural economics.

It is rewarding that many sixth form students are now enthusiastic about challenging many of the tired ideas that have dominated classrooms for years. In that sense they are forging ahead of their teachers! This summer I recommend that you read Paul Ormerod on networks and incentives and Esther Duflo, the co-author of Poor Economics (a remarkable book about randomised tests in aid projects). Mark Henderson is also well worth a read – a science journalist (now at the Wellcome Foundation).

The financial crisis is not over yet – not by a distance! From the fallout will come plenty of new thinking about economics as a subject and an academic discipline. We need new leaders in the subject every much as we need political leadership.

7) How do you feel the teaching of Economics will develop in the future?

The rapid pace of technological change is certainly being felt in teaching although you might not necessarily see it most days if you walked around many schools! These days there are many wonderful opportunities to connect, engage and collaborate that were not available when I was taking my first steps in the subject. Economics should never be learnt out of a textbook (indeed I ban them from my classrooms) and good teaching encourages students to develop skills of critical judgement when accessing and filtering the mass of new information, comment and analysis that comes their way from old and new media.

Twitter is a good case in point; it is a platform to share ideas and resources, to follow experts, organisations and publications and in doing so gain fresh insights way beyond the walls of a classroom. Just this year I have seen students making really productive use of Twitter to enhance their enthusiasm for a subject, but we shouldn’t be prescriptive because how they use social media is entirely up to them!

The crucial change that I sense is the rise of collaborative / shared learning; this is natural to 21st century learners but goes against the grain for many of my own generation! It is only in education that collaboration is viewed by many traditionalists as cheating!

From Tutor2u’s point of view, we just love our chosen subjects and we enjoy blogging, tweeting and writing in other arenas. We have met hundreds of fascinating people from the worlds of economics, business and finance in doing so and now we find a new generation of teachers are coming into schools many of whom have been users of our site as students. They are “no-fear” teachers when it comes to technology and I am really excited about how much they will contribute to economics educators in schools and colleges in the years to come!

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Students and Spillover Effects

July 4th, 2012 at 10:18 am by Michael Owen

A topical example of negative externalities associated with fly tipping covered the activities of university students in Bristol.

Rather than take old furniture and belongings home at the end of their academic year, they dump them. Council ratepayers are faced with the costs of the clear up, as Bristol Council send round their refuse teams to collect the accumulated rubbish.

Many of you want to study economics at university, but what is your solution to change behaviour and reduce the negative spillover effects?

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Beyond the Bike: End of Term Quiz

July 4th, 2012 at 9:59 am by Geoff Riley

Stuart has put together this excellent end of term quiz with some super questions related to international development. Click below for a download link.


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Beyond the Bike: Religion and Economic Development

July 4th, 2012 at 9:08 am by Geoff Riley

Although Adam Smith delved into religion in his 1776 Wealth of Nations, mainstream economists have historically stayed clear. This has recently changed and as I cycled through the Holy Land back in April with fellow economist & stoker Mike Biggs, we reflected on whether economics can be used to analysis religious activity and, perhaps more interestingly, whether religion can help to explain regional differences in economic development …

Jerusalem: The geographical starting point for any discussion on (monotheistic) religion & economic development…

Let us start by thinking how we might use economics to consider religion? By applying a basic supply & demand framework to an analysis, we could assume that that people (‘customers’) are just as rational in their choices about religion as they are about, say, buying a car. “Producers” of religion—churches, synagogues, and mosques – compete for these “customers” by seeking converts, drawing members from other congregations, or combating the pull of secular society.

Selling religion? Ancient (Ahmed in Essna, Egypt was a Muadhin) v modern ‘sales techniques’…

Drawing on the theory of the firm, we might say that there isn’t ‘perfect competition’ rather this is an oligopolistic market where the 3 major religions, ignoring the various sub-sectors, control some 90% of the (Western) market, with product differentiation a common feature. Of course, when it comes to making religious (& other) choices, people aren’t necessarily rational but you get the idea! Note that the concept of rationality has also been extended to explain the behaviour of certain suicide bombers .

My tandem parked beneath an (old) poster in the Palestinian West Bank remembering a fighter killed during the 2nd Intifada (2000-2005). Suicide bombings occurred during this time…

The second question addressing what religion tells us about economic development is perhaps more contentious. Firstly, whilst it is generally perceived that greater economic development, as measured by growth in per capita GDP is associated with reduced religiosity, measured by participation in organised religion, the direction of causality is not clear cut. Is it that rising incomes lead to a fall in religious participation or that religious participation hinders economic growth. We could use the concept of opportunity cost (of time intensive activities) to think about this. For now, I will defer to the conclusion of the likes of Robert Barro & Rachel McCleary from Harvard1 who suggest that economic growth responds positively to the extent of religious beliefs but negatively to participation in organised religion.

Why is this? Their first conclusion stems from Max Weber’s famous thesis in ‘The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism’ , namely that religious beliefs raise productivity by fostering individual traits such as honesty, work ethic, and thrift. Meanwhile, spending too many resources (time, income & talent) on religious activities reduces those available for (economically) productive activities.

However, most of the recent studies concern the relationship between religion & growth in modern history. It occurred to me whilst in Egypt that well organised religion can help to promote strong growth in early stages of development. Egypt was more developed in 1500bc then than Europe 3000 years later. We can still see evidence of their development in the magical tombs & temples we can see today.

The temple of Queen Hatshepsut: she was ahead of her time   Help me build this Obelix & you will find salvation …
Egyptian temples were key centres of economic activity, providing employment for thousands of people & managing the trade & agriculture around them. Whilst atheists might argue that this is an early example of how the political elite used religion to persuade the masses to work for them, it helped create a dynamic civilisation that dominated the region for centuries in ancient times.

In more recent centuries, does religion tell us anything about regional differences in development? This is where the debate becomes more controversial! Why was the industrial revolution led from Northern Europe – a largely Protestant Christian region and not either the Islamic or more Catholic areas of the (old) world. Was modern capitalism born through the religious ideas of the Reformation?  It allowed for the separation of church & state, enabling a greater plurality of religious faiths in society & an atmosphere of “good temper and moderation”, as Smith put it. Entrepreneurs were able to build enterprises & make money with a clear conscience, whilst the Church encouraged hard work & frugality amongst workers.

Meanwhile the largely Muslim Arab world developed more slowly.  Of course, there are many other factors at work but academics argue that religion played a part. For example, Timur Kuran of Duke University highlights that Koranic inheritance law long forbade a father from passing a business on to a favored son but required him to divvy up the legacy among all children (with daughters getting half-portions). That made it harder to set up corporations and stymied economic growth. Another hurdle regularly cited is the traditional prohibition on interest payments.

Greater competition for talk time (Sudan desert) & modern banking systems (Jordan banknotes) in 2012. But has economic development in the Arab world been held by certain religious traditions?

What about the Jewish influence? Although geographically spread out & therefore difficult to quantify the effect of their religiosity on regional growth, Jewish presence in financial services, for example, is well-known. One oft-cited reason for this was the condemnation of usury in the early Christian church, leaving a gap in the market for others to offer banking services. With their history of entrepreneurship, geographical mobility & subsequent network across many countries, Jewish financiers were well place to help bank-roll much of the industrial development in Northern Europe during the 19th Century.  The most famous of these were of course the Rothschilds – still prominent in global banking today .

It seems appropriate, given my journey, to touch on Africa before finishing. David Livingstone, the famous of Victorian missionary cum explorer, believed vehemently in African economic development coming through the ‘three C’s’: Christianity, Commerce & Colonisation. For the basis of this discussion, it is impossible to determine whether religion has played much of a part in hindering or helping growth in Africa. Certainly, the (European) scramble for Africa in the late 19th century & tensions between Christians & Muslims throughout Africa’s modern history have proved somewhat of a hindrance to development in general.

A Christian family that I camped with in South Sudan. Their extreme (material) poverty is not quite what Livingstone had in mind 150 years after his death…
So is it possible to draw any conclusions from this discussion? Firstly (& mainly for students!), it is worth remembering that we can (try to) use economics as a framework to analysis any decision-making process. OK, so it is easier to use it to think about buying a house but social choices such as religion can also be considered.

Meanwhile, attempting to isolate the link between religion & regional differences in economic development is challenging given the presence of many other significant variables. It can be argued that the industrial revolution & modern capitalism were conceived out of the reformation in Northern Europe, bank-rolled by a Jewish network of financiers across the old world. But to claim this is mainly due to religious development rather than broader cultural, geographic & other socio-economic factors would require a leap of faith for any economist. Moreover, as Max Weber went on to do, we’d need to broader the discussion to include the other global religions to answering the question more completely.

Discussion topic/questions for students:

- Describe the market for religion in the UK/relevant using concentration ratios. (3 firm concentration ration of c 90% in west)
- What is the key feature of religions that means that you can’t describe the market as perfect competition (goods not homogenous)
- How could you use economics to describe the role of (religious) suicide bomber. (benefits of martyrdom outweigh costs to society) imperfect/asymmetric information means market has failed /decision making skewed…

- Use an economic analysis to think why rising income might lead to a fall in religious participation (opportunity cost of participation higher; higher education means people turn to science to explain things)
- Other than cultural factors, what are the key determinates of a countries/regions’ growth (think factor endowment). Use this to explain why Europe might have industrialise before other regions…


1/ Inspired by the work of Nobel Prize winning economist Gary Becker, Laurence R. Iannaccone, Professor of economics at Chapman University is considered one of the pioneers in the field. See also Barro & McCleary, Harvard University (2003), Religion & Economic Growth

2/  In order to keep this blog (relatively) simple, I’m going to focus on the Abrahamic religions. Of course, this excludes a large & the fastest growing part of the world economy. I’d also like to emphasise that this is meant to stimulate thought amongst students. I accept that I may be making some sweeping generalisations & I hope that I don’t cause any offence in what is of course a most sensitive topic!

3/ See for example Religious Extremism: the good, the bad, and the deadly, Lannaccone & Berman (2005)

4/ Written in German in 1904 & translated into English in 1930, it is considered a founding text in economic sociology

5/  Islam and Mammon: The Economic Predicaments of Islamism, 2004.

6/ Due to their geographical mobility & link to European Banking families, Jewish Immigrant families also helped finance much of the rapid industrialisation in the US in second half of the 19th Century. Many of the firms still exist in part today Lazard Freres, Goldman Sachs, Salomon Brothers (now Citi), with a notable exception (Lehman Brothers). See for a detailed account of this, see The Course of Modern Jewish History (1959; updated 1990) – Howard M. Sachar.

7/ See Weber,  ‘The Religion of China: Confucianism and Taoism’ &  ‘The Religion of India: The Sociology of Hinduism and Buddhism’


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Unit 4 Macro: Should the UK return to the Gold Standard?

July 4th, 2012 at 7:33 am by Geoff Riley

A summer hat tip to Alan Fearnley for spotting this excellent teaching resource from the BBC. A recent Radio 4 Analysis programme was devoted to the issue of a return to the Gold Standard (a fixed exchange rate system). It was by Simon Jack who covers economic and financial matters for the Today programme. It is very accessible for Years 12 and 13. Here are the details for people wanting to access content from the programme.

Gold v paper money: Which should we trust more?

Radio 4 Analysis Programme (BBC)

Radio 4 Analysis Facebook Page

Radio 4 Analysis on Twitter (Click Here)

See also: Duncan Weldon (Guardian): Back to the gold standard? It makes no economic sense


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Unit 4 Macro: Competitiveness – The Growth of JCB

July 3rd, 2012 at 4:58 pm by Geoff Riley

In this Financial Times analysis video the world class British business JCB is showcased – they see the world as their market and focus only on their core competencies – what are the key ingredients in building and sustaining their competitiveness in global markets? JCB is the UK’s biggest privately owned manufacturer.

How the UK’s JCB took on the World – Analysis

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Unit 3 Micro: Glaxo SmithKline fined $3 billion for off-label marketing

July 3rd, 2012 at 7:40 am by Geoff Riley

The scale of the fine is staggering, Glaxo SmithKline has been found guilty of off-label marketing – an illegal strategy – GSK targeted the antidepressant Paxil at patients under age 18 when it was approved only for adults, and promoted the drug Wellbutrin for uses it was not approved for, including weight loss and treatment of sexual dysfunction

This is corporate irresponsibility on a grand scale as this new report makes clear.

Guardian: GlaxoSmithKline fined $3bn for healthcare fraud

Daily Mail: GlaxoSmithKline to pay $3billion fine after pleading guilty to healthcare fraud – the biggest in U.S. history

News video:

See also


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Unit 3 Micro: Microsoft launches a tablet to challenges Apple’s dominance

July 2nd, 2012 at 4:42 pm by Geoff Riley

A potentially important moment for the contestability of the tablet market. Technology giant Microsoft has unveiled its touchpad tablet computer. The “Surface” will face tough competition from Apple’s iPad and many other devices including those made by Samsung. These video resources provide some background. The Surface tablet computer will not be available until the Autumn on 2012.

BBC news: How will the industry react to Microsoft’s Surface tablet?

Financial Times News


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Behavioural Economics: Compulsory Breathalysers

July 2nd, 2012 at 7:07 am by Geoff Riley

Alcohol-related accidents are the leading cause of death and serious injury for victims of car crashes in France and the government has decided to introduce a strong behavioural nudge by making it compulsory for every car to have a portable breathalyser kit in their vehicles or risk a fine. This applies to every vehicle including those driven by tourists. Vehicle owners will have until November 2012 to get used to it before the fines are imposed.

Having a breathalyser in the glove box or on the front passenger seat might well be an effective reminder for people before they turn on the ignition. Reminders of our mortality and/or our morality can often prime us to make safer, better choices. I applaud the French government for introducing this new law. All motorists must also have with them a high-visibility safety vest and a warning triangle.

See also: BBC news video: France orders breathalyser for motorists

The drink-driving limit in France is 50mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood – 30mg less than the UK limit. The French government has approved two breathalyser kits –  a cheap blow-in-the-bag tester that costs £3 and digital versions that cost more than £100 – a boom for manufacturers of these products!



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Unit 2: GDP per capita in Europe

July 1st, 2012 at 8:36 pm by Blogger Bryn

Anforme have this great comparative data showing the huge disparity in GDP per capita within the EU

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Unit 1: Australia launches a carbon tax

July 1st, 2012 at 8:28 pm by Blogger Bryn

Thanks to tutor2u for this post with links to 2 further BBC stories

and from Aljazeera

a) Discuss the pros and cons of introducing a carbon tax to reduce the failings of the free market

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Unit 1: Regulation to overcome information failure: Car tyres

July 1st, 2012 at 4:45 pm by Blogger Bryn

Interesting clip from the BBC

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Unit 4 Macro: Drought Resistant Seeds and Farm Output

July 1st, 2012 at 4:37 pm by Geoff Riley

This news report from drought-stricken Eastern Kenya looks at the potential of drought-resistant seeds in maintaining farm yields in a region afflicted by extreme poverty and malnutrition. The seed has been locally produced and distributed to farmers across lower Eastern Kenya at a reasonable price and promises good yield, early maturity and resistance to common diseases. But farmers still face many challenges in making it work.

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How to internalise a difficult externality.

July 1st, 2012 at 3:39 pm by Ben Cahill

Houston – we have a problem. The police in Houston, Texas, lack the money and resources to promptly analyze the evidence collected in rape cases. Basic economic theory would say that those who cause a negative externality should contribute to paying for the external costs. So who should pay for rape investigations?

The Houston City Council have decided that the burden for funding these investigations should fall upon the city’s strip clubs. Ellen Cohen, the council member who championed the new law said that “There are negative secondary effects associated with adult-entertainment establishments”. In particular strip clubs should shoulder some of the costs of rape investigations because the establishments can cultivate unhealthy attitudes toward women that can lead to sexual assaults.

The tax is expected to generate up to $3 million in annual revenue. Not surprisingly, the clubs are opposed to the tax and deny that there is a link between strip clubs and violence against women. More on the arguments from both sides can be seen in this Wall Street Journal article.

And while there is nothing funny about sexual violence, I have to admit that I laughed when I saw that the $5 charge per visitor has been labelled a “pole tax”!

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Unit 1 Micro: Poor Summer Weather and Market Demand

July 1st, 2012 at 8:44 am by Geoff Riley

The poor summer weather has hit many businesses across the UK and the flash flooding has caused havoc for many communities. This BBC news video looks at some of the businesses damaged by the heavy rain. But can you think of businesses that will have benefitted from the deluge?


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Unit 1 Micro: Australia launches carbon tax

July 1st, 2012 at 8:16 am by Geoff Riley

The introduction of a carbon tax in Australia has become one of the most hotly debated political and economic issues for many years in that country. The economy has enjoyed strong growth in recent times buoyed by rising demand for and prices of many of Australia’s huge endowment of natural resources.

Under the new carbon tax, around 300 of the worst-polluting firms to pay a A$23 (£15) levy for every tonne of greenhouse gases they produce.

Will a carbon tax threaten this growth? Or will it prove to be an inspired decision – helping to pave the way for greener growth and a faster pace of innovation not least in renewable energies and low-carbon goods and services?

Australia prices carbon for greener economy

See also


See also

BBC news: Australia introduces controversial carbon tax

BBC news: Two faces of Australia carbon tax




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Unit 4 Macro: How Do We Measure Poverty?

June 30th, 2012 at 7:25 am by Geoff Riley

The World Bank has this short 3 minute video on measuring poverty

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Unit 1: Negative externalities from diesel use

June 29th, 2012 at 9:19 pm by Blogger Bryn

Pretty bad, according to the BBC

but maybe there’s hope for the future, according to Aljazeera (in this tutor2u post)

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The Story of the Economics Teacher National Conference 2012

June 29th, 2012 at 10:02 am by Jim Riley

Many thanks to the fantastic audience of Economics teachers who packed the British Library Conference Auditorium on 27 June 2012 for the Economics Teacher National Conference.

We were delighted with the day – a simply stunning speaker line-up was complemented by a real buzz amongst the delegates who took full advantage of the opportunity to renew existing friendships and many new contacts. The packed-out wine reception after the event was further proof that the Economics teacher community is really strong and growing!

Many thanks also to Ian Pryer (Freman College) who has done a superb job curating the many tweets from delegates attending. His Storify summary of the day is provided below:

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Jim O’Neill on the Changing World Economy

June 28th, 2012 at 2:19 pm by Geoff Riley

Here are the slides from Jim’s superb talk at the Economics Teacher National Conference at the British Library yesterday – Etoncollege.pdf

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Freezing Fuel Duty is Wrong

June 27th, 2012 at 4:40 pm by Tim Mason

Yesterday evening, fuelled by some excellent real ale (only 3 pints), I rang 5Live to tell Tony Livesey that I would be happy to pay an extra 3p a litre for my fuel. My point, which is difficult to make in a sound bite on late night radio, is that the price incentives are wrong. People need to be incentivised to use their cars less, to drive smaller cars and to drive more fuel efficient cars. Car manufacturers need to be incentivised to produce those more fuel efficient cars and find alternatives to the internal combustion engine using precious oil and creating pollution.
I also suggested that the real cost of motoring has risen less that the real cost of using buses or trains.
This would make a good discussion point with classes. I need to find some data on the cost per passenger mile for cars, buses and trains. Any help here appreciated.

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More Behavioural Economics: Drink-Driving

June 27th, 2012 at 4:45 am by Ben Cahill

On a class trip to an advertising and media company today, we were shown an ad campaign that bore a strong resemblance to the Smoking Kids campaign that Geoff blogged about a few days ago.

In this case it was the idea that if people were reminded about the consequences of driving drunk then they would be less like to do so. In particular, people were not prepared to let someone else drive their car if they were drunk so were (hopefully) less likely to do so themselves.

A bit of further investigation showed that the two adverts were made by the same agency – Ogilvy and Mather, but looks like there was a bit of sharing of ideas across continents. The “Smoking Kids” advert was from Thailand, this one came from Brazil.

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Unit 2: Should central banks have an inflation target?

June 26th, 2012 at 8:55 pm by Blogger Bryn

A nice pros/cons summary from economicshelp

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Unit 1 Micro: Technology aims to cut fish discards

June 26th, 2012 at 6:32 am by Geoff Riley

Channel 4 news reports here on how CCTV and other technologies are being used to monitor fishing in the north sea in a bid to scale back the horrendous amount of fish discards. This happens when fishing vessels throw back dead fish into the water when a catch exceeds the quota – a terrible waste of an already scarce resource. The average European fishing trawler discards 38 per cent of its catch – for some species of fish 90 per cent are thrown away but with the aid of technology this can be reduced to less than 1 per cent.

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Big vs small government – the life of Julia.

June 26th, 2012 at 3:15 am by Ben Cahill

As the American presidential race starts to heat up, one of the key differences between the two candidates is their policies on how much support the government should give to the average person (in this case “Julia”). Barack Obama favors more support (and therefore more spending) whereas Mitt Romney favors less support (and therefore less spending).

The original The Life of Julia is a slideshow that depicts how an Obama led administration helps Julia over all stages of her life and highlights the places where a Romney led government would cause her to be worse off. Perhaps surprisingly, those behind the promotion did not reserve the domain name. Going to this link shows the opposite perspective – inefficient and wasteful government spending, labour regulations and the influence of unions all lead Julia to be worse off, finishing up with a quote from Milton Friedman about evaluating the success of government programs.

The presidential race looks to be tightening up and in the end it may well come down to what people believe about Julia – does the government help or hinder her?

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