On Economics Desmond Mc Neill Economists have a

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On Economics Desmond Mc. Neill

On Economics Desmond Mc. Neill

 • Economists have a special way of seeing the world. • And they

• Economists have a special way of seeing the world. • And they exert great influence over decision-makers that shape our daily lives.

How economists think about: • People (homo economicus: rational, selfinterested, autonomous) • Interpersonal relations

How economists think about: • People (homo economicus: rational, selfinterested, autonomous) • Interpersonal relations (game theory) • Institutions (markets) • Decision-making (optimisation within constraints) • Time (discounting) • Nature (as a resource)

Supply and Demand • The law of demand: when prices rise (other things being

Supply and Demand • The law of demand: when prices rise (other things being equal) demand falls.

 • Demand: aggregate across many individuals consumers • Supply: aggregate across many individual

• Demand: aggregate across many individuals consumers • Supply: aggregate across many individual firms • Market: many buyers and sellers • Equilibrium: the market ’clears’ • Use of diagrams/geometry (now replaced by algebra)

Economic Models • Explaining consumer behaviour

Economic Models • Explaining consumer behaviour

Standard economic textbook theory. • A consumer’s demand for a good X over a

Standard economic textbook theory. • A consumer’s demand for a good X over a given time period (d. X) is as follows: • d. X = f (PX, PR, y, T, E, A, Z) • where, • PX is the price of the good • PR is the prices of other goods which are related to good X • Y is the consumer’s income • T is the consumer’s taste for good X • E is the consumer’s expectations about future prices • A is advertising • Z is other relevant factors

About the model - Note: • it is an abstraction (hence the use of

About the model - Note: • it is an abstraction (hence the use of symbols) • it simplifies (there a limited number of explanatory variables) • it limits the a explanatory variables to those which can be measured

2. Recent economic theory • Well-established economists have long criticized standard economic theory. For

2. Recent economic theory • Well-established economists have long criticized standard economic theory. For example, Becker, a Nobel Prize winner: • • Economists ”have no useful theory of the formation of tastes, nor can they rely on a welldeveloped theory of tastes from any other discipline in the social sciences, since none exists. ” (Becker, 1976: 133) •

 • More recent theories are more sophisticated. • For example, attempts have been

• More recent theories are more sophisticated. • For example, attempts have been made to study consumer choice as a ‘game’ in which the utility of an individual consumer derives not only from consumption but also from status.

 • In terms of theory, the strength of the economic approach is its

• In terms of theory, the strength of the economic approach is its analytical rigour. • But the fact that it reliant on quantifiable variables is a limitation: many variables are not quantifiable; and even for those that are, the data may not be very reliable.

 • In terms of policy, the strength of the economic approach is that

• In terms of policy, the strength of the economic approach is that it offers a viable instrument. • Thus, prices can be modified by policymakers (if politically feasible); • But other factors are less easy to modify.

Rural-urban migration • What would an economic model look like?

Rural-urban migration • What would an economic model look like?

Harris-Todaro Model • In the model, an equilibrium is reached when the expected wage

Harris-Todaro Model • In the model, an equilibrium is reached when the expected wage in urban areas (actual wage adjusted for the unemployment rate), is equal to the marginal product of an agricultural worker. The model assumes that unemployment is nonexistent in the rural agricultural sector. It is also assumed that rural agricultural production and the subsequent labor market is perfectly competitive.

How economists think about: • People (homo economicus: rational, selfinterested, autonomous) • Interpersonal relations

How economists think about: • People (homo economicus: rational, selfinterested, autonomous) • Interpersonal relations (game theory) • Institutions (markets) • Decision-making (optimisation within constraints) • Time (discounting) • Nature (as a resource)

Why Economists think like this Because they believe it is ‘true’ Because it is

Why Economists think like this Because they believe it is ‘true’ Because it is tractable. Why Economists think like this • • Because they believe the model is ‘true’? Because it is tractable?

Why policy-makers listen to them: • Because they believe their theories are ‘true’? •

Why policy-makers listen to them: • Because they believe their theories are ‘true’? • • Because they think that this an efficient basis for decision-making? • • Because economic instruments ‘work’? • • Because they think it is defensible

Dasgupta: Preface • “… our ethics drives our politics and our politics inform our

Dasgupta: Preface • “… our ethics drives our politics and our politics inform our economics” • “When thinkling economics we don’t entertain doubts”

Dasgupta: Introduction • What is economics? • “a point of view of the circumstances

Dasgupta: Introduction • What is economics? • “a point of view of the circumstances of living that gives prominence to the allocation of scarce resources – among contemporaries and across the generations” (12)

 • Explanation, prescription, forecast. (7) • Aggregation, averaging: millions of individual decisions: with

• Explanation, prescription, forecast. (7) • Aggregation, averaging: millions of individual decisions: with unintended consequences (8) • Making sense of the social world: Models (9) • Quantification/mathematics: efficient, very few causal factors (9)