Technical Efficiency / Engineering Efficiency: Goods are produced using the minimum possible resources.
Economic Efficiency: A condition where the ratio MU/MC is equal for all goods and services.
Traditional Economy: Resource allocation determined by social custom and habits established over time.
Command Economy: Resource allocation determined by central planning.
Market Economy: Resource allocation determined by a competitive market.
Opportunity Cost: The best alternative foregone in order to produce a good or service.
Public Good: A good or service that, once purchased by anyone, can of necessity be enjoyed by many.
Externality: A cost of goods or services that is borne by someone other than the recipient of those goods or services.
Lorenz Curve: Graphs the percentage of households against the percentage of income received.
Ceteris Paribus (cet. par.): When analyzing one variable, the convention that all other variables are held constant.
Inferior Good: An inferior good is one for which the quantity purchased decreases when real income increases.
Giffen Good: A good for which there is a range of prices for which quantity and price vary directly, not inversely.
Dependent Variable: A variable whose value is determined by the model.
Independent Variable: A variable whose value is fixed external to the model.
Complementary Good: A good whose demand curve shifts along with that of another good.
Substitute Good: A good whose demand curve shifts inversely with that of another good.
Normal Profit: The amount of profit just sufficient to keep resources in the industry. Included as part of cost.
Coase’s Theorem: The exchange solution to external costs.
Ricardo’s Theorem: A proof that a a poor country can trade to mutual advantage with a rich one, despite having no absolute advantage in any area.
Okun’s Law: An equation relating the unemployment rate to the gap between actual and potential output.
Phillips Curve: Graphs unemployment against inflation across a range of possible aggregate demand.
Exogenous: A variable whose value is determined external to a given model.
Endogenous: A variable whose value is determined internally within a given model.
Criticisms of the Market Economy
1. Wrong goods and services: Too many porn films and alcohol, too few hospitals and churches.
2. The fallacy of consumer sovereignty: Consumers buy what advertisers convince them they want.
3. The pollution problem: Free market economies are the world’s worst polluters.
4. Poverty amongst plenty: Highly affluent market economies still contain widespread severe poverty.
5. Inflation and unemployment: If unemployment and inflation are a tradeoff, why did we experience “stagflation” in the late 1970s and early 1980s?
The problem with public goods is that they can lead to inefficient allocation of resources. If there are four houses in a neighborhood with a crime problem, each household, acting independently, may conclude that it is worth paying for a security patrol. But then we have four security patrols, three of which are unnecessary and economically inefficient. Conversely, each may wait for a neighbor to pay for the patrols, and too few resources are employed. This problem cannot be solved through the market. Collective action is necessary.
An externality exists when there is a mismatch between who pays for a good or service or consumes a resource, and who benefits from same. Example: A factory pollutes a river, reducing the real incomes of fishermen. The factory enjoys the full economic benefit from the resource of a clean river. This is another problem that cannot be solved through the market and must be solved through collective action. Note that if the factory buys the fishing rights to the river, there is no longer any problem.
Economies of Scale
If substantial economies of scale exist, then much less of society’s scarce resources will be used to produce a given level of output by a single firm than my two or more firms. However, if a single firm produces all of the good, it will have monopoly power and will sell the good at a price above that which a competitive situation would have produced. This problem cannot be solved through the market and must be solved through collective action to regulate the monopoly.
Pure market forces may produce a distribution of income that is considered unjust or undesirable. Market forces will not correct this situation. Collective action is necessary if the distribution of income desired is not similar to the distribution of income observed in a pure market. The “right” distribution of income is a value judgement and not subject to economic analysis.
Households have a limited income and potentially unlimited wants. The household cannot satisfy all its wants with the scarce resources (income) available. Therefore the household must decide which bundle of goods and services will come closest to satisfying all its wants, given the income available. The assumption of consumer rationality supposes that consumers know what their best interests are, know all the possible options for spending their income, and choose the best available in each time period. Consumers are therefore “utility maximizers.”
Marginal utility diminishes as quantity increases. If you have no food, the first dollar spent on food saves you from starvation and is therefore of extremely high marginal value. The next dollar saves you from severe hunger, but you are no longer in danger of actual starvation. Therefore the utility gained by spending the second dollar is less than that gained by spending the first. Eventually, the marginal utility of food diminishes until it is lower than the marginal utility of some other good or service, at which point the household stops buying food and starts buying something else. A rational utility maximizer will be in equilibrium when the marginal utility of the last dollar spent on every good is equal. I.E. MU(A)/Price(A) = MU(B)/Price(B) = MU(C)/Price(C) etc.
Demand Curve: A graph which shows the quantity of a good that will be purchased for any given price, cet. par. Price is on the Y axis and quantity is on the X axis. Generally this curve is negatively sloped. A change in price and quantity is a movement along a demand curve. A change that impacts the quantity to be purchased at a given price, such as a new competitive product being introduced, is a shift in a demand curve.
The Income Effect: Given a change in household real income, the demand curve for a given good will shift. However, this shift may be in either direction. For inferior goods, such as cheap cuts of meat, the quantity purchased will decline as income increases. For normal goods, the quantity will increase. The Substitution Effect: Given a change in the price of a good, cheaper goods will be substituted. The substitution effect is always negative.
For most goods, both normal and inferior, the demand curve is negatively sloped since the substitution effect generally outweights the income effect. But there are some cases where the income effect outweights the substitution effect and a non-normal demand curve can be observed. These cases are known as Giffen goods. Example: Nineteenth century Irish households are said to have spent almost all their income on potatoes. However, when there was a good potato crop, the price of potatoes fell dramatically. Households could then buy the same amount of potatoes for much less of their income. However, since the remaining income could be spent on other foodstuffs, the quantity of potatoes purchased fell. Therefore the quantity of potatoes purchased varied directly (rather than inversely) with price, at least over a certain price range.
The market demand curve for a good is the sum of all individual demand curves for that good.
Price Elasticity of Demand
Demand is said to be price inelastic when, as price changes, the proportional change in the quantity demanded is less than the proportional change in price, i.e. DQ/Q > DP/P. Demand is price elastic when DP/P > DQ/Q. When demand is price inelastic, the total expenditure increases as price increases. When demand is price elastic, the total expenditure decreases as price increases. Price elasticity is different at different points along a linear demand curve. For unitary price elasticity, the proportional change is equal and total expenditure is the same at all prices. Perfect elasticity is a horizontal demand curve and means that all output can be sold at a given price, but none can be sold above that price (and presumably none will be offered below it). Perfect inelasticity is a vertical demand curve and means that the same quantity is purchased regardless of the price.
A supply curve graphs the quantity produced (X axis) against the selling price (Y axis). The market supply curve is the sum of the supply curves of all firms participating in the market.
The production frontier graphs the output that can be produced against the variable factor input (perhaps labor). The production frontier shows how much can be produced if the firm operates in an engineering efficient manner. Obviously, it would be possible to produce less than the frontier. Production frontiers are generally S-shaped; there is rapid increase from zero to some point, but then the increase tapers off as variable factor input goes to high values. The production frontier curve can shift if fixed factors are changed; i.e. a bigger factory is bought.
Marginal product is the additional output produced by the last unit of variable factor input (for example, the last person hired). Average product is the quantity of total output divided by the quantity of variable factor input. Total product is synonymous with the quantity of total output. When MP > AP, AP is increasing. When MP < AP, AP is decreasing. When AP is at maximum, AP=MP.
The rule for a profit maximizing firm is to continue to produce until MP = MC (marginal cost).
The “short run” is the time period over which variable factors of production can be altered, but fixed factors cannot. The “long run” is the time period over which all factors can be altered, including fixed costs.
The total cost curve, which is the sum of the fixed and variable cost curves, takes its shape from the productivity curve. Marginal cost is the change in total cost associated with producing one more unit of output.
Total Cost: TC=FC+VC
Average Total Cost: ATC=TC/Q
Average Variable Cost: AVC=VC/Q
Average Fixed Cost: AFC=FC/Q
When ATC is minimum, ATC=MC.
When AVC is minimum, AVC=MC.
When MC > ATC (AVC), ATC (AVC) is increasing.
When MC < ATC (AVC), ATC (AVC) is decreasing.
A short run supply curve shows the quantity that a firm would be willing to produce at any given price. For a price taker, AR=MR=Price. Since a profit maximizing firm wishes to produce up to the point where MR=MC, the firm’s supply curve will be the same as the firm’s marginal cost curve. Operating at P=AR=MR=MC does not necessarily mean the firm is breaking even, only that it is maximizing profit / minimizing loss. A firm breaks even when AR>ATC. Since for a price taker AR=MR=MC, this is also when MC>ATC. Assuming that a firm is not willing to stay in business unless it at least breaks even, the supply curve only includes that portion of the marginal cost curve where MC>ATC. Also, in the short run, there is some maximum quantity of output that fixed factors can possibly support. Above this quantity, no further output is forthcoming no matter what the price. So the short run supply curve eventually becomes a vertical line. Given that the short run is defined as the period during which fixed costs do not change, the only factor which can cause a form’s short run supply curve to shift is the cost of the variable factor of production.
In the long run, the profit maximization rule is the same: MR=LRMC. LRMC differs from MCSR in that there are no fixed costs. The LRAC curve shows the average cost to produce each level of output, assuming that all fixed factors of production have been designed and planned for that particular level of output. Short run equilibrium occurs when MCSR=MR. Long run equilibrium occurs when LRMC=MR. Full equilibrium occurs when LRMC=MCSR=MR. If a firm is in short but not long run equilibrium, it will have no immediate incentive to change the level of output, but will tend over time to want to change its fixed factors.
The market supply curve in the long run is no longer simply the sum of all the participating firms, because in the long run, firms can enter or leave the market—hence there are no “existing” firms. Assuming no substantial economies of scale exist, there are two possible long-term market supply curves. First, if new firms entering the market does not cause factor prices to change, then the market supply curve will be a horizontal line. This represents the price at which a firm earns a normal profit. At any higher price, firms will earn higher than normal profit and therefore new firms will enter the industry. At any lower price, firms will earn less than a normal profit and will leave the industry. Therefore, the long run market supply curve will equal the point of minimum average total cost which will be equal for all participating firms.
It is probably not realistic to suppose that factor prices will remain fixed as firms enter the industry. As more firms enter, there will be more demand for factors of production, so prices will rise. The long run supply curve will be positively inclined to the price axis. For increasing quantity to be produced, higher prices will have to be paid to attract more firms into the industry in the face of increasing factor prices.
Labor productivity equals the amount of output produced per unit of labor (ie, man-hour or man-month). If labor productivity differs between two plants of equal capital input, firms are likely to favor the conditions (such as location) of the more productive plant. However, these decisions can cause considerable controversy.
In competitive labor markets, the wage rate is equated to the marginal product of labor. Different workers have different marginal products, depending on their capability of contributing to output (ie, their skills). However, some people have zero or near-zero marginal products. These people will not have jobs. Economics bails out on answering questions like “is this right” or “is this fair” because these problmens cannot be analyzed economically.
Factor Returns & Scale Returns
Return to variable factor input is the relationship between changes in a particular variable factor input and total output, with all other factors held constant. Increasing returns occur where DQ/Q > DL/L where L is the variable factor input. In other words, a change in variable factor input returns a greater than proportional change in total output. Diminishing returns occur where DQ/Q < DL/L and constant returns where DQ/Q = DL/L. Return to factor input is a short term relationship because in the long run the “other factors” (like fixed costs) cannot be held constant.
Return to scale is the relationship between changes in all factors put together and total output. Increasing returns to scale occur where DQ/Q > D(L,C)/(L,C), where (L,C) is the total variable and fixed factors of production. Because all factors are lumped together as if they were variable costs, this is a long term relationship.
Factor and scale returns can be classified as increasing, diminishing or constant only over a particular range. Over the entire range of possible outputs, all three types of returns will most likely be evident. There is no relationship between factor and scale returns.
Price Elasticity of Supply
Similar to demand elasticity. Some goods are completely supply inelastic. There is only one Mona Lisa and there are only a fixed number of World Series tickets. With the exception of these goods, long run supply tends to be more elastic than short run supply. If one factory can produce one million units, then short run supply is inelastic for quantities above one million. However, in the long run, another factory can be built.
Market Supply & Demand
For exchange to take place, a market supply curve and a market demand curve must exist and there must be at least one common price at which suppliers are willing to sell some quantity of the good and at which buyers are willing to buy some quantity of the good.
If at all positive prices in a market the quantity of a good supplied exceeds the quantity supplied, the price of the good will be zero (“free good”). Fresh air is an example. A certain amount of fresh air exists at a price of zero. For more than this quantity to be produced, the price has to be greater than zero. However, there is a certain maximum demand that exists even at a price of zero: If everyone has as much fresh air as they need, they do not want any more even if there is no cost. If the quantity of fresh air that can be supplied at a price of zero exceeds the maximum amount demanded, then fresh air is a free good. If the supply curve shifts to the left due to air pollution, fresh air may cease to be a free good.
Excess supply exists when, at a given price, the quantity of a good firms are prepared to supply exceeds the quantity consumers are prepared to buy. Excess demand exists when the quantity consumers are prepared to buy exceeds the quantity firms are prepared to supply. The price where the quantity firms are prepaded supply equals the quantity consumers are prepared to buy, or in other words the price at which neither excess supply nor excess demand exists, is called the equilibrium price. At the equilibrium price, every supplier willing to sell at that price is able to and every consumer willint to buy at that price is able to.
The Operation of Markets
If a price causes excess demand or excess supply in a market, forces in the market will change the price of the good and the quantity bought and sold. These forces will eventually eliminate any excess demand or excess supply.
If excess supply exists in a market, suppliers desire to sell more than they are able to at the prevailing price. It is to their advantage to offer to sell more goods at a lower price. Therefore competition among suppliers will force down the price of the good. These price reductions will also decrease the quantity of goods sold, reducing and eventually eliminating the excess supply.
If excess demand exists in a market, buyers desire to purchase more than suppliers are willing to provide at the prevailing price. Buyers will therefore offer to pay a higher price to induce suppliers to produce more of the good. The increased price will result in less and eventually zero excess demand.
Producer and Consumer Surplus
In a market at equilibrium, all consumers who wish to purchase at the prevailing price are able to do so and all suppliers who wish to sell at the prevailing price are also able to do so. However, most of the consumers and suppliers would have been willing to trade at less favorable prices. For a consumer who purchases a good at the equilibrium price of $40 but would have been willing to pay up to $70, a consumer surplus of $30 exists. For a supplier who sells a good at $40 but would have been willing to sell at $20, a producer surplus of $20 exists. The market consumer and producer surpluses are the sum of all individual surpluses and are graphically represented by the area measured between the supply or demand curve, a horizontal line at the equilibrium price, and the price axis (ie a vertical line at zero quantity). These surpluses provide the motivation for the market to achieve equlibrium.
Changes in Market Equilibrium
If a market is in equilibrium and any of the conditions determining demand or supply change, then market forces will establish a different equilibrium price and/or equilibrium quantity. This would be reflected by a shift in the supply or demand curve and a resulting change in the point at which the two curves intersect.
If supply rises and demand rises, then the equilibrium quantity will rise but the equlilibrium price is indeterminate.
If supply rises and demand falls, then the equilibrium price will fall but the equilibrium quantity is indeterminate.
If supply falls and demand rises, then the equilibrium price will rise but the equilibrium quantity is indeterminate.
If supply falls and demand falls, then the equilibrium quantity will fall but the equlilibrium price is indeterminate.
Intervention (or regulation) occurs when a non-market force causes the price and quantity of a good bought and sold in a competitive market to be different from the price/quantity combination that would occur if the market were allowed to operate freely. Tickets to the World Series are sold for a price much lower than would prevail if market forces were allowed to set prices. Minimum wage laws force labor prices to be higher for certain jobs than they would be in a free market.
When the price of a good is fixed below the equilibrium level, a price ceiling is said to exist in the market for the good. Price alone will be an inadequate mechanism for allocating the available supply of the good among potential buyers, and some other allocative mechanism such as first come-first served, reliance on supplier’s preferences, or rationing, may be employed.
Black markets (perhaps illegal) can exist in the presence of price ceilings. If one individual is prepared to pay the set price but no more (i.e. would prefer any amount of cash over the set price to the good), and another individual is willing to pay more than the set price, the two can engage in mutually beneficial trade.
When the price of a good is fixed above the equilibrium level, a price floor is said to exist in the market for the good. At the fixed price, there would be an excess supply of the good and some method other than price would have to be found for disposing of the excess. For example, the prices of many agricultural goods are subject to price floors. The surplus exists because producers are prepared to produce more at the fixed price than consumers are prepared to buy. The regulating agency has to determine how to deal with this problem.
· The surplus can be produced and destroyed, which would be an obviously inefficient use of society’s scarce resources but might be justifiable, say in the case where prices below the floor would cause farmers to go bankrupt and this would in turn cause socially unacceptable levels of food scarcity.
· The regulating agency could also stockpile the surplus and release it to the market in the event of poor production (crop failure or whatever) in the future; this would tend to even out price fluctuations over time.
· Another option is to sell the surplus abroad.
· Yet another option is to pay producers not to produce. This is no more wasteful of resources than producing and destroying the surplus, and may be less wasteful if there are costs associated with destroying the goods.
The minimum wage is another example of a price floor. The effect of a minimum wage is to create excess supply of labor. Those who keep their jobs are better off at the expense of those who lose their job. Again the regulating agency is presented with the problem of what to do with this excess supply.
Taxes and Subsidies
Taxes and subsidies have an effect on market supply and demand curves. If a tax is paid per output by suppliers, then the supply curve will shift upwards by an amount equal to the tax per unit. Given an upward sloping demand curve, this will result in an increase in price and a decrease in output. The burden of the tax will be allocated between consumers and producers depending on the price elasticity of the demand curve. If the demand curve is relatively inelastic, the price paid by consumers will rise by a relatively large amount and the quantity produced will not fall much. Consumers will bear a relatively high proportion of the total tax, as represented by the increased price per unit. If the demand curve is relatively elastic, the price paid by consumers will not rise much but the quantity produced will drop substantially. Since producer revenue is the price paid by consumers less the tax per unit sold, producer revenue will fall by a relatively high amount (the loss of revenue due to the tax will not be offset very much by the small price increase) and producers will bear a high proportion of the total tax.
Equlibrium prices are the targets that market forces will drive towards, in the absence of any changes external to the market (ie, any shifts of demand or supply curves—as opposed to movements along demand or supply curves). However, calculating the equilibrium price does not tell you how long it will take to achieve or by what sort of process it will be achieved. Supply curves (and therefore equilibrium prices) also differ depending on the time period being considered. If (for whatever reason) demand for salmon rises sharply in the middle of a trading day, it will be impossible to bring more salmon to market that day, and so for the rest of the trading day the supply curve of salmon will be completely inelastic—there are a fixed quantity of salmon to be sold no matter what the price. (This is the “market period”, which is shorter than the short run—supply is generally inelastic during the market period because neither variable nor fixed factors can be changed.) Because supply is inelastic, shifts in the demand curve will result in relatively large changes in price.
In the short run, variable factors of production can be changed in response to shifts in the demand curve. So in the short run, equilibrium price does not change as much as it does during the market period, because equilibrium quantity can also change. Quantity is still bounded by the number of firms in the market and their existing fixed factors, none of which can change in the short run.
In the long run, all factors can be changed. Quantity is not bounded by any factors of production because all factors are variable. So in the long run, equilibrium quantity can change more than in the short run, and equilibrium price will change less. If the long run supply curve is completely elastic (ie horizontal, which happens when factor costs are not affected by new firms entering the market), the price will always return to the same equilibrium level in the long run.
Cyclical Patterns in Markets
Producers determine production quantities in response to market conditions, but there is often a lag between when production decisions get made and when output is ready for sale. As a result, cyclical patterns can appear where markets oscillate around an equilibrium point. The “cobweb model” analyzes this pattern by dividing market activity into discrete periods and assuming that the quantity produced in each period is the quantity that would have been profit-maximizing in the previous period. The process goes like this:
- Suppliers bring some quantity Q1 to market.
- Based on the demand curve, consumers are willing to pay a price P1 for this quantity.
- Suppliers relate price P1 to their supply curve, and determine the quantity Q2 they will bring to the next market.
This model assumes that producers always believe that the current market price will remain in effect, and are always surprised when it doesn’t. In the real world, producers would be more sophisticated in their analysis. In the real world, there may also be speculators, who buy quantities of the good at low prices and then re-sell at high prices, which will affect the stability of the market.
Price and quantity are expected to move towards the equilibrium level. However, they can also diverge from equilibrium. This occurs when the supply curve is steeper than the demand curve. For each adjustment that suppliers make, purchasers make a much larger adjustment, throwing the next period further and further from equilibrium.
The principle of diminishing marginal utility is that generally the “next” unit of a commodity is of less benefit than the “previous” unit. Individuals can trade to mutual benefit, increasing the utility of both individuals. If one person has nothing but fish and another has nothing but loaves, the first loaf has migher marginal utility to the fish producer than the last fish; conversely, to the loaf producer, the first fish has higher marginal utility than the last loaf. Trading one fish for one loaf increases both individual’s total utility. Economic efficiency exists when the total utility of society is maximized for the available resources.
The Marginal Equivalency Condition
A consumer will maximize utility when the last dollar spent on every good or service yields an equal benefit. This is true when the marginal utility of the last units purchased, divided by the price, is equal: MUA/PA = MUB/PB = MUC/PC = MUD/PD = etc. In perfect competition, price=marginal cost. So in an economically efficient, perfectly competitive market, MUA/MCA = MUB/MCB = MUC/MCC = MUD/MCD = etc. This is an equilibrium situation and any other allocation of resources will tend to move towards this equilibrium as profit maximizing producers and utility maximizing consumers attempt to improve their lot.
Short & Long Run Equilibrium
In short run equilibrium, price=MC. In long run equilibrium, price=MC=LRMC=minimum ATC=minimum LRAC. But long run equilibrium is rarely reached because of technological change, change in consumer preferences, etc.
Organization of Industries
Type of industry
Number of firms
Type of product
Barriers to entry
Control over price
Degree of concentration
Farm products; commodities
Restaurants; clothing stores
Scale or legal
Perfect competition assumes that consumers are rational utility maximizers, know their own tastes and preferences, and have perfect information on prices and other characteristics of goods and services; and that firms are rational profit maximizers, produce homogeneous, identical goods within each industry, face no restriction moving into or out of an industry, and have perfect information on the opportunity cost of all resources. Both consumers and firms are price takers; there are such a large number of both that their individual actions have a negligible effect on the price and quantity exchanged in the market.
Each individual firm under perfect competition faces a perfectly elastic demand curve: Each firm can sell all the output it can produce at the going price, but it cannot sell any output at higher than the going price and has no incentive to sell any output at lower than the going price. This means AR=MR=Price. The firm cannot control price, so it controls quantity and chooses to produce the quantity that maximizes profit, which is the quantity where MC=MR (=AR=Price). If, at this quantity, the price is higher than the average total cost, then excess profit exists and resources will move into the industry, shifting the supply curve to the right and reducing price and profits. Resources will continue to move into the industry until ATC=MC (=MR=AR=Price). If below normal profit exists, then resources will move out of the industry, shifting the supply curve to the left and increasing price and profits. Resources will continue to move out of the industry until ATC=MC.
Economic efficiency requires that the ratio MU/MC be equal for all goods. Under perfect competition, utility maximizing consumer behavior will ensure that MU/P is equal for all goods, and the behavior of profit maximizing firms will ensure that P=MC for all goods. Therefore, MU/MC will be equal for all goods, and economic efficiency will be achieved.
A monopolist is a producer who supplies the complete market for a good or service. Barriers to entry prevent new firms from entering the market. Barriers to entry could be patents, legal protections, or financial disincentives such as economies of scale.
Since a monopolist is the sole provider, the firm’s marginal cost curve (which is the firm’s supply curve) becomes the industry supply curve. There is also no difference between the market and individual demand curves for a monopolist, since there is only one firm.
The monopolist faces a downward sloping demand curve, which is the same as its average revenue curve. When average revenue is decreasing, marginal revenue must by definition be less than average revenue. The monopolist follows the same profit maximization rule as anyone else: Produce until MR=MC. But since AR (the demand curve) is greater than MC at this quantity, the monopolist earns above normal profits. This is a short run equilibrium position. However, there are no new firms to enter the profit and drive down the above normal profit in the long run. The only change in the long run is that the monopolist will adjust plant size so that LRMC=MR. But the monopolist will only act to increase profit, so the above normal profit is the same or higher in the long run.
Economic efficiency, which requires that the ratio of MU/MC be equal for all goods, will not exist when monopoly conditions exist. The ratio of MU/P will still be equal for all goods because of utility maximizing consumer behavior. However, the monopolist sets P=AR and MR=MC where AR>MR, hence P>MC. The ratio MU/MC for the monopolistic good will be higher than for other goods.
Despite this economic inefficiency, it may be in society’s best interest to have only one producer of a good or service when economies of scale exist. Economies of scale exist where average costs decline as plant size and output increases. Under these conditions, one firm can produce a given output for less cost than would be incurred if many small firms attempted to produce the same total output. Under these conditions, in the absence of government intervention, there will be a tendency for monopoly to arise. The largest firm in the industry has a cost advantage over all smaller firms and can charge a lower price that drives all competitors out of the market. The alternative is for firms to get together and act like a monopoly, splitting the profits between them—an illegal activity in many countries.
Many competitive firms, each operating a small plant at a high average cost, may cost society more resources to produce the same output as a monopolist, even including the monopolist’s above normal profit.
Imperfect Competition / Monopolistic Competition
An imperfectly competitive industry consists of large numbers of firms each facing a downward sloping demand curve for its goods or services. Firms have a degree of control over price, possibly because there are real or imagined differences between their products and those of competitors, due to elements of local monopoly like the corner grocery store being more convenient to consumers who live nearby, or perhaps for other reasons. The more these factors exist, the more inelastic the firm’s demand curve will be. In the case of a corner store, if they increase prices they will certainly lose some business, but some people will continue to pay the higher price because of the time and inconvenience involved in going “into town.”
Since each firm faces a downward sloping demand curve, average revenue and marginal revenue will diverge, as they do under a monopoly, but by much less. Again as with a monopoly, firms will expand or contract output so that MC=MR. But since the demand curve (AR) is greater than MR, above normal profits will be earned. This will provide an incentive for new firms to move into the industry. Assuming factor prices remain constant, the demand curve of existing firms will shift to the left until, in long run equilibrium, the firm’s demand curve is tangential to its average cost curve (AR < ATC for all points except one where AR=ATC, which also happens to be the quantity where MR=MC). Normal profit is thus earned.
However, the point where AR=ATC is not the point of minimum ATC. A monopolistic competitor in long-term equilibrium produces at a quantity where ATC is higher than minimum, or in other words where spare capacity exists. At the same time, price is higher than MC, so economic inefficiency results. If the firm were to produce at minimum ATC, at which point price would equal MC since MC intersects ATC at the minimum point, ATC would be higher than AR and the firm would incur a loss. There is therefore no incentive for firms to produce beyond the point where AR=ATC (and MR=MC).
The implication of imperfect competition is that spare capacity exists and this produces economic inefficiency, even though above normal profits are not being earned. This inefficiency must be set against the product differentiation which such firms provide society.
An oligopoly is an industry where a small number of firms produce the bulk of the industry’s output. Each firm competes with the others in an interdependent manner; every firm’s sales depends not only on the price it charges, but also on the prices charged by its competitors. Because there are few firms and because there are real or imagined differences between them, the demand curve faced by each firm is downward sloping. However, many of the goods and services produced by oligopolists are essentially homogeneous. Barriers to entry in oligopolies are largely the same as for monopolies: Economies of scale, patents, or the sheer size and complexity of the firms involved.
Unlike perfect competition, when an oligopolist changes their price, the other producers are likely to react. If one firm raises its price, most of its customers will switch to other firms (assuming they do not raise prices to match). So above the going price, the demand curve is highly elastic. If one firm lowers its price, the other firms will lower theirs to match, so the quntity sold will not change much. So below the going price, the demand curve is relatively inelastic. This results in a “kinked” demand curve. Since the demand curve (=average revenue curve) is downward sloping, the marginal revenue curve is also downward sloping and below the demand curve. At the point where the kink appears in the demand curve, the marginal revenue curve is vertical over some price range. As a result, there is a range of marginal costs over which the profit maximizing price is the same.
The long term profit maximizing strategy for an oligopolist is not simple because it depends on what the competitors will do. This is what has led to the compexity of airline pricing. The easiest solution is for the oligopolists to to form a cartel, establish the industry-wide profit maximizing price, and earn monopoly profits. Fortunately this is illegal. What oligopolists can do legally is to implicitly elect one firm as the “price leader” and have all other firms match any price changes. This is legal so long as the firms act only on publically available data and do not collude.
The Principal/Agent Problem
If government attempts to regulate a monopoly or oligopoly by forcing it to charge a price that provides a normal profit only, then the firm will have no incentive to minimize its costs since it is guaranteed a profit over whatever costs it incurs. This is called the principal/agent problem. An example of this is an old Soviet practice of measuring truck plant output by the total weight of trucks produced; as a result, the Soviet Union could boast of the heaviest truck designs on the planet.
Regulation and Economic Efficiency
Unregulated, profit maximizing monopolies result in economic inefficiency. In most countries, monopolies are subject to government regulation. For example, public utilities require government approval before instituting a price change. Or economic efficiency might be achieved by replacing a monopolist with competitive firms. In an industry without economies of scale, monopoly price will be higher and quantity will be lower than if the industry were composed of many competitive firms. Thus in industries without economies of scale, the government could achieve economic efficiency by splitting the monopoly into many competitive firms.
Where substantial economies of scale exist, however, society will be worse off if the government splits the monopoly into many firms, because each firm’s total costs will be much higher. The total industry output will be less, and will be sold at a higher price than that charged by the monopolist. Economic efficiency will prevail but society will be worse off. Also, no individual firm will be in long run equilibrium. In the long run, there are no “existing” firms, so the long run average cost curve is the same as that of the monopolist—meaning that all the small firms will want to expand output and increase plant size in the long—eventually, if left unregulated, resulting in another monopoly.
When substantial economies of scale exist and government regulation of a monopoly is desired, the regulation must attempt to equate price with long run marginal cost. The monopoly firm’s profit maximizing behavior will then result in the short-run marginal cost also being equated with price. Under perfect competition, the price would also equal minimum ATC and minimum LRAC, because firms enter and leave the industry at will. However, there is no guarantee this would be the case under a regulated monopoly. If above-normal profit exists (ie, price is higher than LRAC), at least one factor of production will earn higher than normal returns, resulting in a desire for resources to move into the industry—although this desire may not be actionable. The government can remove the above-normal profit by applying a tax. Conversely, if LRAC is higher than price, at least one factor of production will earn a below-normal return and will therefore desire to leave the industry. The government will have to provide a subsidy if it wants resources to remain in the industry. Alternatively, the firm could be permitted to set price higher than marginal cost, although a loss of economic efficiency will result.
Regulation itself requires resources. Empirical evidence suggests that in certain major industries, regulation is worthwhile, but in many imperfectly competitive industries the costs of regulation would exceed the benefits.
There are two main reasons why society does not rely exclusively on the market to allocate its scarce resources. The first is that economic efficiency does not always result from pure market forces. The second is to alter the distribution of goods and services to households. Economic efficiency is a separate issue from income distribution. In a society of 98% paupers and 2% millionaires, economic efficiency still prevails if each individual satisfies his wants to the greatest extent possible given his claim on society’s scarce resources.
On the subject of economic efficiency, it has been assumed so far that (a) firms pay the full cost of producing the goods and services that they sell, and (b) households have to pay for the goods and services they consume. These situations are called externalities and public goods.
A private good is one for which each unit is consumed by only one individual or household. The key characteristics of a private good are excludability and rivalry. Excludability means that once a unit of the good is purchased by an individual, all other individuals are excluded from purchasing that particular unit of the good. Rivalry means that any purchase of a unit of the good means that there are less units available for all other purchasers.
A pure public good exhibits neither excludability nor rivalry. National defense is a pure public good. It is “consumed” by everyone, but this consumption does not reduce the amount available to everyone else. Many goods are neiter purely public nor purely private. A highway behaves like a public good when it is lightly used, but under heavy traffic it behaves more like a private good.
Market forces will not lead to economic efficiency for public goods, because of the free rider problem. The example given is ten wealthy families living on a lake, on which a mosquito problem exists. The cost of spraying the lake is sufficiently low that each family considers it worthwhile to spray the lake. If the ten families do not communicate, then each will independently decide to spray the lake. This is a gross misallocation of resources because the lake will be sprayed ten times when only once would have sufficed for all the families.
Alternately, one of the homeowners might observe another spraying the lake, and if asked to contribute to the cost, could claim to enjoy the mosquitoes. There is no way to deny the non-paying homeowner the benefit of the paying homeonwner’s expenditure. What’s more, it is unlikely that the lake will actually be sprayed, because each homeowner will wait for one of the others to pay the cost.
The solution to this problem is for all the homeowners to get together and agree to act collectively. However, this behavior will not arise from a free market. One of the main functions of government is to ensure the production of public goods which people want but which would not be produced in a pure market economy. Examples: Police and fire protection; national defense; pure research; roads; public parks. Not all people enjoy these goods equally, and tax structures are such that not all people pay for the equally, but these are generally matters of policy, not economics.
However, the government must attempt to produce an economically efficient allocation of resources to the production of public goods. In order to do so, it must attempt to calculate the marginal social benefit and marginal social cost of any given program, and attempt to equate the ratios of MSB/MSC for each program in which it engages. The benefits and costs must include estimates not only of the direct actions to be taken, but also the opportunity costs and wider changes resulting from the actions. For example, an immunization program not only reduces medical costs, but also decreases absences and therefore increases worker productivity. A university subsidy also increases worker productivity, but at the same time it decreases output because new students enrolling at the subsidized price would otherwise presumably have been workers.
Externalities (Positive and Negative)
When making decisions, individuals and firms consider only those costs (and benefits) that it will directly bear. An activity will be considered worthwhile if the marginal benefit derived from the activity exceeds the marginal cost. However, for some activities, individuals or firms not directly involved in the activities receive benefits or bear costs related to those activities. These indirect benefits are called positive externalities, and these indirect costs are called negative externalities.
Example of a positive externality: Your neighbor decides to landscape their yard, and the resulting pleasant view increases your property values. Example of a negative externality: In manufacturing its products, a factory pollutes a river, reducing the number of fish and therefore the income of fishermen who also use the river. In neither case does the decision-maker have any incentive to take into account the benefits or costs accruing to others.
The requirement for economic efficiency is that MUA/MCA = MUB/MCB = MUC/MCC = etc. However, the values required for economic efficiency in both the short and long run are the societal MC and MR, which might not be the same as the individual MC and MR used in the decision-making process. As a result, economic efficiency suffers if either positive or negative externalities exist. If a positive externality exists, then the value of MU used in the decision-making process will understate societal MU, so societal MU/MC will not equal societal MU/MC for other goods and therefore economic efficiency will not prevail. Similarly, negative externalities result in an understatement of MC in the decision-making process, and again lead to an MU/MC ratio not equal to the comparable ratio for other goods and therefore to economic inefficiency.
If the entity that generates external costs or benefits, and the bearers of those costs and benefits, were to merge into a single firm, then there would be no problem because the firm’s decision-making would take all the costs and benefits into account. If all externalities are internalized, then the MU/MC ratio used in the firm’s decision-making process is the same as the societal MU/MC.
When externalities exist, market prices will not lead to an efficient allocation of resources because of the divergence between private costs and social costs and/or private benefits and social benefits. To achieve economic efficiency in the presence of externalities, there is a need for collective action. This is a “legitimate” reason for government to interfere in a market economy.
Collective action attempts to equate the ratios of (societal) MU/MC for all goods and services. One method of regulation is by a per unit tax imposed on firms which do not account for external costs in their decisions. Such a tax would add to each producer’s profit maximising price. Conversely, a subsidypaid to producers who generate external benefits by their decisions would have the effect of lowering each producer’s marginal cost. These taxes and subsidies simply shift the supply curve to the left or right. If the correct amount of tax or subsidy is chosen, this shift will result in a quantity sold and a price reflective of the full cost and benefit to society.
Another solution involves the clear identification and enforcement of property rights. In cases where it is possible to identify the specific individual (or individuals) harmed by a negative externality, that individual can sue the firm producing the externality for damages. Alternately, the firm, knowing it could be sued, could offer financial incentives to the property owner to allow the use of their property. Coase’s Theorem shows that mutually beneficial trade can occur in cases where a negative externality exists, where the bearer of the cost pays the firm causing the cost not to do so. There is some economically efficient point where the marginal ratios are equal, and this point can be arrived at through negotiation.
However, property rights are not easy to identify or enforce. Example: Air pollution. Even if you passed a law that granted property rights to each individual to the air above their property, the costs of getting all these individuals together with an air polluter to negotiate a deal would be prohibitive.
The Voting Paradox
Three people, A, B and C go to a restaurant. They are told that their dinners will be half price if the all order the same thing, and they all agree to do so. The choices are chicken and steak. The three vote, and steak wins 2 to 1. So steak is chosen.
However, the waitress then informs the group that a third option exists: Ham. The group votes again, listing the three choices in order of preference. The results are: SCH, CHS and HSC. The textbook claims that this means you will select chicken because: “In the original steak/chicken choice you chose steak. However, we now see that ham is preferred to steak. Thus steak is out. However, in comparing chicken with ham, chicken is prefered to ham, so ham is out. Yes, you finish up selecting chicken!” This is obvious nonsense, since all members of the group would not agree to order chicken at that point. The person who voted for steak would make known that in comparing chicken with steak, steak is preferred. What has resulted is not a paradox but a simple tie, no different from what would happen if each person voted simply for their preferred meal and the votes came out: Chicken, Ham, Steak.
Various methods of voting can result in various “undesired” outcomes. Example: In 1992, Bill Clinton won the sufficient electoral college votes to become President. However, it is speculated that this occurred only because the conservative vote was split between George Bush and Ross Perot. If Perot had not run, George Bush might very well have won the election.
Under a parliamentary system, the final membership could wind up with 101 seats Liberal, 99 seats Conservative, and 4 seats Reform. Whenever the liberals and conservatives disagree in a vote, the Reform party wields power completely disproportionate to its representation.
Economic efficiency can exist in a world of 2% millionaires and 98% paupers. Economic efficiency maximizes total social good, but says nothing about how well off individual families are. The average income of each family will be the nation’s GNP divided by the total number of families. However, the actual income of any individual family depends not only on this number but also on how much of a claim that family has on the nation’s output.
The income earned by factors of production are wages and salaries paid for labor, interest and dividends paid to the owners of capital, and rent paid to the owners of land and mineral resources. In all capitalist countries, labor earns by far the highest proportion of national income. While each individual has the same amount of time to offer prospective employers per week, the price for wages which different individuals can command varies enormously.
The demands for goods and services determine the demands for the factor inputs required to produce them. The supply curve of factors of production is determined by resource owners’ willingness to sell at various prices. Ignoring immigration, the supply of labor in any given country at a given wage rate is the number of people willing and able to work at that wage rate. The equilibrium wage rate for a given type of worker is determined by the demand and supply curves for workers of that type.
A profit maximizing firm will hire labor or any other resource up to the point where the marginal benefit of that resource equals its marginal cost. The marginal benefit of a resource is the change in revenue which would result from hiring one additional unit. The value of marginal product (VMP) curve shows the marginal benefit at each level of employment of a resource. The point where the VMP curve crosses the going price for the resource is the point where the firm ceases to employ more resources; i.e. the VMP, or marginal benefit, has become equal to the marginal cost.
If a worker wants to increase his income, he can either increase his VMP by investing in additional training or skills development; or he can reduce his consumption expenditure and become a resource owner, thus deriving income not only from the product of his own labor but from the profits of firms as well. His income might also increase (or decrease) if the relevant demand or supply curves shift, but he has no control over this.
Economic rent is the difference between the marginal product of a factor of production in its most productive use and in its next best alternative. For example, an unskilled worker working for a construction company might have a wage of $20,000/year, which in a perfectly competitive market in equilibrium will equal the value of his marginal product. His next best alternative is to work for some other construction company, again for $20,000/year (the going rate). His economic rent is therefore zero.
However, if it were discovered that he had talent as a baseball player, he might be hired and put under contract by a baseball team, at $50,000 per year. Since his contract stipulates that he cannot play for any other team, his next best alternative is still to work for a construction company at $20,000 per year. If the value of his marginal product is now $50,000, then his economic rent is $30,000. However, if he becomes a superstar player, and his presence increases ticket sales by a million dollars a year, then the value of his marginal product is a million dollars and his economic rent is $980,000. He is still only paid $50,000, which is 5.1% of his economic rent. The baseball club keeps the other 94.9%. Eventually, his contract expires and he becomes a free agent. Other baseball clubs will be willing to pay up to the value of his marginal product and he will become a million-dollar ball player—but since his “next best alternative” is now to be a million-dollar ball player for a different club, his economic rent is again zero.
Monopsony is where only one buyer exists in a market. Example: An isolated town where one company is the only major employer. A firm operating in a competitive labor (or other resource) market faces a perfectly elastic supply for each factor. A monopsony, however, faces an upward-sloping supply curve. As usual, the profit maximization rule is to continue hiring factors of production until the marginal cost equals the marginal revenue. In a competitive resource market, the marginal cost of labor is equal to the hourly wage because the firm is a price taker and all hours of labor cost the same. Under monopsony, the firm faces an upward-sloping supply curve (average cost curve). If the average cost curve is increasing, then the marginal cost must be higher and increasing faster. Example: A monopsony firm in equilibrium employs 100 men at $5.00/hr each. Everyone who wants to work at $5.00/hr is employed by the firm. In order to hire the 101st man, the firm must raise its wage to $5.50/hr. However, if the firm raises wages it must do so for all employees. As a result, by hiring the 101st man, the firm’s labor costs increase by $55.50/hour. The firm will not hire the 101st man unless the value of his marginal product exceeds $55.50/hour.
Exploitation of labor occurs when the wage rate is less than the value of the marginal product of labor. Under monopsony conditions, as shown, significant exploitation of labor occurs. One way to counteract this is to form a trade union. If a union were to represent all resource owners in a market, that union would have monopoly power. Employers would have to deal with the union to hire units of the resource that was unionized. Profit maximizing firms will employ a number of resources such that marginal revenue is equated to the new, negotiated resource price. If the negotiated price is higher than that which would have prevailed in a competitive market, then fewer units of the resource will be employed. The debate over unions revolves around this point. Unions clearly benefit the employed by providing higher wages. However, the fact of higher wages probably means that less people will be employed. Everyone agrees that unions cause a redistribution of income. The question is: Is it from exploiting monopsonists to workers, or from those who lose their jobs to those who keep them?
The efficiency with which an economy produces output, and the distribution of income within the economy, are not strongly related. An economy may be operating at very high effiency and yet have a very uneven income distribution. Or each individual could have very close to the same income, yet resources could be very inefficiently allocated. All nations act to alter the distribution of income that would result from pure market forces. Governments act to provide income for the aged, the sick and the unemployed. Tax transfers reallocate income from the rich to the poor. The poor and other groups also receive goods in kind like education, food, medical care, etc.
Any program which redistributes income causes some individuals to receive less than their contribution to total output (the value of their marginal product), and others to receive more. Any redistribution scheme, by definition, can only make some people better off by making others worse off in the same total amount. How a society’s income should be distributed is a value judgement and is not subject to economic analysis. Howeer, economic analysis can be used to assess the likely outcome of any proposed redistribution policy. All major political parties advocate some sort of redistribution, some more extensive than others. Since voters choose these parties, we can conclude that voters consider the income distribution arising from a pure market economy to be undesirable on equity grounds, and this can be considered another failure of the market economy.
One way of redistributing income so that everyone has a minimally acceptable ability to provide food, housing and clothing for themselves is a negative income tax. An individual with zero income is simply given, in cash, the desired minimum level of income. As income increases from zero, the transfer is reduced by some percentage of the new income—so that the individual always has an incentive to earn more, but never has to suffer less than the minimum. The problem is that some people don’t consider a cash payment to the poor to be a good idea, because they might spend it on “undesirable” products like cigarettes and booze. This assumes that the poor don’t know where their own interests lie, which undermines the whole theory of markets. And if the poor don’t know where their own interests lie, why should we suppose that the rich do?
When countries cannot produce desirable goods at all, the advantages of trade are obvious. For example, Britain is too cold to produce coffee, but posesses reserves of oil in the North Sea. Jamaica, on the other hand, can easily grow coffee, and has no domestic petroleum. The mutual advantage of trade between Jamaica and Britain is obvious.
In other cases, the advantages might be less obvious but are still present. For example, Germany and France are similar-sized economies, with similar social and climatic conditions and natural resources. Both nations manufacture automobiles. However, Germany posesses factories and specialized labor for the production of expensive, high-performance luxury and sports cars like Porches. France, on the other hand, posesses factories and specialized labor for the production of inexpensive, everyday cars like Citroens. Producing an additional Porshce in Germany is much cheaper than establishing a whole new production line in France. Germany has an absolute cost advantage in the production of Porshces. Similarly, France has an absolute advantage in the production of Citroens. It is to Germany and France’s mutual benefit to trade Porches for Citroens for the same reason that Jamaica and Britain would trade coffee and petroleum.
But what if France has unemployed resources? Wouldn’t it be better to put the unemployed resources to work building high-performance cars within France? The answer is no: In the two-country example, ceasing imports of Porsches will also cause exports of Citroens to fall.
Absolute advantage also explains the movement of resources across national boundaries. Where an absolute advantage exists in a given industry, and where resource movement is possible, resources will tend to move to where they can find the most productive employment.
It is also possible for two nations to trade to mututal benefit where one nation has no absolute advantage over the other in the production of any good, so long as a comparative advantage exists. David Ricardo showed that a poor country without any absolute industrial advantage can still trade to mutual benefit with a rich country.
Given the following assumptions:
(a) Both the United States and India produce only two goods, wheat (food) and burlap (clothing).
(b) Labor is the only variable factor of production, but its productivity differs in each country.
(c) In each country, the productivity of labor is constant respective to the scale of production.
(d) Labor in each country is fully employed.
(e) There is no migration of labor between the two nations.
(f) Although output per man-hour is greater in the United States than in India for both products, the productivity gap in wheat is not proportional to the productivity gap in burlap.
Also suppose the following schedule:
Hours of labor in United States
Hours of labor in India
1 Bushel of Wheat
1 Meter of Burlap
The United States is absolutely more efficient in both products. However, it takes 10 times as much effort to produce wheat in India than in the U.S., but only 5 times as much effort to produce burlap. India has a comparative advantage in burlap and the U.S. has a comparative advantage in wheat.
If I live in the U.S. and I want a meter of burlap, I can pay the value of 2 hours of labor and buy one locally. Alternately, I can pay the value of 1½ hours of labor for 1½ bushels of wheat, which I trade to India for a meter of burlap. This is to India’s benefit since wheat and burlap cost the same on Indian market. I now have my meter of burlap for less than it would have cost to produce locally, so I have benefited.
If two countries engage in mutual trade where a comparative advantage exists, the actions of independent traders will tend to establish a market price for different goods. In the example above, we start out with a bushel of wheat worth 1 meter of burlap in India, and 2 meters in the U.S. As trading occurs, the U.S. will specialize in wheat and India will specialize in burlap, and eventually the relative prices will be equal in both markets. Without knowing more about the preferences of consumers, all that can be said is that the price ratio will be somewhere between 1 and 2. As long as the ratio is different in the two countries, there will be an incentive for trading and specialization to occur that will tend to move the ratio closer to equal.
Each country has a production possibility frontier that shows the efficient combinations of wheat and burlap that can be produced in that country. It is also possible to draw a production possibility frontier that shows the efficient production possibilities across both countries. This frontier will show that specialization allows greater total production between the two countries than they would have been able to achieve acting independently.
Tariffs and Quotas
Tariffs and quotas are sometimes imposed to “protect” domestic industry from international competition. The effect of a tariff is similar to any other unit tax: The supply curve price at all quantities is raised by the amount of the tax.
From an economic viewpoint, the protection of domestic industry through tariffs and quotas is a poor notion. The resources used to produce goods domestically must be drawn from other industries, so domestic production is no better than it was. At the same time, the country against which the tariff was imposed will now have less of our currency to trade back to us for our goods. Everyone eventually suffers by paying more for both domestically produced and imported goods, and total world production is reduced. In the short term, workers in the “protected” industry benefit because they do not have to be retrained. But the rest of society is subsidizing these workers at many times their wages/salaries. It would be cheaper to pay them not to work.
A quota is a somewhat different situation. In this case, there is no tax revenue for the government. The supply and demand curves do not change. However, the quantity exchanged is forced to a point below equilibrium. (If this were not the case, there would be no reason to impose the quota.) As a result, trade occurs at a quantity where the price at which suppliers are willing to sell is substantially lower than the price at which purchasers are willing to buy. Importers make out like bandits because they can buy at the low “supply” price and sell at the high “demand” price. Some method will have to be found to allocate the quote between different importers.
If an importer can negotiate an exclusive agreement to supply the domestic market with the entire quota of goods shipped from the foreign producer, then a question of economic rent arises. If the best use of the goods is to export up to the amount of the quota, then the next best use is to sell the goods locally in the country of origin. The amount by which the demand price exceeds the supply price, times the quantity of the quota, is the economic rent of the goods. The importer and the supplier will have to negotiate who gets what percentage of this amount.
From a consumer point of view there is no difference between a tariff and a quota so long as they result in the same final price. The main difference is that under a tariff, the government gets all the extra money; but under a quota, the money will wind up in a combination of the foreign manufacturer, an import business, and perhaps the government if it insitutes some sort of program like selling quota allocations to importers for a fee.
Support for Trade Restrictions
There are some economically valid arguments in favor of trade restrictions. The major ones are:
- Infant Industry: Developing nations need to protect their local industry until it can grow to a scale where it is able to compete internationally.
- Dumping: Dumping is the practice of selling goods in a foreign market at a price lower than that which prevails in the domestic market. The intent is (presumed to be) to drive domestic producers out of business, after which a price hike can be expected.
- Countervailing Duties: If goods are produced in a nation where the industry is subsidized, and then sold in a nation where no such subsidy exists, then domestic producers will be at a competitive disadvantage to imports from the subsidizing nation. Where such an imbalance exists, it is acceptable to impose a tariff intended to just equal the advantage provided by the subsidization.
- Squeaky Wheels: While on average everyone benefits from free trade, individually some people lose badly—because they are laid off, or their business cannot compete, or what have you. It is difficult to build a political organization a large number of small gainers, but it is relatively easy to build a political organization around a small number of big losers; say, unemployed steel workers in Pennsylvania. While theoretically it is possible for the losers to be compensated from the benefits of the gainers, in practice this rarely (if ever) happens.
When an individual in one country wants to buy products from another, they must first buy some of the currency of the other country. The exchange rate between country A and country B (in a two-country model) is the same as a price in any competitive market. The demand curve for A’s currency is determined by the people who want to buy products produced by A, and the supply curve is determined by the people from A who want to buy products produced in B. As the exchange rate fluctuates, goods produced in country A will seem more or less expensive to residents of country B and vice versa, altering the quantity demanded and supplied. This is called a flexible exchange rate.
Some countries adhere to a fixed exchange rate policy, under which the governments of the nations involved agree to buy or sell enough of the currencies involved to keep the exchange rate at an agreed-upon value. The governments involved must add or subtract to demand and supply by amounts just sufficient to push the intersection to the price point desired. This involves adding to or subtracting from a currency reserves account, which will eventually run out of money. So fixed exchange rates cannot be maintained under all conditions.
The movement from fixed to flexible exhange rates was actually intended to stabilize prices. Under fixed exchange rate policies, large devaluations and revaluations occurred by when the official exchange rate was altered by government fiat. However, stability has not emerged. This is because the demand for a country’s currency does not depend exclusively on that nation’s exports.
Balance of Payments
A nation’s balance of payments is a complex set of accounts. There are three major accounts involved:
· Current Account (aka Trade Account): Imports and exports of goods and services.
· Capital Account: Records all trades which affect the amount of claims the nation has abroad, both for and against. Or in other words, all borrowing and lending activity.
· Official Settlements Account: Records the changes in currency reserves held in all foreign currencies.
These three accounts sum to zero. The total import and export activity, plus the net effect of borrowing and lending, must equal the change in currency reserves. The term “balance of trade deficit” refers to the current account, and the term “balance of payments defecit” refers to the capital account. A balance of payments defecit can be thought of as the excess supply of a country’s currency—this is the amount of foreign currency that the government must buy if the exchange rate is to be preserved. If the government does not act, a defecit in this account will result in a currency devaluation.
The total value of world trade is more than 3 trillion dollars a year, but this is a small amount compared to the total value of worldwide currency trading. If currencly fluctuations only occurred as a result of trade, currencies would be quite stable. However, currencies are not stable, because fluctuations also occur due to currency trading that has nothing to do with goods or services trading. For example, if our interest rates are higher than another nation’s, then citizens (and fund managers) in the other nation can improve their returns by buying our currency. Expectations about the future appreciation or depreciation of our currency will also make it more or less attractive to buy. As a result, it is very difficult to predict how exchange rates will change with time. Note that the supply of our currency will affect these expectations and so the supply and demand of our currency are not entirely independent.
How large total output could possibly be for an economy is determined by the quantity and quality of capital stock and labor force. Capital stock includes natural and man-made resources such as rivers, factories, mineral deposits, etc. The labor force includes that portion of the population willing and able to work. The quality and quantity of capital stock and labor force available varies widely across different nations. The maximum output possible given these resources is called potential output.
If some portion of the available capital stock or labor force is idle (unemployed), then acutal output will be lower than potential output. When resources are idle, some amount of output is lost and gone forever. Actual output will equal potential output when full employment occurs. However, there will always be some amount of unavoidable “frictional” unemployment. Since this level of unemployment is unavoidabe, it is taken into account in potential output as the “full employment level of unemployment” and corresponding full employment rate of downtime of equipment, tools, factories, etc.
Potential employment grows over time. This expansion is caused by:
· Growth in the quality and quantity of labor available
· Growth in the quality and quantity of capital stock available
· Technological advances
In any given period, some amount of output will be dedicated to the production of new capital goods such as new factories. This will increase the level of output in subsequent periods. In addition, the newly produced capital goods will embody the latest technological advantages. So a nation which devotes a high percentage of current output to the production of new capital goods will win on two counts. Similarly, the higher the proportion of current output applied to the training and improvement of labor, the higher output will be in future periods.
The cruel dilemma facing impoverished nations is that current output already fails to provide adequately for the existing population, so diverting some resources to investment rather than current consumption will create even more widespread problems of starvation and poverty.
In the short run there is little or nothing a government can do to affect a nation’s potential output. Changes in potential output are long-run occurrences. However, actual output can certainly be affected in the short run. The actual output or GNP is the sum of the values of all final goods and services produced in the economy in a year. There is also a corresponding flow of income to resource owners matching the value of all final goods and services produced. In a simple model, ignoring the government and international sectors, all resources are owned by households and all goods are produced by firms. The firms hire resources owned by households, and produce goods and services, which are then sold to the households. This results in a circular flow of income.
GNP is the value of all final goods and services produced. GNE (Gross National Expenditure) is the value of total spending by the households. GNI (Gross National Income) is the value of the factors of production used by all firms. Since these are all measuring the same thing, they must all be equal. The symbol Y is used for the value of GNP/GNE/GNI.
In this simple model, firms can only produce two kinds of goods, consumption goods and investment goods: GNP = CF + I. Households can also only spend their money in two ways, consumption and spending: GNI = CH + S. CF is the amount of consumption goods that firms plan to produce, while CH is the amount of consumption goods that households plan to buy. When these are equal, I=S—the resources devoted to the production of new capital goods are equal to the savings rate of households. The propensity of households to save, rather than spend, their money will have long term implications for economic growth.
However, CF and CH are not always equal. Firms might produce more consumption goods than households plan to buy, in which case goods will be left unsold. Retailers will place smaller orders, and manufacturers will reduce production. Taking all firms together, this results in a reduced GNP. Since firms are producing less goods, they will require less resources, resulting in a reduction of GNI. This will result in lower income for households and will cause CH to fall even lower. A recession will occur. GNI and GNP will continue to fall until inventories fall below desired levels, at which point the process will reverse. However, the recession will have been a period of wasted productivity, where actual output fell below potential output, unemployment was in evidence, and society was less well off than it could have been.
On the other hand, if households want to buy more than firms are producing, retailers will experience shrinking inventories as goods are sold faster to meet demand. They will increase the size of their orders and manufacturers will increase production. More resources will be required, resulting in higher household income, which in turn results in even more demand. GNP and GNI will rise and a ‘boom’ will result. The increase in GNP and GNI will be constrained only by potential output. As this point is reached, demand continues to rise despite an inability to increase supply to match, resulting in higher prices, which cause households to buy less goods. Orders will decrease and the ‘business cyce’ will be repeated.
GNP is purchased by four groups. The sume of the expenditure of the four groups is known as aggregate demand. The four groups are:
· Consumers (households)
· International (foreign households, firms and governments)
This is represented by the equation: Y = C + I + G + X – Z, where:
- Y = aggregate demand, aka GNP, GNI, GNE
- C = consumption expenditure
- I = investment expenditure
- X = production of export goods
- Z = expenditure on import goods
Each component of aggregate demand can be affected by governmental policies. If potential output in the short term is fixed, government policies that affect aggregate demand can affect the unemployment rate and the inflation rate. However, many of the policy tools available to the government act with a time lag, and as a result is it quite difficult to keep aggregate demand constantly at the desired level. The desired level (potential output) is itself constantly changing (usually increasing). Households and firms have minds of their own, and may not behave as predicted—the household savings rate and firms’ investment rates can vary widely. Finally, there are likely to be exogenous shocks to the economy, like natural disasters, sudden changes in import prices, currency crises, etc.
There are two main categories of government economic policy. Fiscal policy involves control of government expenditure and taxation. Monetary policy involves control over the supply of money and hence interest rates.
If the level of demand in an economy equals potential output (Q), then no “gap” exists. However, most of the time the two will not be equal. When aggregate demand is lower than potential output, unemployment over and above the “full employment rate of unemployment” will exist and resources will be wasted.
When aggregate demand is greater than potential output, it is impossible to increase production and therefore prices will rise, resulting in an “inflationary gap.” Eventually, as prices rise, marginal buyers will drop out and demand will decrease to a new full employment equilibrium at a higher price level.
In order to avoid either inflation or unemployment, the government must attempt to equate aggregate demand with potential output, ie force demand towards the value D2. This is the only level of demand at which Q=Y. This simple model shows no inflationary pressure at full employment. Suppose the government is successful in one year in equating Q=Y. However, investment has taken place, so next year potential output will be Q2 > Q. If aggregate demand remains at Y, an output/employment gap will exist. In order to maintain full employment the government will need to estimate Q2 and move to a new level of aggregate demand Y2 such that Y2=Q2. The government must continue to estimate potential output and, through fiscal and monetary policy, control aggregate demand in subsequent periods so that Y3=Q3, Y4=Q4, etc. Needless to say, this is quite a difficult problem.
Under normal economic conditions where Q is increasing from year to year, the government will have to increase Y to match. There are three ways of increasing Y:
· Government expenditure
· Reduction in taxation
· Increase in money supply
If the government increases expenditure, Y is immediately increased by the amount of the expenditure because government demand is part of aggregate demand. However, for the firms producing the goods and services and the households who own resources used by the firms, income will increase. Some of this new income will be spent on additional goods and services. There is therefore a multiplier effect where DY = kDG. In order to increase aggregate demand from Y1 to Y2, the government can simply increase its expenditures by (Y2-Y1)/k.
Similarly, cutting taxes will increase Y by some multiple of the amount of the tax cut. The fact of the tax cut does not in itself constitute an increase in demand, because the money is not spent on goods as it is in the case of a government expenditure increase. However, the multiplier effect still comes into play as households and firms spend some portion of the increased income provided by the lower tax rate.
Lowering taxes and increasing expenditures are both examples of fiscal policy. The monetary policy solution to low aggregate demand is to increase the money supply faster than the growth in the demand for money. This will cause the price of money—the interest rate, R—to fall. Borrowers (both households and firms) take the cost of borrowing into account when considering taking out a loan. Thus a decrease in R normally results in an increase in borrowing and a resulting increase in Y as the borrowed money is spent on goods and services. Again, the initial round of expenditure will trigger a multiplier effect as the increased income to firms and households results in additional rounds of expenditure and new income.
The process of controlling demand through money supply is complex. The policymaker must first estimate both current Q and Y and the expected change in Q for which Y should be adjusted. This will give the change in Y to be desired. Then, the size of the multiplier must be estimated, which will give the amount of the initial increase in expenditure that will result in the desired overall increase in Y. Then, the sensitivity of consumers and businesses to interest rate changes must be estimated, to determine the change in R that will result in the desired new expenditures. Finally, the current rate of increase of demand for money must be estimated, which will lead to an estimate of the rate of increase of money supply that will result in the desired interest rate. If any significant changes occur while the process is under way, the estimates may be wrong and the process may have to be re-started.
Of course, a combination of fiscal and monetary policy can be used. Tax cuts and increased government expenditure cannot be maintained forever; eventually problems with high government debt will surface. Monetary policy depends on consumers’ and business managers’ expectations and attitudes, which change frequently. And while the goal of closing the inflationary or employment gaps is universally desirable, other social values outside the realm of economics will also contribute to decisions on government policy. Macroeconomic goals generally accepted as desirable are:
· Low inflation rate
· Low unemployment rate
· Balanced government budget
· Trade balance
· Stable currency in international exchange markets
There is less agreement about the ideal distribution of Y across C, I and G. Liberals prefer more G than convervatives. Rates of investment vary widely across different nations. There is no widely accepted notion of the ideal tax structure. And our simple model is capable of achieving full employment without inflation, which may not be true of real-world economies which have an inflationary bias. Finally, other social values outside the economic spectrum—like the idea that everyone should be able to get a job—constrain the range of actions available to enact desirable economic policy.
Potential Output in the Short Run
If we could take a snapshot of the economy at a specific point in time, it would be possible to enumerate all available resources, both capital and labor, and calculate the maximum possible output if all resources were put to their most productive use. This is the potential output of the economy.
If sufficient time, energy and resources were applied, the available human and capital resources of a nation can always be increased. In addition, more productive uses of resources can be devised (technological advancement). However, in the short run, it is reasonable to assume that these factors are fixed; i.e. potential ouptut is constant. Thus it follows that there must be a fixed upper limit to the amount of production possible. This leaves open the question of which products compose the potential output. In a two-good economy producing guns and butter (where guns symbolize military spending and butter symbolizes peaceful spending), if the economy is operating at potential output, it is only possible to produce more guns by producing less butter and vice versa. This creates a range of production possibilities at potential output. Any combination lower than potential output is possible, so this curve is a ‘frontier’ that shows the boundary above which additional production is not possible.
This graph can be shown to illustrate the microeconomic question of what to produce. At the point X on the graph, the production of B2-B1 additional butter requires the sacrifice (opportunity cost) of the production of G1-G2 additional guns. The opportunity cost is determined by the slope of the production possibility frontier. When society is operating at some point within but not on the frontier, it is possible to produce additional units of one or both goods with no sacrifice to production of the other good; ie, no opportunity cost. An economically rational society will therefore always desire to operate on the frontier.
The situation when attempting to decide if more of one good should be produced is different depending on whether society is on the production possibilities frontier. If the economy is currently operating below the frontier, then any decision to produce more of one good can be taken in the absence of information about other goods. However, if the economy is at the frontier, the decision must also include the opportinity cost of output foregone in the other good. The first major macroeconomic question is therefore whether or not the economy is operating on the frontier.
A point like Z represents a situation that has been experienced from time to time by all major capitalist economies, for example during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Clearly it would be preferable to operate at point X or Y than at Z. There must be highly compelling reasons if a government enacts policies designed to keep the economy at point Z.
Potential Output in the Long Run
In the long run, the quantity and quality of labor and capital stock is not fixed; neither is the state of technological advancement. Certain items are relatively fixed over time, such as the amount of land area available. The supply of labor is heavily dependent on the population and its age structure, and by social customs like the common retirement age, the number of hours worked per week, the extent to which people participate in the labor force, and so forth. These are demographic features that change only slowly. Other items can change relatively rapidly in the long run, such as the number and type of factories operational, improvements in technology, and the training of particular segments of the workforce.
The second major macroeconomic question is: What determines the rate of growth of potential output through time?
The ultimate objective of economic activity is consumption, which is the present enjoyment of material goods and services. If a society uses all available resources to satisfy present consumption, then no further resources will be available to countract the inevitable decline in productivity of existing capital and labor as machinery gets older and requires more maintenance, as training is not renewed so professional skills diminish, etc. Some level of expenditure on capital goods is required simply to maintain the current level of potential output. If more than this is spent, then potential output will increase. Net investment is equal to the total spent on capital goods, less the amount required simply to maintain current levels. A production possibilities frontier exists between capital formation and current consumption, similar to the one shown above with guns and butter. In order to maintain or increase productive capacity, society must operate at a point on the graph (presumably on the frontier) which is above the replacement investment level on the vertical axis. The vertical distance between this line and the actual operating level will determine the net gain or loss in potential output over time.
Small differences in growth rate are of substantial importance to the material standards of living. At a growth rate of 2%, standards of living double every 35 years, but at 4% they double every 18 years. The rule of thumb to get the number of years between doublings is to divide 70 by the growth rate.
Measuring Potential Output
Potential output is a supply concept. It is achieved only when the economy reaches full employment of all factors of production. Should there be under-employement of any of the factors of production, actual output will be less than it could have been. Potential national income and output cannot be directly observed. To estimate potential output, some measure of the utilization of factors of production is required. The two most widely used are the unemployment rate (the number of people unemployed as a percentage of the number of people willing and able to work), and the extent of capacity underutilization as measured in industrial surveys. There is a clear direct relationship between the two.
For the economy as a whole, the unemployment rate never falls to zero and capacity utilization never reaches 100% due to ‘frictional’ unemployment. This leads to the question of what unemployment rate should be chosen to signify full employment. If this were chosen to be zero, the concept of full employment would be functionally meaningless. The definition of potential output is the maximum attainable output; therefore ‘full employment’ must be attainable in some periods. There is a logical basis for defining full employment to include some unemployment, since some types of unemployment are unavoidable and will exist even in an economy operating at its full potential.
Types of ‘full employment’ unemployment:
Frictional – At any given moment, there are always people changing jobs or entering the job market from school. The job search process takes time, because information is imperfect. Movement within the job market is impeded by this imperfection, just as movement along a surface is impeded by the roughness of the surface. Hence the term ‘frictional’ unemployment.
Structural – Where frictional unemployment is related to people changing jobs without changing their profession or geographic location, structural unemployment is related to people retraining to work in a different profession or moving to a different location. It can come about due to technical progress making some types of job obsolete and creating new types of job; or due to business closures in one area resulting in a surplus of particular skills, who if they do not choose to retrain must relocate. Structural unemployment can be seen as a mismatch between the types and locations of jobs offered and the types and locations of workers looking for jobs. It is not the result of a lack of jobs overall, but it takes more effort to correct than does frictional unemployment. As a result, it can persist for long periods.
Seasonal – Certain types of employment, notably in agriculture, require more workers at one time of year than another. This will result in unemployment during the ‘off’ season—for this not to be so, all workers in the seasonal industry would also need to have a second skill that is seasonal in the precisely opposite pattern.
Factors Determining Unemployment
The most important factors determining the level of frictional, structural and seasonal unemployment are:
Level of Economic Activity – When actual output is close to potential output, employers will face a competitive labor market. Employers will be more likely to advertise and to spend on recruiting. Employers will also likely offer better retraining programs and relocation assistance. These measures will reduce structural unemployment. When unemployment is high, companies will have an easier time finding employees to hire and will be less willing to pay for this type of program.
Transmission of Information – Jobs cannot be filled unless job-seekers can find out about openings and hiring managers can find out about candidates. The more effectively the information is transferred, the lower frictional (and to some extent structural) unemployment will be.
Structural Change – The overall composition of the goods produced by an economy changes with time, as tastes change, new products are invented, world trade patterns move production of particular goods between different nations, etc. Sometimes it changes quickly, sometimes slowly. If structural change is occuring at a rapid pace, the number of people unemployed due to having the wrong skills or living in the wrong location will tend to be higher.
Workforce Mobility – The easier it is to change location, and the easier it is to gain training in new fields, the lower structural unemployment will be. This will depend on factors such as the cost and availability of training, the cost of travel and moving expenses, the degree to which appropriate schools and hospitals are universally available, and so forth.
Institutional Restrictions and Barriers – Governments, trade unions and even employers will sometimes take actions designed to protect particular groups of workers. These actions reduce the efficiency of the labor market and lead to additional structural and frictional unemployment. Examples: restrictive union practices, required professional certifications, pension and medical plans tied to the job, or even local policies which favor existing residents over new arrivals.
Seasonal Industries – Some industries are seasonal by nature: Fishing, farming, forestry, tourism, construction. Despite the fact that predictable unemployment will occur in some periods of the yearly cycle, some economies have clear natural advantages in these industries and find it worthwhile to pursue them.
Demand Deficient Unemployment
Once all the factors causing ‘full employment unemployment’ are taken into account, any additional unemployment left over must be the result of too little aggregate demand. This is called demand deficient unemployment. Demand deficient unemployment occurs when the number of people unemployed (U) is greater than the number of unfilled job vacancies (V). If accurate values could be determined for U and V, full employment could be defined as occuring when V >= U. Unfortunately, even though reasonably good unemployment data exists, the number of job vacancies is difficult to determine—many job vacancies are never advertised, and sometimes managers may even disagree over whether a particular vacancy exists or not! For this reason, full employment is usually taken to be some set target rate of unemployment. The full employment rate of employment varies over time for any one country and varies substantially between countries.
If we know that the economy is operating at full employment, then actual (Y) and potential (Q) output will be equal. When this occurs, we can measure the potential output of the economy. It also follows that the larger the gap between Y and Q, the higher will be unemployment. The output gap, as a percentage, is equal to (Q-Y)/Q x 100. Arthur Okun has conducted research on the empirical relationship between the unemployment rate and the output gap and has found a stable relationship for a 25-year period in the U.S. economy, starting in the late 1940s, with the following equation, known as Okun’s Law:
In other words, for each 3% that actual output falls short of potential output, the unemployment rate will exceed the full employment rate by 1%. So if Y is 12% below Q, U will be 4% above UF. Looking at it another way, Okun’s Law states that for every 1% additional unemployment, 3% of potential output is lost and gone forever.
Since Okun’s Law was formulated in 1962, further empirical evidence has suggested that the parameter value of 1/3 is not immutable. However, the law provides a reasonable measurement of the loss in real output attributable to demand deficient unemployment.
Output and Inflation
Aggregate demand determines the actual output of goods and services produced. Given a fixed potential output for any short-term period, aggregate demand will thus determine the unemployment rate. In the simple model used above, when aggregate demand exceeds potential output, an inflationary gap exists and the price level rises. However, in the real world, inflation occurs at or below full employment.
The inflation rate for a given time period is the per year change in price level: INFT = (PT+1-PT)/PT. The price level represents the overall price of all goods and services taken together. The most commonly cited measure of the average price level is the Consumer Price Index (CPI). This provides an index of typical consumer products purchased by average households. However, it does not take into account the roughly one-third of total output represented by investment expenditure. The price level index which includes all goods and services in the economy is called the GDP deflator.
Most firms set their prices based on the anticipated costs of production and the anticipated demand for the goods and services produced. These expectations are based on past performance, economic indicators, and the thought processes of managers. The most recent level of aggregate demand is one of the key factors determining these expectations. The higher aggregate demand, the higher the firm’s own recent demand is likely to have been, and the higher its expectations of future demand. In addition, the higher the aggregate demand, the higher the firm’s expectations about the cost of labor, materials and other factor inputs. As a result, the higher recent aggregate demand has been, the higher a firm is likely to set its prices. If all firms operate in this fashion, then the rate of increase of the price level will be directly and positively related to the level of aggregate demand.
In any short run period, therefore, aggregate demand will influence both the unemployment rate and the inflation rate. As a result, there will be an implied relationship between unemployment and inflation. For each possible level of aggregate demand, there will be corresponding rate of unemployment and of inflation. The graph of unemployment against inflation for a varying level of aggregate demand in the short run is called a Phillps Curve:
In the real world, the constraint that Y cannot exceed Q is somewhat relaxed, because of the way we have defined full employment. Facing demand exceeding Q, some fatories and workers can work overtime and the average frictional and structural rates of unemployment will fall because there are so many unfilled vacancies. Thus the economy in the short run can ‘squeeze’ some extra production out of its resources. However, the cost of this economic ‘boom’ is that factor prices will rise and consequently the price level will rise at a rate higher than normal. This is represented by the increasing slope of the Phillips Curve as unemployment goes above UF.
One might expect inflation at full employment to be zero, because at over-full employment, scarcity of factors of production will lead to rising demand and thus rising prices; at under-full employment, abundance of factors of production will lead to reduced demand and thus reduced prices; and at exact full employment, demand and supply will be in equilibrium, resulting in stable prices. Empirically, however, the position of the Phillips Curve has been such that some positive rate of inflation occurs at the full emploment rate of unemployment. This is caled the inflationary bias.
The labor market is quantitatively the most important factor of production, since it accounts for roughly two-thirds of all income payments by firms. The ‘labor market’ is in fact many different markets, as workers are specialized in many different skills. At any given time, there will probably be some skills that have excess demand while other skills have excess supply. All these markets operate imperfectly, in the sense that wages do not adjust immediately to equate supply and demand. This is particularly evident in many markets where there is excess supply; wage rates are observed not to respond to the downward pressure. Wage rates appear to be ‘sticky’ in the face of high unemployment.
Many reasons are given for this observation. One is that in many labor markets, wages are determined by collective bargaining between unions and management, sometimes for an entire industry. The political nature of union decision-making is such that a reduction in wages is exceedingly difficult to obtain, regardless of economic circumstances. A reduction in wages makes everyone somewhat worse off. However, a failure to reduce wages makes certain people (those laid off) much worse off, to the benefit of others (those who keep their jobs). If the economic downturn is anything short of catastrophic, less than half the workers are likely to be laid off. If the workers have a good idea who will be axed, then the majority of workers, voting in their own self-interest, will elect to keep their current wages. In addition, those workers with the most seniority are the least likely to be laid off, therefore the most likely to oppose wage reductions—but this group of people are also likely to hold the most influential positions within the union. Another explanation is that given that the government will pay unemployment benefits for a while, a typical worker may be better off accepting work at a high wage in the knowledge that there will be occasional layoffs, than accepting work at a lower wage that continues indefinitely.
This rigidity does not occur in the upwards direction. Workers are always generally happy to accept more money. As discussed previously, full employment does not mean zero unemployment. It is still possible (even likely) that under full employment, some labor markets will have excess demand while others will have excess supply. In markets with excess demand, wages can be expected to rise relatively quickly, but in markets with excess supply, wages will only fall slowly, if at all. Firms which face excess demand for labor will expect their costs to rise and will therefore set higher prices. However, firms which face excess supply of labor will not have a reasonable expectation of falling costs, and will therefore leave prices unchanged. This will result in an increase in the average price level.
If unemployment rates are high enough, the downward pressure on wages will be sufficient to overcome downward wage rigidity and wages and prices will fall. There have been very few occasions where this has occurred; the most striking example is the Great Depression in the 1930s, where, in the face of extremely high unemployment rates, the inflation rate was negative for several years on many countries.
Properties of the Phillips Curve
The Phillips Curve has another important property: It is not linear. Its curvature suggests that the nature of the trade-off between inflation and unemployment depends on where the economy currently falls on the curve. At high rates of unemployment, the curve is relatively flat: It takes a large increase in unemployment to effect a small increase in inflation. At lower rates of unemployment, a small change in unemployment will result in a much larger change in inflation.
This can be explained as follows: If the initial condition is high unemployment, then most labor markets will be characterized by excess supply and very few by excess demand. If unemployment increases, the excess demand in those few markets will be reduced, so those few firms will still increase their prices but not by as much as they would have otherwise. However, the downward rigidity of the labor markets already experiencing excess supply will be such that the firms operating in those markets will not change their prices. As a result, the change in the rate of inflation will be small. However, if the initial condition is very low unemployment, most labor markets will be characterized by excess demand and very few by excess supply. If unemployment increases, the upward pressure on wages will be decreased, perhaps sharply in those cases where the initial excess demand was severe. Since very few labor markets were in excess supply conditions, most firms will still expect an increase in labor costs, but less (possibly much less) than previously. As a result, price increases for the majority of firms will be less than they would have been, and there will be some firms which might otherwise have set very sharp price increases who no longer need to do so. The reduction in the rate of incrase of the average price level will be very noticeable.
The existence of a Phillips Curve causes a problem for government policymakers. A choice must be made between the evils of unemployment and of inflation. Policy tools that affect aggregate demand cannot be used to fight inflation and unemployment at the same time. If aggregate demand is controlled to achieve full employment, some inflation will generally result. If aggregate demand is controlled to eliminate inflation, high unemployment will generally result.
Employment vs. Inflation in the Long Run
The Phillips Curve is a short run relationship. In the long run, the Phillips Curve can shift its position and change its curvature. Thus, the rate of inflation in the long run depends not only on where on the Phillips Curve the economy is operating, but also where the Phillips Curve is positioned. The fact that the Phillips Curve can shift over time causes some difficulty in interpreting historical data, because it is hard to know whether any given change reflects a shift in or a movement along the Phillips Curve. A moving Phillips Curve can result in a situation where unemployment and inflation move in the same direction. This has caused some to conclude that there is no Phillips Curve. It is important to remember that the Phillips Curve is a short run relationship.
However, short-run decisions should not be made in the absence of consideration of their long-run impacts. It might be possible, in normal situations, that high unemployment and low inflation today might permit preferred combinations of unemployment and inflation that would not have been possible otherwise. In such situations, the appropriate sort-term policy goal might be to choose an aggregate demand target below potential output.
Circular Flow of Income
In order to develop a simple short-run model of the economy, we make the following assumptions:
· That technical knowledge and resources are fixed in the short run
· That there is a fixed relationship between output and employment
· There is no international trade
· There is no government sector; ie there are no taxes and no government expenditure
· Firms distribute all profit to their owners (households) immediately when it is earned
· All investment is carried out by firms
· All prices are constant, so that any change in numeric GNP is caused by a change in real GNP.
Firms produce all consumption goods and services, which are purchased by households. Households own all factors of production (resources) – labor, land, capital goods, etc. – as well as the firms themselves. This results in a circular flow of income.
The national output (GNP) is the flow of all final goods and services in an economy within a given period. The Net National Product (NNP) is GNP less depreciation, or in other words the level of output above and beyond that which would be required simply to maintain the existing stock of capital goods. In calculating GNP and NNP, only final goods and services are included. Intermediate goods, which is to say goods that are used in the production of other goods, are not included, because otherwise double-counting would occur.
GNP can be calculated in three different ways:
· By finding the total expenditure on final goods and services
· By finding the value added by each producer
· By finding the total income earned by each factor of production
In practice, it can be quite difficult to make the determination between final and intermediate goods. The second method may be easier because it only requires knowing the value of output and the value of factor inputs for each firm in the economy. The final method is perhaps the easiest, since it is a simple sum of all household incomes.
Inputs to production include primary factors and intermediate goods. Intermediate goods are those factor inputs that were produced in the current period. All other inputs used in the current period are primary factors. Labor input is a primary factor, as are (most) buildings and machinery. The income paid to owners of primary factors must be financed by a firm’s sales and are normally classified as:
· Wages and salaries – paid in exchange for the use of labor services
· Rent – paid in return for the use of land and capital goods not owned by the producer
· Interest – paid to the households who have loaned money to purchase land and capital
· Gross profits – residual money accruing to the firm after payment has been made to all other factors, usually distributed in the form of dividends to the households that own the firm
The sum of payments by a firm for primary factors and intermediate goods will equal the firm’s reciepts from sales. As a result, the value added by the firm is equal to the sum of payments to primary factors, because this will equal sales (total value of production) less payments to intermediate goods (value that came from somewhere else). Since GNP equals the sum of producers’ value added, GNP is also equal to the sum of producers’ payments to primary factors of production (GNP=GNI).
The equivalency between GNP and GNI depends on the definition of profits as a residual amount obtained after deducting the value of all other inputs to production; and on the assumption that all profits are immediately distributed to households. In the real world, these assumptions may not hold.
Given that GNP=GNI, it follows that the income received by households must be just sufficient to purchase all output produced by the economy. It would seem that by the act of establishing a firm and producing output, sufficient income must thereby be produced so that the firm’s output can be paid for. While this is true, it is not guaranteed that this new income will result in effective demand for the firm’s goods. Some income might not find its way into expenditure at all, at least in the short run.
The level of output that can be sustained is therefore dependent on the level of expenditure or effective demand. Potential output sets the limit to the level of income and expenditure possible, but actual output may fall short of this limit. The short run theory of income determination sees acual output as dependent on effective (aggregate) demand.
Households engage in two activities, consumption and savings. Consumption (C) consists of expenditure on goods and services to satisfy current needs or wants. For the purpose of this simple model, we shall ignore the problems raised by consumer durables (like cars), which yield a flow of services over time. Savings (S) is whatever income is left over after C. It follows that gross national income (GNE aka Y) = C+S.
Firms also engage in two activities, investment and production. Production occurs to satisfy the consumption demand of households and is in equilibrium only when it is equal to that expenditure, so it is also represented by the symbol C. Investment is the production of goods and services which are not used for consumption purposes. There are two main categories of investment: Inventory and capital goods. Buildup of unsold inventory is a form of investment; reduction in inventory is a form of disinvestment. Some investment in capital goods is required just to maintain current levels of production, but additional investment over and above this amount will result in increased productive capacity in the future. Investment expenditure is given the symbol I. Total output will equal C+I. Total output is GNP, which is equal to Y, so: Y=C+I.
If Y=C+I and Y=C+S it follows that I=S. Investment and savings are defined in such a way that they must be equal. This does not mean that planned saving always equals planned investment; quite the contrary. However, by the definitions of the model, actual savings is the amount of money that will be available for acual investment and thus the two will be equal. If planned investment is lower or higher than planned savings, firms will find themselves encountering an unplanned investment or disinvestment.
If all income were consumed, then all value added (output) would accrue to private households through factor incomes, and all factor incomes would be used by households to purchase consumption goods and services from firms. In such an economy, supply would create its own demand, as all income would be consumed. There would be no withdrawals or injections to the circular flow of income, so that any flow of national income would continue in an indefinite equilibrium, with no tendency for GNP (or GNI or GNE) to change. This of course assumes a fixed capacity output, but this is a short-run model. In reality, if all income were to be consumed, the stock of capital goods would decline and output would be reduced.
In practice, most economies save and invest a proportion of national income, as shown in the diagram above. Savings are not passed on in the circular flow of income, but constitute a withdrawal from it. In other words, savings do not constitute a component of aggregate demand, because the act of saving does not generate a demand for current output. Investment, on the other hand, is an injection into the circular flow of income. It is part of aggregate demand because the act of investing (buying more capital goods) does indeed generate a demand for current output.
Any withdrawal has a contractionary effect on the level of national income. Any injection has an expansionary effect. Equilibrium can only occur when the contractionary and expansionary effects are in balance, or in other words when there is consistency between the savings plans of households and the investment plans of firms. If planned savings and planned investments are equal, the economy will be in equilibrium. If they are not equal, the economy will be in disequilibrium and must expand or contract until the plans again come into balance. In the equilibrium diagram above, households elect to save 10% their income. If households change their plans and choose to save twice that amount (20%) then the economy will be in a contractionary disequilibrium:
Under these conditions, and if there are no changes to the planss of investors or savers, national income will fall. In the earlier, equilibrium model, aggregate demand (Y) was equal to $100 billion, equal to C ($90 bln) + I ($10 bln). Now, C has fallen to $80 billion with I unchanged at $10 billion, resulting in aggregate demand (Y) or $90 billion. The sales reciepts of firms will have fallen accordingly. As a result, firms will not be able to sell all the output produced, so there will be an unplanned increase in inventories. Inventories will continue to increase so long as output is maintained at the original level. Soon, firms will react by reducing the level of output. Assuming that firms continue to plan to invest $10 billion, and households continue to plan to invest 20% of their income, a new equilibrium will be established:
The result of Y=$50 billion is a result of the savings plans of households. If firms output Y by a lesser amount, say to Y=$70 billion, then households will plan to save $14 billion, which is still higher than the investment plans of firms. A new equilibrium will not be reached until the savings plans of households again equal the investment plans of firms. There is a multiplier effect in evidence here: A change of $10 billion in the savings plans of households has caused a change of $50 billion in GNP.
The motives for households to save and for firms to invest are quite different. Households save so that they can buy expensive goods in the future, or to protect against becoming unemployed, or to leave wealth for their children, or through sheer miserliness. Firms invest in the expectation of profits, and the volume of investment is clearly a function of the availability of profitable investment opportunities. But even when investment opportunities are poor, households will still wish to save. Because of these divergent motives, there is no guarantee that the plans of savers and investors will be consistent, even in the short run with which this model is concerned. For this reason, the level of national income realized can and does depart from full employment income.
Simple Model of Income Determination
The first step to constructing a model is to specify which variables are exogenous vs. endogenous. It is incorrect to treat a variable as exogenous if it can be affected by other variables within the model. The simple model treats the price level as exogenous. The price level is determined by PT+1=(1+INF)PT. Since we are building a short-run model, the price level is PT – even if some other price level may be reached in future periods, in the short run the price level is not affected by GNP or other endogenous variables. In the short run, the price level has been determined by previous events. Endogenous variables in this model, particularly the actual GNP, will affect how the price level will change in the future, but not in the short run.
The assumption that the price level is exogenous in the short run is a key element of Keynesian economics. Prior to Keynes, economists generally treated the price level as endogenous in the short run. Keynes showed that if the price level is considered exogenous in the short run, the model behaves in a radically different manner and is better able to explain observed real world events. The validity of this argument is still in debate.
Further assumptions are made: The economy has no government or international sectors, the only actors are private firms and households, all savings are undertaken by households and all investment by firms; and potential output is taken to be fixed.
The level of national icome achieved has been shown above to depend on the level of aggregate demand, which in this closed model depends upon consumption demand (C) and investment demand (I). We shall initially assume I to be fixed at all levels of income and attempt to determine the behavior of C.
Consumption demand may be influenced by many factors, including: Level of income; distribution of income and wealth; tastes, habits and social conventions; advertising; law and regulation. In a model that included a government sector, taxation, welfare, etc., would also play a part. Of all these influences, the level of income is taken to be the most significant. In our simple model, because there are no taxes or transfers, total income and disposable income are the same. Both casual introspection and empirical data suggest a direct relationship between consumption and disposable income across all households in the long run. This relationship, called the consumption function, determines how consumption will behave for a given level of income. The exact nature of the consumption function is subject to debate. A simple long run consumption function is: C=bYD where 0<b<1.
In the short run, however, the behavior is different. The evidence suggests that there is a time lag before consumption responds to changes in income. This time lag may result from habit, existing institutional arrangements, and/or the desire to ensure that any given change in income is permanent rather than temporary. After a period of time, consumption adjusts to match the new level of income as per the long-run consumption function. But in the short run, the behavior is different. The simple short run consumption function is: C=aN+bNYD where bN<b. This function permits values where consumption is higher than income, which is based on the assumption that given a decline in income, some dissaving will occur while consumption behavior adjusts.
The short run change in consumption resulting from a given change in income is called the “marginal propensity to consume.” Given an increase in income, a relatively small increase in consumption will occur, followed in the long run by a shift in the consumption function (a new, higher value for aN) and an accompanying long-run increase in consumption. The relative flatness of the short-run consumption function, combined with the fact that the timing of shifts in the function may be difficult to predict, means that short-run consumption per income is not nearly as predictable as it is in the long term.
It is important to distinguish between the average propensity to consume APC=C/YD and the marginal propensity to consume MPC=DC/DYD. Average propensity to consume is the proportion of income consumed overall, while marginal propensity to consume is the change in consumption that results from a change in income.
In the long run, APC=MPC. In the short run, however, MPC is quite different from APC, because of the presence of the aN term in the consumption function. MPC is important in determining how the economy will react to a change in a component of aggregate demand. If the MPC is high, then a large portion of the initial change is “passed on” and a high multiplier exists. If the MPC is low, then more of the initial change winds up in savings and a lower multipiler is in effect.
When national income is in equilibrium it will equal aggregate demand, as described above. The line Y=D shows all such points. At the same time, aggregate demand is represented by consumption and investment demand, C+I. Equilibrium national income is the point where the lines Y=D and C+I intersect. This is also the only point where the plans of savers and the plans of investors are the same.
Suppose the economy is in equilibrium and a series of new inventions promises to make investment in capital goods more profitable for investors. This increase in profitability means that firms will want to make greater investment expenditure than before. As a result the investment function, which has so far been simply I=I0, will shift upwards. The investment function is still an exogenous variable, so the new function will be I=I0+DI. This indicates an increase in aggregate demand of at least DI. However, this increase in demand will trigger a multiplier effect: The increase of DI will result in additional income for households, who will now consume the additional amount bDI (where b is the marginal propensity to consume), in a cyclic series, so that the final change in national income will be some multiple of the initial DI. This can be seen graphically:
The multiplier is the sum of an infinite series of smaller and smaller increases in demand. The series is convergent for 0<b<1 and can be found by: Multiplier = 1/(1-MPC). MPC=0.75 produces a multiplier of 4; MPC=0.5 produces a multiplier of 2. This leads to a statement of the relationship between exogenous changes in investment and national income: DY=DI/(1-MPC).
It is important to note that the multiplier process can only occur when there are sufficient unemployed resources to meet the new demands. If the economy were operating at full employment, then any exogenous increase in demand would simply result in inflation. No additional resources would be available to produce output to meet the new demand; supply would not be able to increase; and prices would rise, as shown here:
Initially, the economy is in equilibrium at point A. Some exogenous event causes aggregate demand to shift from D1 to D2. In order for the full multiplier effect to occur, the economy would have to reach point C. This is not possible because potential output, Q, would be exceeded. As a result, the economy is stuck at point B and an inflationary gap exists.
The marginal propensity to consume (MPC) must be in the range 0<MPC<1. If MPC were zero, the multiplier would be one and no consumption would occur. If MPC were 1, then the multiplier would be infinity and the economy would swing wildly between zero and full employment output. These situations are not observed to occur, so 0<MPC<1 must be true. However, calculating the value of MPC for a real-world economy is quite difficult and subject to interpretation and debate. As a result it is not an easy task to guide the economy to full employment output without creating inflation. In addition, the presence of government and international sectors will complicate the task in the real world (and in more complex models, below).
Expanded Model of Income Determination
The model above does not include many of the features of a modern market economy. The following model will add a government sector, an international sector, and business savings. We will continue to assume that potential output is fixed, that there is a fixed relationship between output and employment, and that all investment is carried out by private firms.
One of the major failings of the simple model is that it treats investment as stable at all levels of income. In fact, observations show that investment expenditure is very unstable over time. Investment expenditure is quantitatively less important than consumption expenditure (tpical values for I range from 15% to 30% of GNP), but because I is much more variable over time than C, it has a major role to play in explaining the short run behavior of income and output.
Investment is undertaken in the hope and expectation that it be profitable. To assess whether any proposed investment scheme will be profitable, a business has to arrive at an objective of subjective judgement of three factors:
(a) The cost of the investment;
(b) The expected returns from the investment in the form of increased income;
(c) The cost of financing the investment.
The first two factors give the rate of return over cost, which is known as the marginal efficiency of investment (r) which is the same as the accounting concept of IRR. The third factor, the cost of financing, is the rate of interest (R). For some investments, particularly those that are very large or extend over a long period of time, the cost of the investment can only be estimated at the time of the initial decision. For other investments, the cost is known with great accuracy. But for practically all investments, the expected returns involve uncertainty. Thus a firm must make estimates of the expected returns on its investments. In addition, for many investments, either the expenditure or the return are expected to take place over a lengthy period of time.
It is assumed that every firm faces a list of possible investments and must decide which to undertake. It would be very unlikely that every investment on the list would have the same rate of return, so the list will be ordered from highest to lowest expected rate of return. As the volume of investment undertaken increases or decreases, the overall return expected will also increase or decrease. In addition, as the volume of investment increases, it will put greater pressure on the productive capacity of the capital goods industries, and, as costs in those industries rise, the increasing cost of capital equipment will lower the marginal efficiency of investment. This results in a ‘marginal efficiency of investment schedule’ that shows the expected rate of return for each possible volume of investment.
However, there is no convincing historical evidence to suggest that the rate of return has declined over time even though volume has increased, primarily because technical knowledge improves over time and shifts the marginal efficiency of investment schedule to the right.
If the only factors influencing investment decisions were the expected returns and the costs, then all investments with a positive rate of return would be undertaken. However, the funds used for any investment have an opportunity cost, that being the value of their next best alternative use. For a given rate of interest R, money can always be lent out at that rate at very low risk. As a result, it is not rational for any investment to be undertaken where the expected return r is less than the interest rate R, because more profit would be made by simply lending the money out. This means that the volume of investment actually undertaken will equal the point on the marginal efficiency of investment schedule where R=r, as shown here (assuming, of course, that firms are economically rational profit maximizers—in reality, these decisions are not nearly so mechanistic):
The function resulting in the MEI curve (shown above as a straight line) is the investment function, I=f(R). Movements along this curve occur when the rate of interest changes. Shifts in this curve occur when the relationship between rate of interest and total investment expenditure change for all values. Shifts in the MEI curve occur frequently. The two most inportant reasons are:
(a) business expectations;
(b) the degree of uncertainty.
The calculation of r (rate of return, aka marginal efficiency of investment) depends on estimates of future returns. These estimates are fundamentally affected by firms’ expectations and uncertainty about what the future holds. A firm must make judgements concerning future costs and prices, technological advance, political disturbances, the behavior of competitors, changes in government policy, political disturbances, the actions of consumers, and so forth. The role of expectations in investment decisions explains why investment is one of the more volatile components of national income. If the managers who make investment decisions become pessimistic through fears of a coming recession, the MEI curve will shift to the left and the volume of investment undertaken for all rates of interest will be reduced. In addition, the MEI curve is affected by the amount of uncertainty firms feel in their estimates. Assuming firms estimate conservatively, the MEI curve will shift to the left as uncertainty increases, and to the right as it decreases. More investment will be undertaken for all rates of interest when firms feel that their estimates are comparatively reliable.
Shifts in the MEI curve are likely to be of more importance than movements along it. Planned investment is subject to sudden sharp changes rather than smooth, predictable movements. In fact, some economists question the importance of the rate of interest to the volume of investment—they claim that changes related to firms’ expectations and uncertainty are so substantial and frequent that changes related to the rate of interest are almost trivial by comparison. As a result, it may be difficult to influence the volume of investment through monetary policy: Investment may be interest inelastic.
Some economists also believe in the accelerator (as distinct and different from the multiplier). The idea here is that some investments are determined by the rate of change of national income/output. For example, suppose a firm producing shoes requires $2 million of capital goods to produce $1 million output of shoes and this capital-output ratio is fixed at all levels of output. If the firm is selling $1 million in shoes and economic growth occurs such that the demand for the firm’s shoes rises to $1.5 million, then the firm must invest an additional $1 million in new capital for the production of the higher volume of shoes. If growth then ceases and the firm continues to operate at the $1.5 million level of output, then no additional capital investment occurs. If demand for the firm’s goods decreases, the firm is likely to disinvest, or go out of business, or what have you, so the accelerator principle also applies to reductions in the rate of growth. The accelerator is related not to national output itself, but to the rate of change of national output. Hence, DI=aDY where a is the accelerator, aka the capital-output ratio.
The accelerator principle does not yield a comprehensive explanation of investment, because not all investment is in capital goods required to produce output. Other types of investment are not subject to the accelerator principle: replacement investment, research and development, ‘autonomous’ investment, etc. In addition, even where the accelerator principle applies, the causeal connection is often less immediate and simple than the above explanation suggests. However, empirical evidence does suggest that a significant portion of the fluctuations in investment observed may be associated with the rate of change of national output.
As with any change in demand, a multiplier effect also exists for investment expenditure: DY=kDI, where k is the multiplier. The causal relationship for the multiplier effect is that changes in investment result in proportionally larger changes in national output. The causal relationship is reversed for the accelerator effect: Changes in national output result in additional changes in investment. The accelerator principle suggests that the secondary effects of ‘first-round’ investments are likely to be larger and more complicated than explained by the multiplier effect alone. As with changes in consumption expenditure, both the multiplier and accelerator effects can only occur where Y<Q.
The Government Sector
Government taxation and expenditure (fiscal policy) are analogous to household saving and business investment. Taxation (and saving) is a withdrawal from the circular flow of income, and expenditure (and investment) an injection. Equilibrium national income is reached when S+T=I+G. It follows from this that planned savings and planned investment can diverge without causing a change in equilibrium income, if the difference is offset by an inequality of the same magnitude but opposite sign between taxes and government expenditure.
At equilibrium, GNP=GNI; therefore, S+T=I+G. Alternately, S=I+(G-T). As a result, private investment varies inversely with government budget defecit. This assumes that C=C, but in fact there are two different values: C produced and C bought:
When CP > CB, unintended inventories will accumulate (in the short run). When CB > CP, inventories will be depleted faster than planned. These changes in inventory level are a form of investment, InvU=CP-CB. So:
\ S=I+InvU, given a balanced budget (G=T)
There are two types of government expenditure. The first, represented by G, is money spent on current goods and services. The second is transfer expenditure, such as welfare payments. Transfer expenditure is not part of G; it is deducted from T as a ‘negative tax’. So T does not represent total taxation; it is actually tax reciepts less transfer payments.
The government purchases goods and services from the private sector (firms and households) to produce government services such as defense, law and order, health and education. The government typically distributes these services to citizens at zero or minimal charge, and finances them through tax reciepts. If taxes are insufficient to pay for government services, then the government must borrow money from households and firms.
The expanded model of income determination takes the following as exogenous: G, T, I. Note that taking T as exogenous means that it is a poll tax or otherwise unrelated to income. Also note that Y cannot increase beyond Q but this is not shown by the model. The model is defined as:
Solving for Y produces:
From this can be derived the change in Y that will result from a change in any of the exogenous variables representing government expenditure, taxes less transfers, and investment:
The next step is to build a model where investment (I) is not entirely exogenous. Suppose some part of I is a function of income. (Note that we actually think investment should depend on some combination of the rate of interest or on the rate of change of income.) The model then becomes:
And the solution becomes:
Next, we can consider the effects of an income tax. The previous model took T as exogenous, unrelated to income, for example a poll or head tax. However, modern economies generally feature an income tax:
The solution for this model, for which I is again considered exogenous, is:
The difference here is that the income tax reduces the value of the multiplier, where the poll tax did not. This is because the poll tax is a simple subtraction (YD=Y-T), but the income tax takes a cut from each round of the multiplier effect.
Suppose that unemployment exists and the government wishes to reach full employment. To do so through fiscal policy, it can decrease taxes or increase government expenditure. If it increases government expenditure, it has simply increased demand by the amount of the increased expenditure. The full multiplier effect applies. However, if it reduces taxes, the tax reduction by itself does not produce any additional demand. The tax cut winds up in the hands of consumers, who will spend a portion of it determined by the marginal propensity to consume (b). This is why DY/DT is different from DY/DG. The consequence of this is that if the government’s budget is balanced, and G and T must increase in lock-step, the multiplier for additional government spending is 1 – the negative multiplier effect from the increase in taxes exactly cancels out the multiplier effect from the additional expenditure, so the change in Y is equal to the change in G.
Although there is some call for a deliberate fiscal policy which manipulates expenditure and taxation in an attempt to influence aggregate demand, the income tax system provides a degree of automatic stabilization. An increase in employment and incomes will tend to increase taxation relative to government expenditure, acting as a brake on the economy. Conversely, a decrease in employment and incomes will tend to reduce taxation relative to expenditure, thus tending to stimulate economic activity. These effects will come into play without any explicit action by government authorities, and may be important in reducing fluctuations in economic activity.
An in-built stabilizer can be defined as any policy which automatically reduces government expenditure and/or increases taxation when income and output are increasing, and increases government expenditure and/or reduces taxation when income and output are falling. The most important in-built stabilizers are taxes, transfers and price supports. Almost all taxes vary with income; not only direct income taxes, but also sales taxes, excise taxes, taxes on profits, value-added taxes, etc. The effect is most marked with income taxes, especially if the tax is highly progressive (higher-income households are taxed at a higher average rate than lower-income households). Transfers are also in-built stabilizers when the payments tend to vary inversely with income and output. For example, unemployment insurance pays more when income is lower and vice-versa.
Price supports are systems for maintaining prices in the face of adverse market pressures, for example so that farmers can maintain a livable income even if downward price pressure exists. Price supports are similar to welfare programs in that they pay out more when income would have been lower.
The properties of stabilization built into government programs are not always desirable. If the economy is running near full employment with reasonably low inflation, fluctuations are generally bad and stabilizers are helpful. However, if the economy is running with substantial unemployment or inflation, in-built stabilizers will tend to resist the desired change. Some economists believe that there are strong forces at work which tend to return an economy to full employment. Because of this, they believe that any discretionary fiscal policy is damaging, and advocate a non-discretionary fiscal policy which relies solely on in-built stabilizers to return the economy to full employment. They propose that the aim of fiscal policy should be to achieve a balanced budget at Q (defined as the highest level of income consistent with price stability). Given a full employment budget balance and the appropriate use of in-built stabilizers, any economic upturn or downturn will automatically trigger a surplus or defecit that will tend to return the economy to its full employment level.
Economists who support a non-discretionary fiscal policy are called monetarists, and also support a non-discretionary monetary policy. The monetarists’ view is that discretionary policies will tend to increase the amplitude of market fluctuations. The opposing view is held by Keynesians, who believe that discretionary fiscal and monetary policy will have a stabilizing influence. Both monetarists and Keynesians would agree that there are times when in-built stabilizers are undesirable. If an economy has high employment or high inflation then the effect of ‘fiscal drag’ may produce unplanned and undesirable results. In a situation of heavy unemployment, if aggregate demand increases, in-built stabilizers will tend to reduce the magnitude of the increase. Another undesired effect can occur when unindexed taxes are combined with high inflation. If tax thresholds are set in money terms, then under high inflation they quickly drop in real terms. This can result in a rapid, unplanned transfer of income from households to the government.
The International Sector
The final improvement necessary for the model to reflect the important features of a modern market economy is to include international trade by introducing the terms X (exports) and Z (imports), as shown here:
Imported goods and services, which may be purchased by our domestic households, firms and government, are produced by foreign resources and contribute to foreign aggregate demand. Exports, on the other hand, are purchased by foreign entities and represent an addition to domestic aggregate demand. Imports are analogous to household savings and taxation in that they represent a withdrawal from the circular flow of income, while exports are analogous to government expenditure and business investment in that they represent an injection to the circular flow of income. Equilibrium national income (GNP=GNI) is achieved when S+T+Z=I+G+X. As with balancing the government budget by comparing G and T, it may also be necessary to pay special attention to the balance between X and Z. When imports are higher than exports, foreign currency reserves will be falling, which cannot last indefinitely. When exports are higher, currency reserves will increase and eventually continued accumulation of reserves will serve no useful purpose.
The final relationships between changes in each variable and consequent changes in national income are:
· A given change in S, T or Z causes national income to change in the opposite direction with magnitude of the original change times the multiplier minus one. This is because there is no initial change in demand caused by the change in S, T or Z itself.
· A given change in I, G or X will cause national income to change in the same direction, with magnitude of the original change times the multiplier.
To build a model, we will make the same assumptions as above, and additionally we will assume that X is exogenous (it is determined by the level of demand in foreign nations), and that Z changes linearly with Y by a factor i, the marginal propensity to import. The following is a definition of the new model:
The solution to this model is:
International trade causes the national income of any nation to be linked through imports and exports to the national incoe of other countries. The major factor influencing imports is likely to be the level and rate of growth of real incomes in other trading nations. Exports, on the other hand, are likely to be most influenced by domestic incomes. Changes to the national income of one nation are therefore likely to have an effect on national incomes in other nations. The magnitude of these resulting changes will depend on the level of national income in the economy considered and the proportion of national income which enters international trade.
In the post-WWII period, the degree to which the world’s economies are interlocked is reflected in the ‘convoy theory’ which states that sustained growth in any one economy is only possible if all the major economies of the world act in a concerted fashion. If all economies experience similar amounts of growth, then there are no unfavorable balance of trade problems. However, if one economy attempts to stimulate growth faster than that of the world as a whole, then its balance of trade will become problematic since exports will only increase at the ‘world’ growth rate, but more imports will be ‘sucked in’ by the faster domestic growth rate.
So far, we have assumed that all savings are conducted by households and all investments are conducted by firms. The requirement that households conduct all savings requires that firms immediately distribute all profits to the households that own the firms. However, this does not always happen in the real world. Businesses may retain some earnings for a variety of purposes: Depreciation, reserves, etc. These retained earnings affect the circular flow of income in the same way that household savings do.
As seen here, GNE=C+I+G+(X-Z) and GNI=YD+BRE+T. Under equilibrium, GNE=GNI. I is shown twice, because when firms invest, they get money from the capital market and then spend it on goods and services from other firms. The “Firms” oval represents all firms taken together, not any individual firm.
Potential income in the short run is determined by the production possibilities frontier, which is in turn determined by the available supply of factors of production and technical knowledge. Actual national income is determined by the level of aggregate demand and can diverge from potential income. In the real world potential output tends to grow steadily and predictably over time at a rate of 2% to 4%. Actual output fluctuates wildly by comparison . Actual output can be less than, equal to, or greater than potential output. When actual output is too low, unemployment results. When it is too high, inflation results.
The level of national income achieved depends on aggregate demand, which is made up of all those expenditures which make a claim on the output of the domestic economy and therefore create employment and income for domestic factors of production. Specifically, these expenditures are household consumption, business investment, government ependiture, and exports less imports (C+I+G+X-Z). Imports must be deducted because they form a part of the C, I and G expenditures, but do not create a claim on the output of the domestic economy. Increases in aggregate demand can produce increases in output only as long as there are unemployed factors of production. If aggregate demand is just sufficient to maintain capacity output, then full employment and capacity income would be realized. The model developed above suggests that this is the equilibrium value for national output. However, it is possible for equilibrium output (YE) to diverge from capacity output (YF). If YE < YF then a deflationary gap exists; if YE > YF then an inflationary gap exists. YE is always at the point where expenditures equal output, but there is no reason why this has to occur precisely at YF.
When an inflationary gap exists, the equilibrium point of national output is higher than the capacity national output. National output consists of a flow of final goods and services, represented by q1..qN. To calculate the total value of national output, each type of good must be assigned a price p1..pN. National output is therefore:
Over time, the value of Y can change for two reasons. First, the actual output flow of goods and services can change, represented by a change in the values of some qi for the goods being produced at a different rate. Second, the prices of goods and services can change, represented by a change in some values of pi. In the first case, ‘real’ national income has changed because the flow of goods and services is more or less than it was. In the second case, ‘real’ national income is identical but ‘money’ national income has changed, reflecting a change in the value of money itself relative to ‘real’ goods.
When an inflationary gap exists, YE is higher than YF. All points higher than YF represent changes to Y that result from price changes rather than quantity changes. Thus, so long as YE remains higher than YF, prices must continue to increase because this is the only way to increase Y given that increased quantities cannot produce values beyond YE.
In order to measure national income, there must be a common measure of value to apply to a wide range of goods and services. This common measure is provided by money. The problem with money as a measuring rod, as seen here, is that its value (real purchasing power) can change over time. At a given point in time, a measure of national income can be taken by the summation shown above. But it is also desirable to be able to measure real national income in a way that does not change over time, because actual living standards change with real income, not money income. In order to measure real national income, the set of price weights applicable in one selected period must be applied to the quantities produced in each period under consideration. National income would then be measured in terms of constant base year prices, and any change would reflect a change in real income. In practice, it would be quite difficult to determine, let alone apply, the complete set of price weightings for all goods and services produced in an economy. As an approximation, an index number is calculated which reflects the amount of change in the overall value of money in each year. Current money income can then be adjusted by the index to produce approximate real income. However, price changes are rarely uniform. As the general price level rises or falls, most prices will vary in the same direction, but some prices will vary in the opposite direction. A price index attempts to measure the typical, average ‘basket of goods and services’ representative of living standards or some other desirable factor. Different index numbers are available for different sectors within the economy. The price index used to obtain real GNP is known as the GNP deflator. Other price indexes measure changs in the prices of retail goods, wholesale goods, capital goods, etc. The purpose of all these indexes is to identify the changes in the value of money which have occurred in the area under investigation, and therefore make it possible to compare levels of real income or output from different time periods.
Since equilibrium income can diverge from full employment income (at least in the short run), there is nothing necessarily desirable or undesirable about the level of national income produced by the system. The question then arises: Is the system self-regulating in that departures from full employment income will be temporary, with a long-term tendency for the system to return to full employment; or is the system capable of long-term divergence from the full employment level of national output?
The model developed so far has no provision for a long term tendency towards an equilibrium where YE=YF. On the conrary, it suggests that planned injections into the circular flow of income are only brought into equality with planned withdrawals through changes to the level of national income/output, so that any level of national output is possible as an equilibrium value. The essence of Keynesian economics is for the government to take action to ensure that actual national output falls as closely as possible to full employment output. This is achieved by allowing the government to ‘interfere’ with the circular flow of income through the application of intentional injections and withdrawals through government expenditure and taxation. This is known as a ‘functional’ fiscal policy, meaning that there is no single automatic rule which must be followed; instead, fiscal policy should be discretionary and should be delibarately altered to suit the prevailing economic conditions, with the goal of producing an equilibrium where YE=YF.
Not all economists agree with this view. Neo-classical economists of the 1870s, and in more sophisticated form modern monetarists, believe that, given flexible prices, flexible interest rates and a flexible money suply, there will be a tendency for planned savings and planned investment to be brought into equilibrium at or near full employment. Departures from full employment certainly occur, often due to political or monetary disorders, but it is believed that these will be temporary and so long as price flexibility existed, there will always be a tendency to revert towards a situation where full employment without inflation would prevail. Given this view, the government should pursue a balanced budget, thus ‘biasing’ the circular flow as little as possible.
The extreme, or naïve, representation of these arguments is as follows:
· Keynesian: The components of aggregate demand are independent from each other so that, for example, an increase in G does not have any adverse effect on C, I or X. Therefore creating a budget defecit or surplus will create additional or reduced expenditure in the full amount of the original change. Changes in the government budget balance therefore reflect a substantial injection into or withdrawal from the circular flow of income, and can be used to influence overall national output.
· Monetarist: The components of aggregate demand are interdependent, so that changes in the budget balance are offset by equivalent changes, of opposite sign, in other components of aggregate demand. In the presence of unemployment, raising G relative to T will not raise aggregate demand and will therefore have no effect on national output, because the increase in government expenditure is at the expense of private expenditure. This is known as the ‘crowding-out’ effect.
The naïve Keynesian view is that the crowding-out effect is zero, while the naïve monetarist view is that it is one. In between there are intermediate values to be considered. At full employment, the crowding-out effect must be unity because any increase in expenditure in one area is at the expense of decreased expenditure in another. When substantial, sustained unemployment exists (as at the time Keynes was writing), a value near zero is probably reasonable. As employment increases, the importance of the crowding-out effect is likely to increase.
If a discretionary fiscal policy is pursued, as shown earlier, an increase in government expenditure provides a larger increase in aggregate demand than does a tax cut of equal magnitude. The ‘first round’ increase in demand from an increase in expenditure is subject only to the government’s marginal propensity to import, but the ‘first round’ increase in demand resulting from a tax cut is subject to both consumers’ marginal propensity to import and their marginal propensity to save. Since changes to expenditures and taxes have differing effect on aggregate demand, a balanced budget does not necessarily imply a neutral effect on the circular flow of money, and in fact it would be possible (though perhaps difficult in practice) for a government to pursue a discretionary fiscal policy while at the same time maintaining a balanced budget.
The models so far have not included the concept of money. This is unsatisfactory because money clearly plays a part in economics. A complete macroeconomics theory must be capable of explaining the historical behavior of the price level. In addition, money may have an importance beyond the simple measure of prices, because monetary factors may influence “real” values such as output, income and employment.
Money is anything which is generally acceptable for the settlement of debts. Money does not have to be created by a central authority. In prison, cigarettes can become money simply because they are an acceptable medium of exchange. In many economies the most important source of money is commercial bank deposits. Bank deposits are money because they are generally acceptable for the settlement of debts, rather than through any legal or ‘official’ authority. ‘Legal tender’ is money which has been legally protected such that the refusal to accept it for the settlement of a debt is illegal. Even though bank deposits are not legal tender, many people find a check drawn on a bank deposit account acceptable as a form of money.
There are three forms of money:
· Bank deposits
Money has three functions:
· A medium of exchange: Without money, goods and services could only be traded through bartering, which is wasteful and difficult, particularly in a highly specialized modern economy. Money is used as a universally acceptable barter substitute. To be useful for this purpose, money must posess the following characteristics:
- it must be widely acceptable;
- it must have a high value to weight ratio;
- it must be divisible to settle debts of differing values;
- it must be difficult to reproduce, counterfeit or debase in value.
· A unit of account or measure of value: Money provides a standard by which the value of any good or service can be measured. If a car costs $25,000 and a hamburger costs $2, then a car is worth, and can be exchanged for, 12,500 hamburgers.
· A store of wealth: A household (or firm) can sell its factor services or goods for money, and then keep the money until it has decided what to do with it. Almost every household and firm holds some amount of money. To act as a satisfactory store of wealth, the value of money must be reasonably stable over time.
Originally, money existed in the form of coins made of precious metals. Banknotes represented a promise to provide precious metals on request. After a transaction involving banknotes, there would eventually be a reconciliation where precious metals changed hands. This is called ‘cloakroom banking.’ Over time, the banknotes themselves took on acceptability as a form of money in their own right. The recipient of a banknote would simply exchange it for other goods, never requiring conversion to the actual precious metals underlying its value. As a result, banks found they could issue banknotes in excess of their holdings of precious metals and still maintain convertibility. Thus, the banks became manufacturers of money, practicing ‘fractional-reserve banking.’
Any fractional reserve banking system depends on its ability to maintain confidence and convertibility. The power of banks to issue banknotes in excess of their deposits was sometimes abused, and when confidence weakened, this could result in an inability to maintain convertibility—and the collapse of the bank. To avoid this outcome, banks became regulated by the government. Eventually the right to create banknotes was vested in a state-controlled central bank, and the commercial banks turned to deposit banking. The commercial banks are still able to create money, not by issuing banknotes, but by creating deposit accounts in excess of their cash reserves. The banks have to be able to convert deposit accounts to cash on demand, but by long experience have found that if cash reserves meet or exceed some ratio of total deposits, this is sufficient to maintain convertibility under all normal situations. This is not a foolproof system; banks can still go broke. But since banks can create deposit balances larger than the cash balance they hold, they are still manufacturers of money.
Generally speaking, the greater the liquidity of an asset, the less profitable it is. Banks therefore do not want to keep their assets in liquid forms such as cash. However, in order to satisfy their customers’ demands for cash, at least some of the bank’s assets must be in cash or short-term liquid forms. The bank will have to choose a cash ratio that is believed to be sufficient to meet demands for cash, and act to maintain cash reserves at the level this ratio indicates.
As an example, consider a monopoly commercial bank, with a desired cash ratio of 10%. For simplicity, assume that members of the public wish to hold a constant amount of cash, and will immediately deposit all cash they receive above this amount; in other words, the public’s marginal propensity to hold cash is zero.
On the first day, the bank opens its doors and a member of the public deposits $100. The bank’s balance sheet will read:
The bank’s cash ratio is now 100%, which is well above its desired ratio of 10%. The bank will therefore act to bring the cash ratio back to its desired level. In order to do so, it must create deposits actively. It can do this in two ways: Making loans to customers, and purchasing securities. When the bank makes a loan, it issues a check drawn on itself (but no cash) in exchange for a promise to pay back the loan amount plus interest. Similarly, when the bank purchases securities it pays for them with a check drawn on itself and expects to receive dividends or coupon payments as a result. Because the bank is a monopoly and the public’s marginal propensity to hold cash is zero, the deposit creation process cannot reduce the bank’s cash reserves; there is no leakage of cash back to the public because any cash that gets out to the public is immediately returned to the bank. In addition, if the bank issues a check drawn on itself as payment for loans or securities, this check will immediately be returned to the bank to credit the account of the household or firm to whom the loan was made or from whom the securities were purchased. If we assume that on day two the bank returns to its desired cash ratio by purchasing $600 in bonds and issuing $300 in loans, the new balance sheet will be:
This is an equilibrium position because the cash ratio is 10% as desired by the bank. The change in deposits required for any given change in cash holdings is given by: DD=dDC, where d is the credit multiplier, which is simply the reciprocal of the cash ratio. In this case, if the cash ratio is 10%, the credit multiplier is 10. Whatever change occurs to the bank’s cash holdings must be multiplied by 10 to determine the change that will occur in the bank’s total deposits.
The initial assumptions of a monopoly bank and zero cash leakage are somewhat unrealistic. The monopoly assumption is not really necessary: If many banks exist, the process of deposit creation becomes more complicated, but the result is the same. From the individual bank’s perspective, any deposit creation must reduce its cash reserves. When a bank issues loans and purchases securities through checks drawn on itself, some of these checks will be deposited at other banks. This will result in a cash drain to the bank creating the deposits. As cash reserves decrease and deposits increase, the bank will reach an equilibrium position where the cash ratio equals the desired value, but it will do so more quickly and with less total deposits on the books than the monopoly bank. However, even though there is a leakage of cash from the individual bank, the total amount of cash held by the banking system as a whole has not changed. Other banks’ cash reserves have increased by the same amount by which the first bank’s reserves have decreased. These other banks, if they were in equilibrium to begin with and if they desire the same cash ratio as the first bank, will now desire to issue loans and buy securities to restore their own cash ratios. For the banking system as a whole, the change in deposits will still equal the change in cash reserves times the credit multiplier.
Removing the assumption of zero marginal propensity to hold cash, however, does change the situation somewhat. If this is greater than zero, then any increase in deposits will result in some additional cash staying with the public, resulting in a ‘leakage’ from bank cash reserves. In this event, the banks will not be able to increase deposits by the full credit multiplier; the amount by which deposits will increase for any given increase in cash reserves will be d(1-MPHC). The ability of banks to create deposits is therefore limited by two factors: The public’s propensity to hold cash, and the banks’ propensity to keep cash for liquidity purposes as represented by the desired cash ratio.
All modern economies have a central bank, responsible for controlling the commercial banks in such a way as to support the monetary policy of the economy. The central bank conducts its business by acting as a banker’s bank, or lender of last resort, and also as the government’s bank and the manager of public debt. The central bank attempts to influence the level of economic activity through regulating the supply of money and the availability and cost of credit. In most countries, the central bank has many instruments of control, including a monopoly over the creation of bank notes, the ability to dictate the minimum cash ratio which must be observed by the commercial banks, regulatory authority over consumer credit, and ultimately the ability to issue direct instructions to the commercial banks and other financial institutions.
The most important instrument of control available to the central bank is the buying and selling of government bonds in the open market. If the central bank buys bonds, it pays for them with a check drawn on itself and payable to the seller, say a private citizen. The seller will then deposit the check with the commercial bank where they hold an account, which will then present the check for payment by the central bank. This payment will increase the cash reserves of the commercial bank, which will then increase its deposits by a credit multiplier factor to bring its cash ratio back to the desired level. On the other hand, if the central bank sells bonds, it expects payment in the form of a check drawn on a commercial bank. It will present this check for payment, resulting in a transfer from the commercial bank back to the central bank, reducing the cash reserves of the commercial bank and therefore requiring a multiplied reduction in deposits to restore liquidity.
These open market operations also affect the cost of borrowing. If the central bank acts to expand the money supply by buying bonds, commercial banks will desire to make more loans. Since the supply of loans is now greater, and assuming the demand curve has not changed, the ‘price’ of loans—the interest rate—will decrease. Conversely, if the central bank restricts the money supply by selling bonds, commercial banks will cut down on the number of loans they want to make, thus raising interest rates. Monetary policy can therefore affect aggregate demand and therefore the level of output, income and expenditure. When interest rates fall (rise), investment expenditure increases (decreases) and therefore aggregate demand increases (decreases) by some multiplier. The process is as follows:
1. The government desires to conduct an expansionary (restrictive) monetary policy, so the central bank buys (sells) government bonds on the open market—or perhaps simply changes the cash ratio required of commercial banks.
2. The increase (decrease) in cash reserves of the commercial banks will have a magnified effect on deposits, through the credit multiplier. Thus the money supply will increase (decrease) by a multiple of the change in cash reserves.
3. The increase (decrease) in the money supply will reduce (raise) the cost of borrowing. Interest rates will fall (rise) as a result.
4. The change in interest rates will cause a movement along firms’ marginal efficiency of investment schedules. This movement will lower (raise) the standard to which business investments are compared. Firms will therefore take on more (less) investments.
5. Through the multiplier process, the increase (decrease) in investment expenditure will lead to a magnified increase (decrease) in national income, output and expenditure.
Theories of Money
The quantity theory of money postulates a direct and immediate link between the money supply and aggregate demand, by assuming that households and firms only hold money for the purpose of financing their transactions. An increase in the money supply will result in a situation where households and businesses have more money than they wish to hold in transactions balances and they will spend the excess, thus resulting in an increase in aggregade demand. Restriction of the money supply will result in a situation where households and businesses have less money than they wish to hold, so they will reduce expenditures in order to increase their money balance, thus reducing aggregate demand.
The Keynesian theory, on the other hand, suggests that the changes in the demand for and supply of money are reflected immediately only in the market for securities. Keynesian theory holds that if households and businesses have excess money they will invest it in securities, and if they have too little money they will sell some of their held securities. Changes in money supply will not be reflected immediately in aggregate demand, although the effect on the securities market will have an indirect effect on aggregate demand through the interest rate.
In some circumstances, monetary policy may be unable to raise aggregate demand, even indirectly. If, in business managers’ opinions, investment opportunities are poor, perhaps because the level of economic activity is low and general business expectations are pessimistic, then an expansionary monetary policy may be ineffective. Commercial banks may have difficulty persuading businesses to take on new loans, and businesses managers may decide not to invest in new ventures even though their expected return is higher than the prevailing interest rate. In these circumstances, the demand to hold money may be strong, so expansion of the money supply winds up largely in idle money balances, rather than being spent on the purchase of bonds. Since the securities market is unaffected, the interest rate will not change; so even the indirect effect on aggregate demand is neutralized.
The Quantity Theory of Money
The naïve form of the quantity theory proposes a direct relationship between changes in the money supply and changes in the general price level. This can be stated as MV=PT where M is the quantity of money in circulation (the money supply), V is the velocity of circulation—the average number of times each unit of money is spent per period, P is the general level of prices, and T is the total number of transactions in the period. MV is referred to as the monetary side of the equation and PT is referred to as the commodity side. On the monetary side, the amount of money in circulation times the number of circulations per period must equal the total value of all transactions in the period. On the commodity side, the average price of all goods times the number of transactions per period must also equal the total value of all transactions in the period. The two sides are thus by definition equal.
Naïve quantity theory supposes that the velocity of circulation is comparatively stable over time, depending on habit, institutional arrangements, the manner in which wages are paid, etc. and could therefore be regarded as constant in the short run. The number of transactions would very directly with the level of real income: T=Y. No multiplier constant is needed because the units of price level are unspecified. So, MV=PY. Furthermore, naïve monetarists believe that market forces will always force Y equal to the full employment level, by which view Y can also be considered constant in the short term. So, with constant V and constant Y, M=P. Thus the conclusion of the naïve quantity theory is that changes in the money supply affect only the price level and nothing else. As a result, monetary policy cannot have any effect on real output or income.
The naïve quantity theory can be modified to yield the ‘modern’ quantity theory, which suggests that changes in the supply of money can affect real income and output, with the magnitude of the effect varying inversely with how close the economy is to full employment. If substantial unemployment exists, Y is well below Q. Under these circumstances, if the supply of money increases then households and businesses will spend the excess above the amount they wish to hold for transactions purposes. The additional demand created would lead to an increase in income and output (Y) and therefore employment. As the economy approaches full employment, however, further increases in the money supply will begin to affect the price level more than the level of income. Finally, when full employment is reached, increasing the money supply can only affect the price level since employment can no longer increase. The modern quantity theory therefore attempts to show that so long as unemployment exists, changes in the money supply will have a direct effect on aggregate demand, with the magnitude of the effect depending on the size of the gap between current employment and full employment.
The Keynesian Theory of Money
Where the quantity theory treats money exclusively as a medium of exchange, they Keynesian theory stresses that money serves other functions as well. There are three types of demand for money balances:
· The transactions demand, which arises from the fact that people need money to finance current transactions. Households and firms hold money balances to bridge the gap between the reciept of income and its expenditure. The amount of money held for such purposes will be closely related to the level of national income. However, it is also likely to be influenced by the rate of interest. If the rate of interest is high, there will be a strong motive to avoid holding money and instead hold interest bearing assets.
· The precautionary demand, which consists of money to be held to meet the sudden arrival of unforseen circumstances. Again, the main factor likely to influence this amount is the level of income, though again high interest rates will tend to push money out of this category.
· The speculative demand, which emphasizes the use of money as a store of wealth rather than a medium of exchange. Holding money has an opportunity cost: The income or utility foregone on the investments or goods the money could have bought. Therefore it would seem that households and firms ought immediately to invest or spend all money above that required for transactional and precautionary needs. However, in the presence of uncertainty, individuals or firms will sometimes believe that the returns available in the future might be sufficiently better than the returns available today that it is worth waiting.
The speculative demand bears further analysis. While there will be speculation on all goods and services whose price can change with time, the speculative demand is particularly interesting in the market for government bonds. If households and firms believe the price of bonds will fall in the near future, they will be likely to sell their current holdings of bonds and to defer purchasing new bonds until the price drop has taken place. These actions increase the supply and reduce the demand for bonds on the open market, which will have the effect of lowering their price. Under this situation, the speculative demand for money will be high as households and firms will wish to hold money in anticipation of the price drop. Conversely, if households and firms expect bond prices to rise, then they will defer selling bonds now and, if they have money available, will tend to want to buy bonds. This will decrease the supply and increase the demand for bonds, driving prices up; and the speculative demand for money will be low, because speculative monies will tend to be invested in bonds.
The price of government bonds and the interest rate are inversely and tightly related. Suppose that an individual is considering the purchase of a government bond which pays $10 per annum. The bond will not be worth buying unless it returns at least the current rate of interest. If the current rate of interest is 10%, then the bond is worth buying only if it costs $100 or less. If the current rate of interest is 15%, then the bond is only worth buying at $66.67 because this is the amount over which $10/year represents a 15% return. In a competitive market, sellers will not be willing to sell at less than the ‘going rate’ so bond prices will be very closely pegged to the price at which they provide a return equal to the currently prevailing rate of interest. (Or: The interest rate is the return on government bonds; the more you have to pay for them, the less return you’re getting.)
We have established that the speculative demand for money varies based on the expected changes in bond prices. If bond prices are expected to fall, the demand will be high, and vice versa. Since bond prices vary inversely with the interest rate, if the interest rate is expected to rise, the speculative demand for money will be high, and vice versa. It is reasonable to suppose that when the interest rate is quite low, most people will expect it to rise; and when it is quite high, most people will expect it to fall. Therefore, the speculative demand for money varies inversely with the currently prevailing interest rate. If the interest rate is low, then the expectation will be that it will rise, which means that bond prices will fall, which means people would rather hold onto their money so they can buy the cheap bonds later, so the speculative demand for money will be high; and vice versa through the whole process.
Considering all three types of demand for money, it follows that the overall demand for money balances will vary directly with the level of income and inversely with the rate of interest. Higher (lower) Y means more (less) money held in transactional and precautionary balances. Higher (lower) interest rates mean more (less) incentive to reduce money balances so as to take advantage of investment returns, and also more (less) incentive to purchase government bonds with money otherwise held in speculative balances. For a given Y, the relationship between the demand for money and the rate of interest is called the ‘liquidity preference schedule’ which looks like this:
The point on the demand curve that intersects with the (vertical) money supply curve will determine the equilibrium rate of interest. MT+P represents the amount of money held for transactional and precautionary purposes, which for our purposes is assumed to vary only with Y. Since Y is held constant here, MT+P is a vertical line: At all rates of interest, the same amount of money is held. The speculative demand for money is a function of the rate of interest, reflected in the sloped portion of the demand curve. However, once a sufficiently low interest rate is reached, the curve becomes horizontal. This reflects the observation that at very low interest rates, households and firms are simply not interested in buying any more bonds. For one thing, the interest rate is so low that everyone is convinced it should rise soon, so nobody will want to invest in current, low-yield bonds. Once this point has been reached, further increases in the money supply will simply find their way to idle balances and further reductions in the interest rate will not occur.
The Keynesian theory of money, unlike the quntity theory, suggests that changes in the money supply do not lead directly to changes in aggregate demand. Instead, monetary policy affects interest rates, thus indirectly influencing those components of aggregate demand which are sensitive to interest rates. Note that we can conclude from this that the graph above is inadequate to explain the final equilibrium interest rate. The graph above is for a fixed value of Y. But a change in interest rates (at least along the sloped portion of the curve) will result in a change in Y. So the initial equilibrium shown by the graph above cannot be the final value. This will be analyzed in detail later.
It is also highly noteworthy that Keynesian theory suggests that monetary policy will be ineffective in dealing with a deep recession. When the rate of interest is so low that the liquidity schedule is operating on the horizontal portion of the curve, the government can expand the money supply until it turns purple and no further reductions in interest rate—and therefore no further effect on aggregate demand—will be forthcoming. Keynes suggested that in a deep recession, with substantial spare capacity and pessimistic business expectations, extremely low interest rates would be necessary to stimulate investment, but these rates might be below the minimum to which monetary policy can force the rate. This is the famous ‘Keynesian liquidity trap.’
Integration of the Real and Monetary Sectors
It is now time to relax the simplifying assumptions and put it all together. There have been three different types of equilibrium discussed so far:
· Real Goods: Planned injections to the circular flow of money must equal planned withdrawals;
· Monetary Sector: The interest rate must fall at the point on the liquidity curve equal to the money supply;
· Microeconomic Markets: The demand and supply curves must be in equilibrium in both goods and factor markets.
The question is, is it possible to reach equilibrium in the real goods and monetary sectors of the economy and at the same time attain equilibrium in all factor markets so as to ensure stable prices? Historically, there have been periods where this appears to have been the case, even though these periods have been infrequent and short-lived.
Equilibrium Interest Rate
For a given level of income, the intersection of the money supply and the liquidity preference curve will determine the equilibrium interest rate. It follows that for any given level of income, a curve can be drawn showing the interest rate that will result from any given level of income. This is called the liquidity and money (LM) curve. This curve is valid for a constant money supply. If the government expands or restricts the money supply, the result will be a shift to the right or left of the LM curve.
For a given level of income, the amount of savings conducted by households is determined by the marginal propensity to consume, MPC. The marginal propensity to save is equal to 1-MPC: S=(1-MPC)Y is the same as S=Y*MPS. For equilibrium in the private, real goods sector, planned savings must equal planned investment. Therefore I=Y*MPS. Investment must also fall on the marginal efficiency of invesment (MEI) curve, which is given by the investment function I=f(R). A simple investment function would be I=kR, which gives the relationship Y*MPS=kR or Y=R(k/MPS). This function gives the investment-savings (IS) curve.
When the LM and IS curves are drawn together, the point at which they intersect represents the point of simultaneous equilibrium for output (and hence investment and savings) and interest rates (and hence money supply and demand), as shown here:
The IS schedule above only includes the private sector. Of course, our expanded model includes government expenditures. Instead of achieving equilibrium when I=S, we now achieve equilibrium when I=S-G. This simply shifts the IS curve up by an amount such that the change in interest rates reduces I by the value of G. If we add trade surplus or defecit, again the IS curve is simply shifted up or down by an appropriate amount.
IS/LM: The Keynesian Liquidity Trap
Suppose that the economy is in equilibrium in the state shown by IS1 and LM1. The economy is severely depressed and unemployment is rampant. The government wants to take action to restore the situation to an equilibrium value where full employment (or close to it) again prevails. However, it cannot do so through monetary policy alone. No matter how aggressively the government expands the money supply, it cannot cause interest rates to fall below the horizontal portion of the LM curve. Only by shifting the IS curve to IS2, for example by increasing government expenditure, can full employment be restored. Notice that if fiscal policy is aided by a simultaneous expansion of the money supply resulting in LM2, then the required increase in government expenditure and the resulting increase in interest rates are both lower.
Faced with the opposite problem, YE > YF (an inflationary gap), either fiscal or monetary policy can reduce YE to bring it back into equality with YF. If the gap is reduced using monetary policy alone, by restricting the money supply, then YF will be achieved but interest rates will be higher. If the gap is reduced using fiscal policy alone, then YF will also be achieved but this time interest rates will be lower. It would be possible through a carefully coordinated application of both fiscal and monetary policy to close the inflationary gap while leaving interest rates unchanged. Which of these three outcomes is desirable depends entirely on policy objectives outside the analytical range of economics. The relative effectiveness of fiscal and monetary policies will depend entirely on where the orginal equilibrium position lies and on the shapes of the LM and IS curves.
Income and Employment
If we know the equilibrium level of national income (Y) and potential income (Q), then we also know the unemployment rate. If Q=Y, then the unemployment rate is the full employment rate of unemployment; i.e. unemployment is confined to structural, frictional and seasonal unemplyment and no demand deficient unemployment exists. If Y<Q then demand deficient unemployment exists proportional to the size of the deflationary gap (Q-Y). If Y>Q then over-full employment and an inflationary gap exists. The question is, how is the price level (and hence the rate of inflation) determined?
Keynesians believe that monetary factors are critical in determining equilibrium income/output and equilibrium interest rates, but do not ascribe a central role to monetary factors in determining the price level. The Keynesian school postulates the Phillips Curve, which graphs the unemployment rate against the inflation rate:
The Phillips Curve provides the missing link in the Keynesian structure since it purports to show a fixed relationship between the unemployment rate and the interest rate, although there is a lag expected between changes in one value and changes in the other. Given Y and Q, the unemployment rate can be determined; given the unemployment rate, the inflation rate can be determined. The Phillips Curve presents policymakers with a difficult trade-off between inflation and unemployment. In the example shown, at the full employment rate of unemployment (say 1.5%), inflation is unacceptably high. If zero inflation is desired, unemployment will be unacceptably high. Policymakers must choose the most palatable combination of inflation and employment.
Monetarists, on the other hand, do not believe in the Phillips Curve. Monetarists believe that the supply and demand of money is of prime importance in determining the price level. Milton Friedman is a monetarist and a long-time opponent of the Keynesian school. We shall now investigate the two schools.
Causes and Effects of Inflation
In the post-WWII period all major economies have experienced inflation, although the rate of inflation has varied widely both between nations and between time periods for a given nation. The persistence of inflation and the tendency for the rate of inflation to rise for substantial periods has resulted in a situation where great weight is given to the prevention of inflation, even at the expense of allowing a high rate of unemployment. Inflation is undesirable for two main reasons:
· Inflation impairs the efficiency of the price mechanism and raises transaction costs because money becomes less reliable as a standard of value. In the presence of inflation it is difficult to know if a price increase on a given good represents an increase in the general price level, or an increase in the price of that good relative to other goods. In order to answer this question, it would be necessary to collect information on the current prices of many other goods. Similarly, the seller will have difficulty determining the relevant prices of factor inputs, substitute goods, etc.
· Unanticipated inflation redistributes income and resources in a largely capricious manner. Inflation penalizes those with incomes that are fixed in money terms, and favors those whose money income reacts quickly to changes in the price level. The former group includes most pensioners, students, and many salary earners, while the latter group includes most wage and profit earners. Where household incomes include transfer payments from the government, it is possible to index payments to keep pace with inflation, but the more successfully this is done, the greater the inflationary bias in the economy. Unanticipated inflation also favors borrowers and penalizes lenders, because if the loan amount and interest payments are fixed in money terms, inflation results in the lender receiving less real value than expected—if the inflation continues, lenders will respond by charging higher interest rates to compensate. Finally, if tax brackets are assigned based on nonindexed money values, inflation can shift the boundary real income between tax brackets, which can result in a major unplanned reallocation of income from households to the government. Indexing taxes will prevent this outcome, but again, the more successfully taxes are indexed, the greater the inflationary bias in the economy.
· A continued higher rate of domestic inflation than that which prevails in other nations will increase imports, reduce exports, and create problems for continued stable currency exchange rates.
In the presence of unanticipated inflation, the above effects are often capricious and unintended. Continued inflation will lead to an adjustment in behavior patterns which can mitigate the effects, but inflation can never be fully anticipated. Full anticipation would require not only full information on the aggregate rate of inflation, but also requires that every economic agent have information on all the relative price movements which affect their decisions.
Up to WWII most industrialized nations experienced periods of inflation cycling with periods of stable or falling prices. Occasional examples of high, sustained inflation can be found as a result of things like the Spanish gold discoveries of the fifteenth century and the German hyper-inflation of 1923, but these were isolated events with an easily identifiable cause. The sustained and near-continuous inflation experienced by all major economies subsequent to WWII has no historical precedent. The emergence of persistent, widespread inflation has led to a major re-examination of the theory of price determination. At the most basic level the proposed theories can be classified into ‘demand-pull’ and ‘cost-push’ models.
The demand-pull model, favored by Keynes, sees price increases as a consequence of excess demand for goods and services which exceed the capacity output of the economy. As real output cannot increase significantly beyond capacity output, excess demand ‘pulls up’ the prices of final goods and services. At the same time, as firms bid up the prices of factors of producion, money incomes rise. This approach has some problems. It cannot explain monetary factors which are clearly observed to be capable of causing inflation (eg, the Spanish gold discoveries), nor does it deal with the possibility that monetary factors could be used to combat inflation. It also regards wage and salary earners as passively reacting to changes in the price level by bargaining up their incomes. However, in the 1950s and 1960s, more centralized wage and salary bargaining became a feature of the major economies, and as a result a new school of thinking developed which elevated labor markets to a primary, causative role in the determination of the price level.
This new, ‘cost-push’ model sees price increases as a consequence of bargains struck in the factor (primarily labor) markets, which raise the production costs of employers, who then pass on higher costs in the form of higher prices. Most cost-push models incorporate the following elements:
- Prices and costs are ‘administered’ rather than responsive to the market forces of demand and supply. With the exception of a few truly competitive markets (agricultural commodities, for example), most markets for final products have some strong anti-competitive elements, meaning that one or a small number of producers have an influential role in setting prices.
- Similarly, labor markets are ‘administered’ in that wages and salaries are largely determined by bargains struck between employers and trade unions, rather than by market forces.
- Final product prices are also ‘administered’ on the basis that firms set prices on a cost-plus basis, with prices reflecting the full cost of production plus some mark-up for profit. As a result, if costs rise, firms will attempt to pass on the higher costs to consumers, in the form of higher prices—so the whole economy is essentially on a cost-plus basis.
- The purpose of trade unions is to bargain better pay for their members.
- Labor represents the single largest factor market, by a wide margin.
Under such a system, bargaining over money wages and salaries is considered the primary ‘motor’ of inflation. Trade unions continually attempt to bargain for better wages and salaries. Sometimes, they are successful. When this happens, the factor costs of labor (the largest cost of production) increase, so firms pass this increase on to consumers in the form of higher prices. The increase in prices will erode the real value of the money increase in wages, which may then lead to further demands for wage increases. ‘Cost-push’ inflation originates with higher wage costs which then push up prices. Cost-push inflation is likely to occur in economies where wages and salaries are not flexible downwards, a feature of most modern economies. It has long been recognized that workers, trade unions, etc., will particularly resist any cut in money wages. That being so, firms, faced with lower demand for their products, may be reluctant to lower prices, because the ‘stickiness’ of wages would mean that the price cuts would mainly be at the expense of profits. Instead, the firms will lower output and therefore employment.
Where deficient demand may not cause prices to fall, excess demand will be reflected in higher wages and prices. In other words, the reaction of wages and prices is asymmetrical. If this is so, then a change in the distribution of demand, even given the same aggregate demand, could cause prices to rise. Inflation does not occur as a result of excess aggregate demand, but rather as the result of excess demand in particular markets and the failure of prices to fall in particular demand-deficient markets. In addition, price increases in particular markets are likely to trigger ‘spill-over’ or ‘linkage’ effects in other markets. For exampe, if wage agreements are interlinked so that trade unions negotiate similar wage increases for everyone they represent, then ‘bidding up’ of wages in one sector will encourage workers in other sectors to demand raises as well.
Cost-push inflation can only occur in the presence of a permissive monetary policy which allows the continued expansion of the money supply. Higher wages which result in higher prices must raise the money value of output, unless offset by an accompanying reduction in output and employment. If the money supply is fixed, it would be necessary for the velocity of circulation of money to rise to generate the higher level of monetary demand consistent with the higher money value of output. To sustain a continuing inflation, the velocity of circulation of money would have to increase continuously. As the velocity of circulation is heavily influenced by institutional arrangements and existing habits, it is unlikely to be able to change quickly enough to sustain much inflation.
In short, if faced with an increase in money wages, the monetary authorities can either hold the money supply constant or allow it to increase but at a rate lower than the rate of increase of money wages, with the result of a fall in output and employment but stable prices, or they can allow the money supply to increase to allow a sufficient level of monetary demand to sustain the same output at higher prices.
There are two additional possible sources for cost-push inflation: Imports and expectations. Imported inflation occurs when trade or other factors cause the prices of imported goods to rise, particularly when demand for those goods is relatively price inelastic; not only do consumers pay mor directly for the imported goods, but because imported factor inputs are now more expensive, inflation will accelerate through the entire economy, as in the 1970s oil crisis. Expectations-based inflation is a relatively recent concept. Economic models generally treat expectations one of three ways:
· Expectations are static – people always expect the current situation to continue;
· Expectations are adaptive – people’s expectations change over time to adjust to the situation;
· Expectations are rational – people base their expectations on the same information as is available to policy makers.
The favorite example of rational expectations is the stock market. If you read in the newspaper that IBM is going to have a good year, there is no point rushing to buy the stock as a result, because everyone else has already read the newspaper article and market trading has already adjusted the price of IBM stock to account for the news. Nor is there any point taking advice from your stockbroker, as anything the stockbroker knows is already accounted for by the market prices of stocks. The only information which has not already been accounted for in the stock prices is insider information, but trading based on insider information is illegal. The theory incorporating rational expectations is called the Efficient Market Hypothesis. Expectations affect the inflation rate to the extent that firms and individuals do business in the expectation of future benefits or costs. If you agree to purchase goods for future delivery, you must agree on a price today. The price which you are willing to pay will depend on your expectations of the future value of the goods to be delivered, which depends on your expectations regarding inflation. If you have agreed to a deal at some specified price and date in the future, you have in effect established a part of what the price level will be on that future date.
The distinction between demand-pull and cost-push inflation is very important for regulatory purposes. If inflation is considered cost-push in origin, arising from institutional labor agreements, then the only way to change the rate of inflation is to change the institutional framework within which these agreements are made. If expectations are the cause of inflation, then in the long run those expectations must be changed if inflation is to be curbed. Both Keynesian and monetarist approacues suggest that inflation should be combated by reducing demand, but they disagree on how: Keynesians would reduce demand through fiscal policy (increase taxes / decrease government expenditure), monetarists through monetary policy (restrict the money supply). This having been said, it is in practice quite difficult to determine the cause of inflation.
Worker productivity (and hence potential output) increases with time. If produtivity is increasing by 2% per year, then a 2% money wage increase per year will be consistent with price stability. In other words, price stability results when D(Money Wages)+D(Worker Productivity)= D(Price Level). As a result, the Phillips Curve, which is normally shown as inflation vs. unemployment, can also be shown as change in money wages vs. unemployment.
One weakness of the Phillips Curve is that it is possible to interpret the empirical results as showing either a demand-pull or a cost-push explanation of inflation. As a demand-pull explanation: As unemployment decreases, excess demand for labor increases, and vice versa, in a stable and predictable fashion. The higher the excess demand for labor, the greater the rate of increase of money wages, and vice versa, again in a stable and predictable fashion. As a result, there is a stable and predictable inverse relationship between unemployment and the rate of change of money wages. As a cost-push explanation: At high levels of unemployment, trade unions and employee groups would be less likely to demand money wage increases because the reality of layoffs and unemployment would be more visible. As unemployment decreases, these same groups would become steadily more militant, and at the same time firms would be more willing to allow costs to rise and to pass on these additional costs in the form of prices, since at low unemployment (in a ‘hot’ economy) their sales are less likely to suffer as a result of the price increases.
While empirical evidence confirms the validity of the Phillips Curve in the short run, it is not at all clear if it is valid in the long run. It has been suggested that the trade-off between unemployment and the rate of change of money wages is a transitory phenomenon resulting from the failure of expectations to adjust immediately to price changes. Once expectations adjust to the new price level, according to this theory, the trade-off effect between inflation and unemployment disappears entirely. This analysis has gained credibility in recent years because of the evident breakdown in the historical relationship between the price level and the unemployment rate. The 1970s and early 1980s witnessed ‘stagflation’ – a sustained simultaneous increase in both the rate of inflation and the rate of unemployment. Advocates of the Phillips Curve argued that the curve had simply shifted upwards on an ongoing basis because of expectations and exogenous events.
Monetarists have a more fundamental objection to the Phillips Curve. They argue that labor is concerned with the rate of change of real wages, rather than money wages. If this is so, a tradeoff between unemployment and the rate of change of money wages will only exist when labor expectations are that the rate of inflation should be zero or close to it. As soon as labor expects to see a noteworthy rate of inflation, the short run relationship between unemployment and money wages will shift to the right, with the magnitude of the shift depending on how high the inflation rate is expected to be. In the long run, therefore, there is no tradeoff between unemployment and inflation. By this analysis, policy makers are not able to select combinations of unemployment and inflation rates; in fact, macroeconomic policy is unable to affect the long run rate of employment at all. In the long run, only the rate of inflation can be controlled and therefore the policy maker should choose a zero rate of inflation.
Milton Friedman, the leading monetarist, postulates a ‘natural rate of unemployment’ which is similar to the previously-considered full employment rate of unemployment. Friedman suggests that the actual rate of unemployment can only be reduced below the ‘natural’ rate in the short term by the creation of inflation beyond expectations, and it can only be held below the ‘natural’ rate by continuing to accelerate inflation so that there is always a ‘gap’ between expected inflation and actual inflation. To combat unemployment in the long run, the ‘natural’ rate must be reduced, and this has nothing to do with macroeconomic policy. The ‘natural’ rate of unemployment depends on factors such as the efficiency of information flow in the job market, the rate of structural change in the economy, the costs of undertaking additional worker training, etc.
Monetarists consider that the demand for money is a stable function of a number of variables such as the level of income, the expected rate of return on investments, and the rate of change in prices. This implies that the velocity of circulation of money (V) will be quite stable. Keynesians believe that changes in V may offset and frustrate monetary policy; for example, in a depression, increases in the money supply will find themselves largely falling into precautionary and speculative balances, so that V falls and no overall change is seen to the level of aggregate demand.
Monetarists consider that the demand for and supply of money are largely independent of each other; the supply of money is determined exogenously by the regulatory authorities. It follows that given a stable demand function for money, exogenous changes to the money supply will result in predictable changes to aggregate demand and therefore inflation rates. Modern Keynesians believe that the money supply may be determined, at least in part, endogenously; it may be responsive to economic variables. For example, if the level of money wages rises due to union bargaining, the commercial banks and/or central money authority may expand the money supply to ‘underwrite’ these changes—in effect the money supply has responded to a change in the price level.
Keynesians further suggest that the central monetary authority may be unable to control the money supply effectively. The commercial banks may be able to frustrate the desires of the regulatory authority by finding effective substitutes for money (such as credit card balances), or by finding more efficient ways to use money (income tax deducted at source, for example, reduces the demand for money and therefore increases the ability to use what money exists).
When it all comes down, monetarists maintain that changes in the money supply have been the chief cause of substantial fluctuations in national income/output, causing both major inflations and major recessions. The monetarist view is that monetary policy can have a major impact on the level of real income and employment in the economy. Therefore, the monetarists maintain, monetary policy should follow an automatic rule, allowing an annual change in money supply to match the long-run growth rate of the economy. As a result, whenever the economy is operating at less than its potential, the overly-large money supply will fuel additional output and income; conversely, whenever excess demand exists beyond potential output, the overly-restricted money supply will ‘put on the brakes’ and return the economy to Q. Government attempts to expand or contract the money supply during the business cycle will simply result in heightened oscillations.
The following observations are from empirical evidence and would be acceptable to nearly all economists:
1. There has never been any major inflation occurring without an accompanying substantial increase in the money supply.
2. There has never been a substantial increase in the money supply which has not been accompanied by a major inflation.
3. Given 1 and 2, a high rate of inflation cannot be sustained unless the money supply is expanded.
In examples of major inflation, such as Germany in 1923, America in the 1970s, or the sustained high rates of inflation currently observed in Latin American nations, the monetarist explanation fits empirical data better than Keynesian theory. However, in milder inflations, it can be argued that changes in the money supply are permissive but not causal.
In terms of the circular flow of income, if a large trade union is successful in negotiating a wage increase, then the firms in that industry will charge higher prices to compensate and money national output will rise. However, all output eventually accrues as income to resource owners. As a result, the total money income of all resource owners will rise. Given that all resource owners have some marginal propensity to hold money for precautionary and transactional purposes, a net increase to the total demand for money will occur. If the money supply is held constant by the regulatory authorities, then the amount of money available for speculative purposes will fall. In order to ensure that households and businesses are content to hold this reduced amount of speculative money, interest rates must rise. However, this will discourage investment, resulting in a fall of aggregate demand. In short, unless there is an increase in the money supply, then the process of passing on higher costs in the form of higher prices cannot be sustained indefinitely without a serious adverse effect on aggregate demand and consequent unemployment. While it is true that sustained inflation is impossible in the face of a sustained and determined attempt to restrain the money supply, this attempt will also generate undesirable consequences for the economy.
Keynesians and monetarists both accept that if the money supply does not increase, there will be higher unemployment. They disagree on the amount and duration of unemployment which would be necessary to contain inflation, and in their assessment of the long-term benfits as compared to the short-term costs of a restrictive monetary policy. Keynesians would argue that modern governments have a strong responsibility for ensuring full employment; a departure from full employment would involve heavy economic, social and political costs in the short term which must be weighed more heavily than possible long-term benefits. Monetarists, on the other hand, believe that such output and employment losses are temporary phenomena that the long-term benefit of price stability more than makes up for. Moreover, monetarists believe that any attempt to increase employment beyond its ‘natural’ rate will be self-defeating and simply result in more costly problems in the long run. In fact, monetarists would argue that price stability will reduce unemployment in the long run, since price stability improves the efficiency of markets, including the labor market.
National Macroeconomic Goals
In considering macroeconomic ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ consumption and investment expenditure are clearly in the ‘good’ column. Equally clearly, unemployment and inflation are in the ‘bad’ column. But other ‘goods’ and ‘bads’ exist which are less clear. Some amount of government expentiture is clearly good; government must at a minimum establish the rule of law, and deal with market failures such as public goods and externalities. However, a large spending defecit is generally considered a ‘bad.’ International trade is also generally a ‘good’ because it permits higher living standards than would be possible in a closed economy. However, it is not clear what the ideal balanace of trade would be. Would you prefer X>Z, a sign of strength like Japan or Germany, or Z>X, a higher use of foreign resources? Or would you prefer to maintain X=Z, resulting in a stable currency on foreign exchange markets?
Having identified all the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ goals, we must now weight them. Since many of the ‘goods’ and ‘bads’ are interrelated, this will probably involve trade-offs. A political party’s election platform is an attempt to specify the weightings and tradeoffs considered most desirable. Consider the following ‘welfare function’ where W is national welfare (similar to individual utility from microeconomics):
W = C0.6I0.2G0.2 –U2 –INF3 – 10|G-T|
This states that C, I and G are all ‘good’ but the optimum distribution between them is 60% C, 20% I and 20% G; that unemployment is a ‘bad’ but inflation is worse, and that an unbalanced budget is a ‘bad’ no matter which direction it is unbalanced. To maximize W, the naïve answer is to make GNP as large as possible, allocate GNP among C, I and G in 3/1/1 ratio, have a zero unemployment rate, a zero inflation rate and a balanced budget. This interpretation is naïve because a zero unemployment rate is not possible, and U and INF are interdependent; some difficult calculations must be performed to determine the optimal rate of both U and INF on a given Phillips curve (assuming you believe a Phillips curve exists). The trade-off is also not simply between U and INF. The higher U, the lower GNP, hence the lower C, I and G as well. And whatever actions you take may result in an unbalanced budget, with its own effect on the equation. Balancing the budget is, for all the obvious reasons, neither simple nor easy.
Also, strange interactions may exist that are not obvious at first. Suppose a balanced budget is a priority and the only apparent way to achieve this is to raise taxes. Some economists believe in the Laffer Curve:
Laffer’s argument is that if the income tax rate were 100%, nobody would be willing to work since all wages and salaries would go in taxes; government tax revenue would therefore be zero. As tax rates decreased, some people would begin to work and tax revenues would increase, to some maximum at some point; below that point, decreasing tax rates would begin to result in decreased revenues, again reaching zero when the tax rate is zero. Some tax rate X exists where maximum revenue is achieved. If the government is already taxing at this rate, any change, positive or negative will result in reduced revenues. Moreover, if the government is already taxing above this rate, an increase in tax rates will be accompanied by a decrease in revenues; the budget-balancing action in this case would be to reduce tax rates. Hence Reaganomics and ‘voodoo economics.’ If you believe in the Laffer curve, then any increase or decrease in the tax rate must be based on a good estimate of where the economy is currently positioned.
Another problem is that if you are trying to maximize the sum of national welfare across a span of years, then maximizing welfare this year might not be the correct approach; some less-than-maximal value for W this year might lead to the potential for higher values for W in future years than would otherwise have been possible.
Different political parties believe in different national welfare functions; the items in these functions are generally similar but the weightings are radically different. Evidence suggests that the state of an economy is a major factor in deciding which party gets elected, and as a result elected governments may enact policies to ‘solve’ economic problems in election years, regardless of what problems may be caused down the road.
The World Economy
Developing countries are in a tough spot because Q is barely large enough to feed the population. If any substantial investment is made in infrastructure, technological improvements, etc., consumption expenditure is likely to be reduced to the point that people starve to death. Developing countries also face acute labor shortages despite their large populations, because very few people are trained in any industrially useful skills. In addition, even if some level of investment is possible and the stock of capital goods expands, this expansion is often offset (or more than offset) by increase in population. Foreign investment in capital goods is the only meaningful solution presented in the textbook. The resulting debt problem is not mentioned.
Some people think the world is coming to an end for various reasons, some of them quite compelling. Other people don’t believe the world will actually end, mostly because the of the pessimists assumptions of ‘if present trends continue.’ The question is: Given the fact of technological improvement, is the limit to available resources finite or infinite? Will we eventually ‘run out’ of something important (clean air, energy), or will we always be able to dream up new ways to provide for our needs?
Ecologists are concerned with the damage that the industrialized economies are doing to the natural world. The main focus of concern is currently global warming. If global warming continues, waer levels will rise, wiping out low-lying cities and in some cases entire nations. The developed world might have the resources to build new cities, but the developing world would become even poorer. Of course, there is a great deal of controversy about why and even whether large-scale global warming is occurring, and predicting the outcome decades or centuries in the future is most likely futile. And stopping pollution costs money. Various other ecological disaster scenarios exist: The runaway viral plague, the meteor, etc.
Increasing globalization and increasing ease of transfer in currency markets means that massive amounts of money can shift between economies overnight or even hour-by-hour. What’s more, investors are generally subject to the same overall motivations. When massive blocs of investors start selling a particular currency for whatever reason, we have the modern currency crisis, as currently being experienced in Asia. Some economists now argue that the present system of currency trading has produced such large and unacceptable fluctuations that all nations should adopt ‘fixed’ exchange rates where each nation’s currency is pegged to that of a principal player like the dollar, yen, mark or pound (or perhaps Euro). This changes government ploicy in all nations: For the leaders, stability of exchange becomes a major macroeconomic goal, and for the followers, monetary policy becomes much more difficult to execute to control the domestic economy.
The European Union and the Euro currency are still under formation and the outcome is unknown. As with any other massive unknown outcome, you can predict all sorts of scary and disastrous results. Japan is also having some trouble. And watch out for China. The end.