Mixed economics

Command and market economies both have significant faults. Partly because of this, an intermediate system has developed, known as mixed economies.

A mixed economy means very much what it says as it contains elements of both market and planned economies. At one extreme we have a command economy, which does not allow individuals to make economic decisions, at the other extreme we have a free market, where individuals exercise considerable economic freedom of choice without any government restrictions. Between these two extremes lies a mixed economy. In mixed economies some resources are controlled by the government whilst others are used in response to the demands of consumers.

Technically, all the economies of the world arc mixed: it is just the balance elements between market and planned elements that alters. Some countries are nearer to command economies, while others are closer to free market economies. So, for example, Hong Kong has some state-controlled industry, while Cuba has some privately owned and controlled firms.

The aim of mixed economies is to avoid the disadvantages of both systems while enjoying the benefits that they both offer. So, in a mixed economy the government and the private sector interact in solving economic problems. The state controls the share of the output through taxation and transfer payments and intervenes to supply essential items such as health, education and defence, while private firms produce cars, furniture, electrical items and similar, less essential products.

The UK is a mixed economy: some services arc provided by the state (for example, health care and defence) whilst a range of privately owned businesses offer other goods and services. The Conservative government under Margaret Thatcher switched many businesses from being state-owned and controlled to being privately owned as part of its privatization programme. This has taken the UK economy further away from the planned system.

MARKETS

The Role of Market (Роль рынка)

Reports in the press tend to say "the market did this" or "the market expected good news on the economic front", as if the market were a single living entity with a single conscious mind. This is not, of course, the case. To understand reports of market behaviour you have to bear in mind the way the market works.

A market is simply a mechanism, which allows individuals or organizations to trade with each other. Markets bring together buyers and sellers of goods and services. In some cases, such as a local fruit stall, buyers and sellers meet physically. In other cases, such as the stock market, business can be transacted over the telephone, almost by remote control. There's no need to go into these details. Instead, we use a general definition of markets.

A market is a shorthand expression for the process by which households' decisions about consumption of alternative goods, firms' decisions about what and how to produce, and workers' decisions about how much and for whom to work are all reconciled by adjustment of prices.

Prices of goods and of resources, such as labour, machinery and land, adjust to ensure that scarce resources are used to produce those goods and services that society demands.

Much of economics is devoted to the study of how markets and prices enable society to solve the problems of what, how and for whom to produce. Suppose you buy a hamburger for your lunch. What does this have to do with markets and prices? You chose the cafe because it was fast, convenient and cheap. Given your desire to eat, and your limited resources, the low hamburger price told you that this was a good way to satisfy your appetite. You probably prefer steak but that is more expensive. The price of steak is high enough to ensure that society answers the "for whom" question about lunchtime steaks in favour of someone

else.

Now thinkabout the seller's viewpoint. The cafe owner is in business because, given the price of hamburger meat, the rent and the wages that must be paid, it is still possible to sell hamburgers at a profit. If rents were higher, it might be more profitable to sell hamburgers in a cheaper area or to switch to luxury lunches for rich executives on expense accounts. The student behind the counter is working there because it is a suitable part-time job, which pays a bit of money. If the wage were much lower it would hardly be worth working at all. Conversely, the job is unskilled and there are plenty of students looking for such work, so owners of cafes do not have to offer very high wages.

Prices are guiding your decision to buy a hamburger, the owner's decision to sell hamburgers, and the student's decision to take the job. Society is allocating resources – meat, buildings, and labour – into hamburger production through the price system. If nobody liked hamburgers, the owner could not sell enough at a price that covered the cost of running the cafe and society would devote no resources to hamburger production. People's desire to eat hamburgers guides resources into hamburger production. However, if cattle contracted a disease, thereby reducing the economy's ability to produce meat products, competition to purchase more scarce supplies of beef would bid up the price of beef, hamburger producers would be forced to raise prices, and consumers would buy more cheese sandwiches for lunch. Adjustments in prices would encourage society toreallocate resources to reflect the increased scarcity of cattle.

There were several markets involved in your purchase of a hamburger. You and the cafe owner were part of the market for lunches. The student behind the counter was part of the local labour market. The cafe owner was part of the local wholesale meat market and the local market for rented buildings. These descriptions of markets are not very precise. Were you part of the market for lunches, the market for prepared food or the market for sandwiches to which you would have turned if hamburgers had been more expensive? That is why we have adopted a very general definition of markets, which emphasizes that they are arrangements through, which prices influence the allocation of scarce resources.

POSITIVE AND NORMATIVE ECONOMICS

In studying economics it is important to distinguish two branches of the subject. The first is known as "positive economics", the second as "normative economics".

Positive economics deals with objective or scientific explanations of the working of the economy. The aim of positive economics is to explain how society makes decisions about consumption, production, and exchange of goods. The purpose of this investigation is twofold: to satisfy our curiosity about why the economy works as it does, and to have some basis for predicting how the economy will respond to changes in circumstances.

Normative economics is very different.Normative economics offers prescriptions or recommendations based on personal value judgements.

In positive economics, we hope to act as detached scientists. Whatever our political persuasion, whatever our view about what we would like to happen or what we would regard as "a good thing", in the first instance we have to be concerned with how the world actually works. At this stage, there is no scope for personal value judgements. We are concerned with propositions of the form: ifthis is changed thenthat will happen. In this regard, positive economics is similar to the natural sciences such as physics, geology or astronomy.

Here are some examples of positive economics in action. Economists of widely differing political persuasions would agree that, when the government imposes a tax on a good, the price of that good will rise. The normative question of whether this price rise is desirable is entirely distinct. Similarly, there would be substantial agreement that the following proposition of positive economics is correct: favourable weather conditions will increase wheat output, reduce the price of wheat, and increase the consumption of wheat. Many propositions in positive economics would command widespread agreement among professional economists.

Of course, as in any other science, there are unresolved questions where disagreement remains. These disagreements are at the frontiers of economics. Research in progress will resolve some of the issues but new issues will arise and provide scope for further research.

Although competent and comprehensive research can in principle resolve many of the outstanding issues in positive economics, no corresponding claim can be made about the resolution of disagreement in normative economics.

Normative economics is based on subjective value judgements, not on the search for any objective truth. The following statement combines positive and normative economics: "The elderly have very high medical expenses compared with the rest of the population, and the government should subsidize health bills of the aged." The first part of the proposition – the claim that the aged have relatively high medical bills – is a statement in positive economics, it is a statement about how the world works, and we can imagine a research programme that could determine whether or not it is correct. Broadly speaking, this assertion happens to be correct.

The second part of the proposition – the recommendation about what the government should do – could never be "proved" to be correct or false by any scientific research investigation. It is simply a subjective value judgement based on the feelings of the person making the statement. Many people might happen to share this subjective judgement, for example those people who believe that all citizens alive today should be able to purchase roughly equal amounts of luxury and recreational goods after paying for the necessities of life. But other people might reasonably disagree. You might believe that it is more important to devote society's scarce resources to improving the environment.

There is no way that economics can be used to show that one of these normative judgements is correct and the other is wrong. It all depends on the preferences or priorities of the individual or the society that has to make this choice. But that does not mean that economics can throw no light on normative issues. We can use positive economics to spell out the detailed implications of making the choice one way or the other. For example, we might be able to show that failure to subsidize the medical bills of the elderly leads middle-aged people to seek a lot of unnecessary medical check-ups in an attempt to detect diseases before their treatment becomes expensive. Society might have to devote a great deal of resources to providing check-up facilities, leaving less resources available than had been supposed to devote to improving the environment. Positive economics can be used to clarify the menu of options from which society must eventually make its normative choice.

MICROECONOMICS AND MACROECONOMICS

Many economists specialize in a particular branch of the subject. For example, there are labour economists, energy economists, monetary economists, and international economists. What distinguishes these economists is the segment of economic life in which they are interested. Labour economics deals with problems of the labour market as viewed by firms, workers, and society as a whole. Urban economics deals with city problems: land use, transport, congestion, and housing. However, we need not classify branches of economics according to the area of economic life in which we ask the standard questions what, how and for whom. We can also classify branches of economics according to the approach or methodology that is used. The very broad division of approaches into microeconomic and macroeconomic cuts across the large number of subject groupings cited above.

Microeconomic analysis offers a detailed treatment of individual decisions about particular commodities.

For example, we might study why individual households prefer cars to bicycles and how producers decide whether to produce cars or bicycles. We can then aggregate the behaviour of all households and all firms to discuss total car purchases and total car production. Within a market economy we can discuss the market for cars. Comparing this with the market for bicycles, we may be able to explain the relative output of these two goods. The sophisticated branch of microeconomics known asgeneral equilibrium theory extends this approach to its logical conclusion. It studies simultaneously every market for every commodity. From this it is hoped that we can understand the complete pattern of consumption, production, and exchange in the whole economy at a point in time.

If you think this sounds very complicated you are correct. It is. For many purposes, the analysis becomes so complicated that we tend to lose track of the phenomena in which we were interested. The interesting task for economics, a task that retains an element of art in economic science, is to devise judicious simplifications, which keep the analysis manageable without distorting reality too much. It is here that microeconomists and macroeconomists proceed down different avenues.

Microeconomists tend to offer a detailed treatment of one aspect of economic behaviour, but ignore interactions with the rest of the economy in order to preserve the simplicity of the analysis. A microeconomic analysis of miners' wages would emphasize the characteristics of miners and the ability of mine owners to pay. It would largely neglect the chain of indirect effects to which a rise in miners' wages might give rise. For example, car workers might use the precedent of the miners' pay increase to secure higher wages in the car industry, thus being able to afford larger houses, which burned more coal in heating systems. When microeconomic analysis ignores such indirectly induced effects it is said to bepartial analysis.

In some instances, indirect effects may not be too important and it will make sense for economists to devote their effort to very detailed analyses of particular industries or activities. In other circumstances, the indirect effects are too important to be swept under the carpet and an alternative simplification must be found.

Macroeconomics emphasizes the interactions in the economy as a whole. It deliberately simplifies the individual building blocks of the analysis in order to retain a manageable analysis of the complete interaction of the economy.

For example, macroeconomists typically do not worry about the breakdown of consumer goods into cars, bicycles, televisions, and calculators. They prefer to treat them all as a single bundle called "consumer goods" because they arc more interested in studying the interaction between households' purchases of consumer goods and firms' decisions about purchases of machinery and buildings.

РRIСЕ AND DEMAND

The following text will introduce you to the topic of the effect of price and Income on demand quantities.








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