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I have studied Economics at University so have some kind of understanding what it's all about I think.
One definition of this subject is to do with scarce resources and how they are allocated. Economics is a social science which aims to try to find the best or most efficient way of allocating these scarce resources. This means there are a number of choices available to people (economic agents) in choosing the best way to allocate these scarce resources which include things such as land, labour and capital.
Economics has two main strands which are Microeconomics and Macroeconomics. Microeconomics is concerned with a firm/company and how it operates in its market. This includes how the demand and supply of a firm/market will lead to some equilibrium price which the firm/market may set. It also looks at how some companies can exploit their power and access to scarce resources to get greater marker power and act as a monopoly (one firm=market) . One close example to this is Microsoft which has its software on most computers around the world. This is sometimes referred to as market failure or an inefficient allocation of resources in Economics. Then you have Macroeconomics which looks at things like exchange rates, interest rates, taxes, international trade and globalisation amongst other things. This looks at the economy as a whole and government policy and how this relates to economies elsewhere in other countries.
That is basically Economics in a nutshell without going into too much detail. Economics likes to use models to explain why certain things happen and how things can be improved. One of the problems when using Economic models is you have to make assumptions which are sometimes unrealistic. One of the big terms used in Economics is ceteris paribus which means 'other things being equal'. When you are predicting or modelling something in Economics you usually have to keep some other factors constant so you can focus on the thing you want to model which makes it a bit unrealistic.
If you want to study Economics you have to be analytical and be interested in current affairs and what's going on in the financial and business world. You also have to do the work and reading required to learn all the theory which can be quite tough at times. At higher levels you also need to be pretty good at Maths. I think you need to do A Level Maths for most Economics degrees. It is though an interesting subject and one that is always quite relevant in everyday life.
The case for the imposition of environment standards Businesses want to make a profit therefore try to keep costs as low as possible. There are some costs, which clearly have to pay for, but there are others, which they can avoid. These are known as private costs and external costs. Private costs clearly have to be paid for by a business such as the running of the factory, office or shop. They are itemized in the accounts. However external costs are the costs neither the buyers nor the company pay for directly. For a business running a factory, this can be applied to which the pollutants it emits into the atmosphere. It’s a common case that businesses try to minimize costs by ignoring the damage they do to the community around them. The decision to minimise impact on the local community would increase private costs because it would mean installing more efficient filters or monitoring the system more carefully. This added cost might reflect into an increase in price, which could reduce the amount of demand as they lose their competitive advantage on the subject of price to other competitors, therefore reducing profits. It my opinion firms/businesses should keep private costs down but not in the way their allowed to pollute as much as they want. Environmental restrictions should be imposed for all firms since it is immoral to let the environment suffer and be destroyed due to human expenses. Environmental restrictions are usually done in the form of legislation and regulation as a primary attack on environmental problems which in most cases are effective forms of doing this. Although there is evidence that taxation and other ways of using the market are more efficient methods of keeping pollution, administrators of firms prefer regulation and environmental standards. There are several reasons for this. Firstly it requires less information than other methods such as taxation to work effectively. It can be easily depended on to achieve target.
They are readily accepted politically because of the support from administrators and politicians. Also if a total ban is required, it is the easiest and most effective way to do so. However there is a disadvantage that company’s business objectives will take higher priority than the objectives of legislation. This is because companies have learnt to negotiate with the enforcers of environmental standards, to their gain of advantage. Tax should not be dismissed as a form of imposing environmental standards since it still can be effective. An example of this is the differential tax rates between leaded and unleaded petrol were a simple way of using tax system to influence the output of pollution, which has worked well for petrol. The successes of taxing has led many countries to follow the UK’s example and use taxes to control environmentally damaging behaviour, from the excess of plastic bags to the city centre traffic congestion. This is a good way of controlling pollution since it increases the private cost of polluting behaviour. Tax does share a lot of problems though, more than legislation and regulation. For instance, if demand is inelastic, the cost of tax can be passed onto consumers and there may be little change in sales. This occurs with petrol because if car owners use their cars, there is no substitute for it. Taxing petrol may only influent future buyers of cars who want to save money on petrol but even then it is uncertain that tax will influent buyers choice of car. However tax does work in an elastic market, consumers may save paying the tax by switching to a substitute (not the case with inelastic). An example is if tax was imposed on phosphate-based detergents, people would be persuaded to buy a non-phosphate based detergent instead. The producer will not be able to pass on tax and consumer patterns will be altered in theory, although sometimes not true in reality. Tax pushes up price, people might be attracted to good wi
th hi gher price as they assume it with quality, but this only applies to a minority. Overall taxes in a elastic market usually succeed in reducing the output of environmentally harmful products as if the government sets the right tax point where it is cheaper to change habits than continue polluting then it forces firms to change habits to reduce taxes which imply higher costs on the firm. However the most difficult part of the exercise is predicting the most effective tax. Other problems of taxing is they’re is often a lack of information required to fix taxes accurately including firms output of goods, pollution dose which this output produces, long term accumulation of pollution, human exposure to pollution, damages done to exposure, the monetary valuation of the cost of pollution damage. Evaluating damage caused by particular dose of pollution is very difficult, but the benefit value to society must be known as well if an equilibrium point is to be found. Also difficulties also in government because the environmental departments have different motives from those of finance ministries. The finance ministers do not want to see extra revenue go to environmental improvements when it increases prices and makes it less competitive. Such taxes have also been criticised for being regressive because they add to the costs of production and hit the poorer sectors of the community the hardest. In conclusion it is important to have an imposition of environmental standards to protect the environment from future destruction as firms continue to pollute the planet more and more. The two main methods discussed were legislation/regulation and taxes. Overall legislation seemed to be the easiest and most accepted option to operate plus it is highly supported by both firms and politicians. However it did represent the minor problem that firms have become good at negotiating to their advantage in order to make sure their firm come out with higher
priority than the objectives of legislation. Although there is evidence that taxation could be a more effective way to control environmental standards in general, it is currently too hard to operate in a manner that could make it easier and more effective than legislation/regulation since too much effort, information and calculations are required. Also if pollution taxes are not to handicap the companies of any one country they must be universally accepted. Few countries will be willing to set up rigorous pollution control in isolation if it raises production costs and reduces competitiveness. The move towards international standards is therefore a necessary step to achieve significant change on this topic for taxes to be a more effective option in the future.
No not that type of model economics isn't that interesting but it's not a bad A-level for people who are interested in how the country works. I've done economics for a year now and have found it quite interesting certainly more so than some of my other subjects. The best reason to choose economics a level is that it is relatively easy. If you have a knowledge of the world around you then you should do well. I would recommend economics for anyone who is interested in the world but I hope you get a good teacher. The exams are easy when compared to other a levels and you should be able to get good grades.
I've read Duncan's excellent opinion here so I'll try not to repeat too much of what he's said (although some repetition will be inevitable). I've just come to the end of two years of studying Economics at A Level, and thoroughly enjoyed it. This opinion is primarily aimed at those who are considering taking up the subject, either at this or another level. I have split the opinion into chunks under various headings, which will hopefully make it easier to skim through if you so wish. INTRODUCTION Economics is the study of human economic behaviour, and explains and predicts much of what goes on in the world around us. It is a social sciene, thus drawing elements of analysis from both scentific and social disciplines. Economics studies, analyses, seeks to explain, then predicts trends. Clearly the subject deals with "the economy", but not only on a national and international scale - separate markets, firms and individuals are studied also. Economics is all around us and dictates nearly everything that goes on in our world. Economics tells us what to decide upon (what car to buy, where to live, for example), tells firms what to do (what to produce, where and how to produce it), it tells the government what to do (raise or lower taxes or the interest rate, change benefits), and finally it tells whole countries what to do (what products to specialise in, who to trade with). Economics is the mechanical workings of the world, under a veneer of science and social studies. It is, therefore, a most all-encompassing, fascinating and (I would argue) essential subject to study or at least be aware of. There is no right or wrong in Economics. This doesn't mean you can write just anything in the exam, as you still need to understand the various theories. But it does mean that there is vast scope for personal interpretation and opinion. An essay can get full marks whether you advocate communis
m or capitalism, like Thatcher or Blair, want to help the unemployed or let them rot - on every topic you can have an opinion. No theory is without flaw; everything can be challenged. This dynamism makes Economics so interesting. JUST FINISHED MY GCSE'S - WILL I BE ABLE TO STUDY ECONOMICS A LEVEL? Probably! I was able to do economics at GCSE level (and it was then when I decided that it would be the subject I wished to devote my education and career to), but not every school offers it. A GCSE in the subject is by no means essential, as the A Level will cover all the basics you would have learnt. Yet it cannot be denied that having studied Economics at GCSE puts you at a great advantage, as you're mind has been taught how to "think economics" and you should already have grasped the very basics. You will find the A Level easier and more enjoyable if you have taken the GCSE, but please don't let me discourage anyone who did not take it from studying the A Level - it is not essential, just useful. A basic understanding of Maths is useful, but again not essential. Everyone does GCSE Maths these days so you'll already know all you need to know for the basic use of statistics in Economics. If you do A Level maths you'll be more comfortable, but this is far from necessary. Even if you concentrated on non-academic subjects at GCSE, Economics is not beyond your reach. The A Level is designed to introduce you to the subject, teaching the groundwork, so even starting with nothing you can achieve top grades. Economics is not an easy subject, however, and demands strict academic discipline. There is a lot to understand, a lot to read about, and a lot to think about. If you enjoy history you will find much of the analytical aspects easier, or if you study Sociology you will find the human aspects more managable. Even Geography finds its way into some areas of Economics. WHAT DO I
LEARN ABOUT? Economics is split into two major areas - microeconomics and macroeconomics. Micro is just that - on a small scale. It covers the individual consumer, firm or market. Macro draws all the separate components together to form the economy as a whole nation, and as part of the world. I will now briefly describe a few of the key areas of Economics that you will learn at A Level. This is not an exhaustive list - I've only included a few of the most important areas of study. Consumer Behaviour This looks at the individual consumer, although it is often more appropriate to consider a household. A number of theories are studied, which try to explain what governs consumers' decisions of what to buy, how much of it to buy, and what price to buy at. You will see how a consumer chooses between two different bundles of goods, and will be able to chart the demand of a consumer on diagrams or numerically. Theory Of The Firm This is a major chunk of Microeconomics, and involves a great number of theories. Theory of the Firm looks at the various types of firm and market possible (chiefly monopoly, oligopoly, monopolistic competition and perfect competition) and analyses and predicts how firms operate. Much criticism is possible in this area, as every theory has weak spots. You will look at what price a firm will charge, how much they supply (and what affects how much they supply, and at what price). You will consider how firms compete, how profits can be made, and when firms will enter or leave a market. Labour In this section you will study why people offer their labour to employers, and what affects how much "labour" they supply. You will, more importantly, consider this from the employer's perspective, looking at the level of demand for labour and how it is changed by minimum wages, levels of education, computer technology etc. You will also look at factors of produ
ction other than labour (such as machinery, property, and of course money) and examine how firms allocate these resourses. Macroeconomic policy This is the fundamental chapter of macroeconomics, where the big theories that flood all of Economics are set. The two major camps are Keynesian macroeconomic policy (used in the UK since the 1930s, predominantly by Labour governments) and Monetarism (awoken in the 1970s and spearheaded in the UK Margaret Thatcher). While Keynesianism advocates the manipulation of tax rates and government spending to control the economy, Monetarism aims to control the supply of money (and therefore the economy) through interest rates. Other important schools of thought are considered, not least Classical economic theory that still remains strong after its founding in the 1700s by Adam Smith (and, incidentally, the camp I sympathise most with); and Supply Side economics as used in later Thatcher policy and by New Labour. These theories fundamentally disagree, allowing plenty of room for debate, although you will study how their synthesis and juxtaposition, as used to a certain extent by the Blair governments, has much to advertise itself. Money In Economics A Level you will examine the nature, uses and origins of money. You will see how it came to replace the barter system of exchanging goods, and grew to become the most important commodity in the world. Inflation is studied in detail, as well as how Monetarists control the money supply by manipulating the interest rate. International Trade This section of Economics is large but interesting. The A Level course will consider how and why countries trade goods and services, and how market forces dictate what products counties specialise in. Protectionism (the restricting of trade with the intention of strengthening the domestic economy) is studied, naturally along with its advantages and disadvantages. You will learn all about
exporting and importing and the Balance of Payments. The various exchange rate systems are examined, as are common markets such as the EU and the topical subject of the Euro. Economics covers many other areas in addition to those I have listed, not least unemployment, privatisation and the economics of Third World countries. FINAL THOUGHTS Economics is an A Level that I enjoyed greatly, and will continue at degree level with enthusiasm. There is a vast range of topics to be studied, and each one has plenty of room for criticism and argument. Economics is an enjoyable subject for this reason - you do not learn indisputable facts. But it is not an easy subject, and demands reading around the subject, a knowledge of current affairs, and an interest in politics and international relations. A brief understanding of History, most importantly recent history (since the 1930s Great Depression), is useful but not essential, as is a command of Mathematics. I consider Economics to be a highly valuable A Level. Its understanding is essential for us to understand the modern world, I believe, and "Economics" as I said earlier is all around us waiting to be recognised, explained and predicted.
Economics A-level has a reputation for being a rather boring A-level. However, having taken A-level Economics I think this reputation is not well deserved. In this opinion I will try and answer some of the questions that someone choosing A-levels might have and I will try and give an impression of the course in general. What is the course about? Economics A-level is a 2-year course. Economics is the study of how the economy works and what predictions we can make about the behaviour of groups of people. With A-level Economics you will study two different aspects of Economics, Microeconomics and Macroeconomics. Microeconomics studies economic phenomena from the bottom up. It is the study of how we can individual's behaviour and therefore how we can predict the behaviour of groups of people. For example, Microeconomics studies how individual firms work in order to understand how Cartels function. Macroeconomics studies the economy from the top down. Macroeconomics studies variables such as unemployment and inflation in order to advise policy makers on how to control the economy. Economics A-level covers both of these areas and examines them in the long run and the short-run. It also looks at different theories and approaches such as Keynesianism and Monetarism. The exams themselves involve answering questions about the economy and also writing short essays i.e. 20 minutes, about how we can how we can study and predict the economy. My one criticism of Economics A-level is that it does not examine the limitations of Economics theories and although Economics A-level only scratches the surface it never acknowledges that it does. The A-level does not require lots of reading and you will be bale to cover the entire subject with 2 or 3 textbooks. On the other hand an interest in current affairs is important and reading the paper helps enormously. Who would enjoy Economics A-level? Economics A-level would ideally suit s
omeone who has an analytical mind and is interested in current affairs. Economics A-level essentially takes a scientific approach and would suit the scientist more than arts based student. Economics also compliments History well. It allows the Historian to examine and explain historical events using economic concepts. Of course you do not need to be interested in banking and money markets to be interested in Economics (but if you are economics would be interesting). Given the diverse options that many of the different examining boards offer, there is something for everyone. My Economics group studied financial Economics, which dealt with the ins and outs of the financial sector and the money markets. But we also studied development Economics, which allowed us to study things like third world debt. Other things that you could study might include environmental Economics or labour Economics. What do I learn? After you have done Economics A-level you should know more than when you started out, well hopefully. Economics A-level will provide you with grounding in Economic principles. It will also help you to examine concepts and issues from an Economic point of view. You will learn how to draw supply and demand curves and how to interpret economic data. You will also learn about how the economy in Britain works and through the course you will learn some economic history. How useful is what I learn? What you learn will not be particularly useful in everyday life. Business studies would teach you much more about how a business works or about how the law restricts business practices. However Economics A-level will allow you to understand Economic concepts and you will be able to understand a lot of the jargon that is written in the FT. You will examine problems in a more analytical fashion and you will be able to recognise where people are simply making up facts or are using silly Economic arguments. Economics A-level woul
d be useful to anyone studying a course at University involving Business or indeed Economics. How difficult is it? I am doing Economics at University level at the moment so unsurprisingly I found Economics A-level quite easy. Economics A-level is certainly one A-level where the amount of work you do correlates strongly with the result that you end up with. Other A-levels such as English depend much more on the talent of the individual. In my own class I saw many people who were quite intelligent failing the A-level because they did not bother to do any work. Unless you are really clever it is very difficult to wing it. On the other hand it is possible to get a good grade by applying yourself. Also I think that reading around the subject is very important. If you read the paper every day and the economist every week then you should get a good grade. Therefore being interested in the subject is important. If you are not interested in Economics then the A-level will seem like a lot of work. If you were interested in it then reading the Economist each week would not be much of a chore. So overall, if you have scientific mind, a good understanding of concepts and an interest in the subject it is possible to get very good grades. Do I need Economics A-level for any University courses? Economics A-level is probably the most prestigious A-level of the social science A-levels. However given that economics A-level is not offered at all sixth form colleges, most university courses do not require Economics A-level. Of course a good predicted grade in Economics would certainly help your chances if you were applying to do a Business or Economic related course at Uni. I found that Economics A-level was very useful at university level and if you were thinking of a University course, which involves Economics, you would be well advised to do Economics A-level. Do I need to do A-level maths to do economics A-lev
el? If you have a mathematical brain you will find Economics easier. In Economics A-level there are lots of graphs and understanding these is essential. A-level maths and especially statistics will help you understand some of the concepts involved in Economics. Having said that A-level Economics does not include any maths that is above GCSE maths level and a B in GCSE Maths would be sufficient for any A-level Economics problems. If you do not enjoy Maths then don't do it to help your Economics but if you do then the combination is quite useful especially if you are planning to continue with your studies in Economics at University. What is the difference between modular and linear courses? A modular course involves taking different modules throughout the 2-year course. A linear course involves taking all the exams at the end of the course. If it is at all possible try and do modular Economics. The modular course has 2 distinct advantages. Firstly it is easier as you do not have to revise everything that you have learnt at the same time. Secondly the modular course offers more choice as you can study different modules separately. In conclusion, Economics A-level is an interesting and relevant A-level. It is an option that anybody who is interested in current affairs or Business studies should give serious consideration to. If you are interested in Economics then read Landsburg's Armchair Economist. It is a good introduction to the method that Economists use and it is very readable.