Final exam consisting of 4 questions

  • Answer 4 of the following 6 questions (each will be worth 25%).
  • The required length for each of your answers is 1.5 – 2 pages (double spaced, 12 pt. font). 

  • You have to refer to the readings but try to use your own words in summarizing the points rather than giving long quotes. 

  • Please, do not copy from the readings or from any other written source. The purpose of the exercise is for you to show your knowledge of the readings, but also to perform a critical assessment of the material. 

  • You may use any source you want, but are not expected to use anything beyond the textbook and other assigned material. Make sure you fully reference every source you use, cite, or quote, including the textbook.
  • Make sure you back up any factual statement with evidence or a reputable source (e.g. if you say that people are happier in 2018 than they were in 1963, you should back this up with some data about happiness (surveys, etc.), not just leave it hanging).

Here are the questions:

  • 1) Markets I
    • In chapter 4 of The Great Transformation, Karl Polanyi shows how markets have largely been incidental to human economic organization until the end of feudalism and the recent advent of capitalism. Using the concepts of reciprocity, distribution, and householding (you should define and explain these three concepts), explain how until markets became important, the economy of a society was largely embedded within its social institutions.
  • 2) Money
    • The usual starting point of the analysis of money is to say that it evolved to make trading between individuals easier. Explain how the existence of money can indeed make exchanges easier, comparing it to the barter systems that are supposed to have existed before.
    • Explain the three main roles of money according to the theory in (a): Medium of exchange, store of value, unit of account.
    • David Graeber argues that it is inaccurate to focus on the (modern) role of money as a medium of exchange to explain how and why it was developed. Why does he think that this theory of money is problematic? What is his alternative?
  • 3) Competition
    • What does it mean when we say that a firm or a group of firms has monopoly power? Explain using some examples.
    • In a case where a small group of firms has monopoly power, they may restrain price competition amongst themselves. If this is the case, does that mean that there is no competition whatsoever? Explain.
    • When possible, it may seem like a good deal for a group of companies to collude and grant themselves monopoly power as a group. Explain why such an arrangement may be hard to maintain over time, however, using the analysis of the prisoner’s dilemma laid out in chapter 9 of the textbook (replacing the 2 prisoners by 2 companies choosing to abide by the agreement or to cheat).
  • 4) Markets II
    • Explain how markets can work as a decentralized coordination mechanism linking buyers and sellers. In the process, make sure you…
      • Explain how prices can both provide information and motivation to buyers and sellers.
      • Explain how markets differ from central planning according to the textbook.
    • What if prices send the wrong signal, however?
      • Explain the concept of externality and why the existence of externalities might be problematic.
      • Give one example of an externality, explaining how it makes the price diverge from its proper level.
  • 5) Macroeconomics I
    • As it affects everybody in one way or the other in our daily lives, one of the main economic issues discussed in the public sphere is inflation. Inflation is not a simple phenomenon, however, either in its causes or its effects. Let’s first look at the former.
      • Explain the difference between cyclical and structural inflation.
      • Describe some of the factors that may lead to either types of inflation. In the process, make sure to discuss the possibility of an inflation-unemployment tradeoff.
      • And now for consequences: Mention some of the possible impacts of inflation. To what extent should inflation be fought or tolerated?
  • 6) Macroeconomics II
    • It is sometimes said that capitalists don’t like it when unemployment gets too low. At the same time, it is not good when unemployment is too high… In chapter 17 in the textbook, Bowles et al. detail a tricky balancing act, where profits are maximised at a level of unemployment that is neither too high nor too low.
      • Describe some of the factors that may lead to lower profits when unemployment is too high;
      • Similarly, describe some of the factors that could lead to lower profits when unemployment is too low.
      • Finally, explain how this limits the ability of policy-makers to push for full employment and instead may give rise to cycles of rising employment followed by lowering employment.

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