EC 12. Pointers No. 4 (How to write a term paper)

The Concepts of Economics

The following materials are suggestions from me on term paper topics for EC 12. Please feel free to explore.

When you have chosen a topic, you should research the literature (from the list given in the course syllabus). Then you should send me a submission by email of your proposal on how you would write your term paper.

Since this is a class on history of economic thought, the typical structure of the paper is one that attempts to explain, in plain language, a concept (or a few related ones) in economics. You can start with a textbook explanation that may be incomprehensible (“nosebleed”), then go on to trace from where the concept began in economics — who said what, exactly how did he say it, etc. Your own contribution will be an illustration or concrete explanation of the concept, or a critique of the concept’s usefulness, using your own words, and preferably using examples from the setting of the Philippine economy. For this contribution, it will be good to test your work for comprehensibility by your peers. Given this structure, I encourage group work, but not more than three can collaborate.

I imagine that the term paper process will take four stages. The first stage is the proposal. I will then react and give you, individually, pointers on how to refine your proposal, such as narrowing or widening, or deepening, its scope.

The second stage is where you would submit the likely sources, or raw materials, of your paper. It may consist of your preliminary ideas or questions that your paper will address, together with the answers given by others in your research. This stage will mostly comprise “cut and paste” materials, where you would also cite the precise sources of these materials. I will then also give you comments.

The third stage is when you submit a first draft of the paper. I prefer short papers without “fillers.” I suggest that you aim for a final version that can fit only one page, perhaps not more than 700 words. I will comment on this first draft. Time permitting, the whole class should read and react to these first drafts.

Please note that the first draft is likely 90% the work of others, properly cited even if paraphrased. Your own thinking as a part of the paper is the remaining 10%. It may not be much, and that’s ok; the very least could be your comment as to what is the best answer, and why you think so.

You may realize that how you organize the 90% part is not easy, and you will be challenged. Your reader should not feel the nosebleed, and also not think that you’re recycling the literature without understanding it.

The final paper is your revision of the first draft based on your further work and in response to comments from me and the class on the first draft. You will be graded not only on the final product but also on how well you did the research.

The list

The following topics are fair game (but you may suggest your own topic):

Utility, cost, profit — how these are defined and used in economics
Inflation tax – when is it justified?
Comparative advantage
Opportunity cost and scarcity
Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand

Say’s Law
Gresham’s Law
The Iron Law of Wages
Nash Equilibrium
Occam’s Razor

Capital asset pricing model or CAPM
Neoclassical synthesis
Revealed preference
Social cost vs. private cost
The firm and transaction costs

The Law of Supply and Demand
Division of labor
Veblen goods, Giffen goods, inferior goods
Private vs. public goods
Unemployment and underemployment

Lucas Critique
Market failure
State capture and rent-seeking
Natural monopoly

Monopolistic competition
Winner’s Curse vs. Buyer’s Remorse
Creative destruction, including how monopolies disintegrate
Business cycle

Ponzi finance and the Minsky Moment
The American Question (as propounded by Deirdre McCloskey)
Buchanan’s theory of clubs
Marginal cost vs. average cost vs. sunk cost
Law of diminishing returns

Labor theory of value
Hayek and the Fatal Conceit
Keynes and the Liquidity Trap
Solomonic bargains
Keynes’ “animal spirits”
Tragedy of the commons

“Lemons” and asymmetric information
Rationality and market efficiency
Transversality and budget constraints
Accounting cost/profit vs. economic cost/profit
Income elasticity, price elasticity

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EC 12. Pointers No. 3

FAQs on Chs. 4 and 5 of Backhouse – England in 17th Century, France’s 18th Century

  1. The early ideas that became the foundations of political science or the scientific method are also important to economics. There were also contributions to economic data gathering and analysis from the 17th century. Summarize the ideas of: Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679); Francis Bacon (1561-1626); Rene Descartes (1596-1650); and Richard Petty (1623-87).
  1. What is Gresham’s Law on money? Explain.
  1. Richard Cantillon (1680-1734?) published a book (An Essay on the Nature of Commerce in General) which some scholars consider as marking the birth of economics. How did Cantillon defend his argument that the source of wealth was land and not labor? (Extra credit: What is the flaw in his argument? Hint: the answer is not given in Backhouse; you have to do some original thinking.)
  1. Summarize the economic thought of the French Physiocrats. Who were they, and why did they think as they did? In what way or ways were they clearly wrong? What did they contribute to economics that survive to today?
  1. How did Turgot (1727-81) define national wealth? What is the modern significance of this definition?
  1. Who are the two French economists who exerted an influence on Adam Smith? Extra credit: Explain. (This can be answered only after you have understood Smith’s contribution to economics.)
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EC 12. Pointers No. 2

FAQs on Ch. 3 of Backhouse – the 16th Century

1.What historical event, centered in Italy, was of importance to the emergence of modern science? Explain your answer.

2.Copernicus thought that the earth revolved around the sun, instead of the other way around. What objection, in the form of a question, was raised by those who opposed Copernicus? Since Copernicus could not answer this question, who subsequently gave a reasonable answer or answers?

3.What were the two main scientific or philosophical contributions of William of Ockham? (Hint: One of these contributions is not mentioned in Backhouse, but you can try to Google the answer.)

4.In the medieval world view, sovereignty came from God, hence kings ruled by divine right. With the Reformation, what became the basis for the legitimization of sovereignty?

5.Who were the early rulers of nascent nation-states? What did they acquire with their rise to such positions?

6.Summarize the doctrines of mercantilism.

7.What did Machiavelli contribute to political science? Explain.

8.Summarize the economic thought of the School of Salamanca, especially in terms of how it differs from the previous thoughts of Aristotle and Aquinas.

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EC 12. Pointers No. 1

FAQs on early thinking about economic concepts and related issues from the time of the Ancients to that of the Middle Ages

These cover the Prologue and the first two chapters of Backhouse, and McCloskey’s Three-Minute History of economic thought.

General pointers:

Get a textbook on introductory economics, such as those by Gerry Sicat, Mankiw, or Parkin. Such a book will help you to understand concepts discussed in the history of economic thought.

Before doing any of the assigned readings, take some time to ask yourself what you want to learn from the readings. This means you have to skim the material to get a sense of what they cover, and whether the topics discussed are interesting.

Specific pointers are given here in the form of questions that could be part of an essay exam or homework. Read the material in search of answers to the pointer-questions. You may jot down notes for yourself on how you would answer the questions.

Continue reading

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By Kermit Kefafel (at Facebook)

Now that the cat’s out of the bag, we now know that unlidata is not unlidata. Those who sign up for unlidata at P1k/month are the most frustrated users because they get throttled by something ironically called “fair use.” In effect, these folks shelled out good money for basically nothing!

Apologists for Globe and Smart now point to volume bucket deals as the promos to use by the harassed consumer. What follows are tips for prepaid sims. (Basically, postpaid sims used for surfing are vulnerable to undue charges.)

What to do then if you use Globe’s GoSurf or Smart’s Big Bytes?

Check the ISP speeds. Pricing is basically P17/100mb for both telcos. Small users can go slow with the 3-day 300mb buckets for P50.
To register, text GOSURF50 to 8888 for Globe, or text BIG50 to 9999 for Smart.

Once registered, you can monitor your usage at *143# for Globe, or at your sim toolkit for Smart.

What happens if you use up your data allocation and the promo expires? Ordinarily, you pay the standard P5/15min charge for data connection. But both telecoms offer a “load protect” scheme, as follows:

Smart has a load protect that’s automatic if you register a surf promo like BigBytes. They claim you can’t connect to the internet once your promo expires.

At Globe, use SurfAlert (text SURFALERT ON to 8888, or turn on mobile internet alerts at *143#). If SurfAlert is on, you can’t connect to the web if you don’t have a promo.

You should test your load-protect feature by having only minimal extra load.

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Wrap-up Lecture in History of Economic Thought

The ancient world

Serious thought began in the ancient world – roughly 400 BC – with ideas on how to deal with what we know today as the “economic problem” (scarcity, and how society decides what to produce/consume, how to produce, and who will consume).

The background then was a stage in history when man had progressed from hunting/gathering to agriculture. We can imagine that the economic problem for hunter/gatherers was then mostly that of survival, but agriculture later brought some element of abundance beyond the most basic necessities of food and water.

Continue reading

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Conflate vs. confuse (re-blog)

I get confused when you conflate.

To confuse is to treat two different things the same.

To conflate is to combine two things to make up a third.

Where’s the fourth? At the firth?

Hat tip to Kate Porter.


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