May 25, 2018

China’s Belt and Road Initiative: the most ambitious development plan ever conceived?

With the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), President Xi Jinping plans to link China to Europe via investments in rail, roads, ports, dams, bridges, gas pipelines and power plants. There are now links between 66 countries across Asia and Europe, with some estimating the final cost of the project to be in the region of […]

Cape Town water supply: a small nudge in the right direction

At the beginning of 2018, experts predicted that Cape Town would be the first major city in the world to run out of water, and the date given for ‘Day Zero’ was 12 April 2018. This is a result of three years of drought. Residents at that time will only be able to have 25 […]

The story from Denmark: happiness trumps GDP

The happiest countries in the world are mainly in Northern Europe, with Denmark coming out top. The highest scores for happiness did not come from income alone, but from political freedom and an absence of corruption. Individuals also valued job security and good mental and physical health. If that is true, why do economists insist […]

The tax debate continues

Income tax was introduced by William Pitt to the United Kingdom in 1799 to help meet the huge costs of fighting a war against Napoleon Bonaparte’s France. A later Prime Minister – William Gladstone – described income tax as ‘an engine of gigantic power for great national purposes’ despite his attempts to abolish it. Rates […]

How not to sell things

Some time ago I went into a specialist shop in Edinburgh to buy some stereo equipment. I knew next to nothing about the technology but had forearmed myself by studying a buyers’ guide and memorising the jungle of letters and numbers that was the brand name of the Best Buy model. The sales assistant beamed […]

Do economists care about inequality

The traditional view of economics is that it is a discipline that cares little for how the income and wealth of a nation is distributed. In Module 9.3 of our own text we come across the following: ‘How efficiently an economy’s resources are allocated and how evenly an economy’s income is distributed are not related. […]

Unintended consequences and the amazing world of sheep

We love sheep in Scotland. We already have more sheep than people as evidenced by the excellent publication “Sheep Facts: Find out more about the amazing world of sheep“. However, not satisfied with that, we were the first in the world to clone one and give her a pet name (Dolly). So it was not […]

Can Uganda teach the UK how to balance the budget?

When a government’s total outgoings (G) are more than their tax receipts (T), the result is a budget deficit where G > T. A government needs to borrow money to finance the debt, and interest payments can become so large that they cripple the economy. There are two main schools of thought for eliminating the […]