The written assignments included in the assessment for ECON 1401 are aimed at helping you develop your ability to apply particular perspectives and abstract ideas to concrete, real-world situations, and to express yourself in clear, thoughtful prose. The application of abstractions to particular concrete scenarios is one of the most difficult challenges for many undergraduate students, and some students also find it difficult to construct an engaging written narrative that is appropriate for an intellectually-inclined audience. Successfully adopting a particular conceptual frame requires a good understanding of the dimensions, limits, strengths and weaknesses of that frame. This means that preparing your written assignments will also help you to develop indepth knowledge of particular perspectives explored in this course, and to hone your skills in critical analysis.
What to do In your assignment, you will apply the conceptual frame of TWO different economic thinkers to ONE of the following topics:
1. Competition: Competition is an essential element of the capitalist economic system. The invisible hand of the markets is mainly a manifestation of competition, where firms compete to provide goods and services that are demanded by consumers. In recognition of the important role competition plays in creating fair economic outcomes, Australia – and many other countries – have laws and regulatory agencies to explicitly promote and create competition in the markets. In Australia, this regulator is the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Using the conceptual frame of your two chosen economists, what you have learned in class, and outside research, analyse the state of competition in Australia today. Would each of your thinkers agree that competition is a good thing? Would they argue for more or less competition? Does your thinker make predictions about competition and its effect on wages? Yes? No? Are the predictions good or bad? Are their policy prescriptions that the thinkers would support or oppose that should be considered in Australia? The specific questions you address will vary by the thinkers you choose.
2. Affordable Housing: House prices have risen substantially relative to incomes in most Australian capital cities over the last decade making affordable housing a key concern among many Australians. There is no consensus over the cause of the increase in prices in Australia. In fact, housing prices throughout most of the world experienced large appreciations over this time period. Although, many markets also experienced major declines before, during, and after the GFC.
Governments both local and national play a large role in the housing market. They often have a large influence on where and how much housing is built, which affects the supply of available housing. They also have influence in credit markets that determines the availability of mortgages, which affects the demand for housing. Using the conceptual frame of your two chosen economists analyse the state of the housing market in Australia and the policies, both in effect and proposed, on the state of housing affordability. Would your chosen economists approve of the large interventions into the market on both the supply and the demand side? What policies, if any, would your chosen economists want to see enacted to alleviate the problem?
Do your economists agree or disagree? The specific questions you address will vary by the thinkers you choose.
The first task of the assignment is to decide which of the above topics you would like to analyse. The second task is to select TWO economic thinkers we have studied in the course to serve as the frames of reference for your analysis of the issue. A complete list of economists is provided at the end of this document. To select your two economists, visit the Moodle site and sign up using the “Select a Thinker – Written Assignment 2” link under Course Assessments and General Resources. There are two separate links, one for each thinker. Please sign up for one thinker using each link. Only 22 students will be allowed to adopt each economic thinker. You may not choose the same economic thinker chosen for your first assignment.
The paper is a compare and contrast essay, where the views of both economists are analysed and evaluated. The best way to start this type of essay is to create an independent list of each economist’s views on the topic and then to look for similarities and differences in their views. Once the key similarities and differences are found, a narrative can be structured around why the economists agree or disagree about the topic. It is expected that you will conduct some outside research on the topic and on your chosen economic thinkers to supplement the information you have gained from class readings and lectures. Please include a reference list with your paper. The quality of your sources will be a factor in assigning marks.
The essay should be between 5 and 8 pages and should attempt to balance the amount of information presented on each economist’s view. One suitable structure for the paper is to write a separate section for each economist summarizing their views, and then compare and contrast their views in a new section. Another way to structure the essay is to align yourself with one of the thinker’s positions. Argue why your position is correct using the arguments supplied by your thinker and why those who believe the opposite and who are aligned with the other thinker are wrong. But, there are many suitable ways to structure the essay. Try to draw upon what you learned from the first writing assignment to create positions for these now dead economists on these current issues. Do not include detailed background information about your economists’ lives unless it is directly relevant to your argument.
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