Thursday, August 10, 2017

Ticket to Disneyland in 1955 vs 2017---which is a better "value"?

This ticket to Disneyland in 1955 cost $1.00.  In 1955 the minimum wage was $.75 (75 cents), so it took 1.33 hours of labor to earn enough to buy this one ticket in 1955.

Today, a ticket would cost you $105.00  to visit the Happiest Place on Earth.  In 2016 the minimum wage (although it varies in States and even some localities) is $7.25 per hour.  At that rate, a ticket would take 14.5 hours of labor (excluding labor taxes, of course).

A day at Disneyland in 1955 was definitely more affordable for a low wage worker 60 years ago. The only thing that really remains to be determined is the comparable quality of the experience.  The parks are vastly different in composition.

Has the quality of the visit improved by a large enough factor to make the extra hours worked to buy a one-day pass more "utility maximizing" in 2017 than in 1955?

Nice resource for illustrating "Increasing Opportunity Costs" and the concave nature of the PPF

Here is a nice article on the great productivity slowdown in the US, and in the developed world for the most part.

The article is interesting throughout but the excerpt below caught my eye.

It goes to the edge but does not explicitly mention the important concept of "Increasing Opportunity Costs" and the reason the Production Possibility Frontier (or Curve) is "bowed", or concave from the origin.

While Services Sector Booms, Productivity Gains Remain Elusive 

“The changing distribution of workers might be able to explain up to one-half of the slowdown in labor productivity growth from 2.5% to 1.5% per year since the 1960s," said Dietrich Vollrath, a University of Houston economist. Indeed, this effect has accelerated since 2000, when workers, in aggregate, started to move from higher to lower productivity sectors. 
Services productivity, besides its natural disadvantage, may be facing an added headwind: The sector is absorbing millions of workers whose underlying skills may not be well suited to the jobs they take on. 
If people start doing work they are relatively good at, and if manufacturers shed their least efficient workers first, manufacturing productivity will improve as it downsizes but services-sector productivity will suffer as it absorbs workers who are a poor fit. (Sections in bold are mine).
All resources, including labor, are not "perfectly adaptable" to a alternative uses.  If you employ/deploy resources to such alternative uses they tend to be less productive, hence more costly.
Simple example.  The decline of steel manufacturing coincided with a increased demand for truck drivers.  While some unemployed steel workers may make fine truck drivers, the "marginal" ones may not be so good. They may have more accidents or load mishaps and are more expensive (ceteris paribus) to employ.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Negative Externality: Meat industry blamed for largest-ever 'dead zone' in Gulf of Mexico

suggests that the market quantity for meat products is greater than it should be.  The chemical run-off of fertilizers and other agricultural inputs that go into the production of meat products flow into waterways.  Its negative affects go much further than the borders of the farms and ranches. Some excerpts:
"Toxins from manure and fertiliser pouring into waterways are exacerbating huge, harmful algal blooms that create oxygen-deprived stretches of the gulf, the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay, according to a new report by Mighty, an environmental group chaired by former congressman Henry Waxman... 
...Nutrients flowing into streams, rivers and the ocean from agriculture and wastewater stimulate an overgrowth of algae, which then decomposes. This results in hypoxia, or lack of oxygen, in the water, causing marine life either to flee or to die... 
...America’s vast appetite for meat is driving much of this harmful pollution, according to Mighty, which blamed a small number of businesses for practices that are “contaminating our water and destroying our landscape” in the heart of the country..."
If the problem IS production over a more "socially optimal" level of production, how do we attain that optimal level?

The essential problem is that the cost of the externality is not being borne by the consumer or producer of the product.  Consumers are paying and producers are receiving only the money cost to make the product available. They are not paying for the residual costs of environmental degradation that affect others near and far (out into the Gulf of Mexico!).

Our task here is to use the basics of Supply and Demand to illustrate how markets respond to government intervention in order to require Producers and/or Consumers to "internalize" that "external" cost that has been imposed on the rest of society.

Internalizing that cost can take the form of an explicit tax on the good or some other "non-monetary" rule or regulation that de facto internalizes the cost of producing the good.

I put together a short-ish presentation to show you how this is modeled for AP Microeconomics. The key here is to correctly identify the "area of Dead Weight Loss" in the presence of a Negative Externality.

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