Saturday, 18 October 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - Week 3

Week 3 – Saving and working: decisions over time

3.1 Saving and working: decisions over timeRead DEPMP, Book 1, Part I: Chapter 3
3.2 Saving behaviour and savings policyView some short video clips
3.3 Online tutorials – indifference curvesComplete Indifference curves V and VI
3.4 Econometrics – getting startedGetting started with gretl and revision with the DD202 tutorials
3.5 Online tutorial – econometricsStart Econometrics I and Practice exercises I

Week 3's reading has been very interesting, but the model appears to rely on some huge simplifications and assumptions regarding relative opportunity costs and how things work in the real world, which you need to accept or ignore in order to move forward with the points they are trying to make.

Once you can do this, it is relatively straight forward and exactly what you need for TMA Part 1.

I have had a look forward to TMA1 - Part A, and it is pretty much covered by the Indifference Curve Online Tutorials, especially tutorials 5 & 6, so I guess if every point they make in the tutorial is reflected in the TMA answer you will pretty much be there or thereabouts.

First of three face to face tutorials, about a third of the tutor group attended which considering how far some came to be there was a pretty good attendance. As usual they were a nice bunch of people from very diverse backgrounds and ages, and I probably got more out of meting them at the tutorial than actually learning anything particularly new.

Deflation Update
Bank of England announced in the last couple of days that interest rates will remain low until next autumn which should help inflationary pressures in the short term, but Europe's problems are, I think, still the biggest threat to the UK recovery.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Inflationary Update

Inflation is now at 1.2%  ( )

Civil servants and Nurses have been striking due to below inflation pay rises, well that is hardly likely to stimulate spending on the high street.

Can anybody explain why deflation should not be a worry........ especially with interest rate rises on the horizon.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - Week 2

Week 2 – Consumption

2.1 ConsumptionRead DEPMP, Book 1, Part I: Chapter 2
2.2 Consumption in a recessionView a short film
2.3 Online tutorials – indifference curves Complete Indifference curves I–IV

I am enjoying this course so far. Indifference curves make sense, well pretty much most of the time. The explanation seems logical and reasonable....... and I like it.

I have a feeling however that a shock must be just around the corner.

Now on to Week 3 in an effort to keep slightly ahead.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - Week 1

Week 1 – Industrial capitalism, markets and economics

1.1 Explore the DD309 study materialsRead online welcome letter
1.2 Using forums in DD309Read forum information
1.3 Industrial capitalism, markets and economicsRead DEPMP, Book 1, Part I, Chapter 1
1.4 Rethinking market economicsView a short film
1.5 Online tutorials: Game theoryComplete Game theory I and Game theory II
1.6 [Optional] Tutorial 3: Modelling demandDD202 CD-ROM tutorial (revision material)

Even before you get to 1.3 and opened the book for the first time (were you to do everything in the order suggested)  there was quite a bit of reading in 1.1 and 1.2. The main message I took from these sections was that Level 3 courses will be a bit of a step up from Level 2, a far bigger step than that from Level 1 to Level 2

The TMAs on their own are around 50% bigger in terms of word count and require a far better standard of answer than I have been used to for the last three years.( Writing at Level 3 )

From the DD309 Course Webpage the TMAs are made up of the following sections.

TMA/EMACut-off dateWord limitWeighting
0118 Nov. 2014Part A: 800 Part B: 180020% (substitutable)
026 Jan. 2015Part A: 700 Part B: 700 Part C: 140020% (substitutable)
03 10 Feb. 2015     Part A: 800 Part B: 150020% (substitutable)
0410 Mar 2015Part A: 800 Part B: 150015% (substitutable)
0521 April 2015Part A: 1200 Part B: 80015% (substitutable)
0612 May 2015120010% (non-substitutable)
EMA5 June 20155000

So, if nothing else this demonstrates the need to keep up to schedule, I'm not going to be able to wing a 2600 TMA in a day or so........

At least Chapter 1 was fairly straight forward and I still remember and understand the game theory sections from DD209, so not too much of a study shock from Week 1.

GRETL and the accompanying data sets for Part 1 are downloaded and installed, but as yet I've not attempted to do anything with them.

Mid-week last week the tutorial dates came through, and then went away again.....and then came back.

Initially I was very disappointed at there only being three face to face tutorials and the rest, five I think, are online. I like the chance to meet other students face to face and this has been severely reduced now. The DD309 that is running now had tutorials in London and they seemed to meet up before/after for drinks/discussions which seems a good idea, but now I will be driving that is less likely especially if there is only three tutorials as it doesn't really afford the opportunity to develop relationips.

On the plus side it will cut down on traveling and getting up really early, and as long as the 'technicals' are up to speed, it may be a fairly efficient way to do tutorials...... we will see.

It would appear that the tutorials are a real lottery. Those in London, Tonbridge and Cardiff have 6 face to face tutorials, while those in Ireland have only two face to face tutorials, so there doesn't seem to be any set standards for the learning experience.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - Future Learn Research Projects, tips so far.

So, week three with Future Learn an it has been a pretty worth while 3 hrs so far, I would encourage anybody new to research projects to  look at joining the course - if its not too late.

The best bits so far are.

i. A useful model to narrowing down a research questions.

ii. Introduction to 'Evernote' application which could prove useful. Its free.

iii. Good guide to internet resources.

iv I had no idea this site even existed.

v. Literature Searching Basics its not exactly earth shatteringly new, but a good starting point.

Two I have found via the link above

 Critical Appraisal

 Literature Review

vi. Directory of open access journals

vii. , the paperboy , newslookup , huffingtonpostWorld News Network

vii. Data sets available from Office For National Statistics

All seems good stuff so far.

Friday, 26 September 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - 1 Week to Go, but too busy worryng about deflation.

One week to go and after a fairly positive start pre-reading the text book in advance of the course starting, I then got too involved with the Future Learn course on Research Projects (which I hope will be worth doing) and haven't done a great deal more since. I intend to make up for this and have a good go at WEEK 1 this week and try and keep ahead.


However another thing that has got me wondering is that everyone seems to be very relaxed about the inflation rate dropping to 1.5% ( in August which means either everyone knows something I don't, or I have misunderstood all the inflation modelling stuff in DD209.

If the Bank of England has targeted inflation at 2%, then why, if the government is in control of the economy, is inflation still sliding further below target. The so-called recovery from recession appeared to be built largely on the back of cheap credit and the mini-housing boom caused by 'Help to Buy'. But 'Help to Buy' has come to an end as it was causing house prices to increase ridiculously and we have been told repeatedly by Mark Carney, of the BoE, that cheap credit is also ending soon.(

So if my rudimentary understanding of inflation is correct, inflation is falling because the economy is, we were taught, not at equilibrium and demand is not sufficient to close the output gap. This is hardly surprising due to most people having less money to spend or not wishing to spend due to,
  i. Austerity cuts. So less public spending.
 ii. Benefit cuts - bedroom tax, reduced benefits etc.
iii. Low quality of employment - zero hours contracts, part time work and reduced hours.
 iv. Wages having lagged inflation for some years.
  v. Tax cuts for the super rich, and their windfall unlikely to be spent on the high street.

These reasons and more means that the obvious end effect is a slow down in the economy, an economy which is already struggling with exports due to one of our main markets, Europe, also being crippled by their own recession and austerity measures.

So, my question is.....

Surely increasing interest rates will result in inflation being driven even lower and worryingly close to deflation. Further to that, does the frequent reference to future interest rate rises not simply increase people's worry about their future mortgage payments and therefore encourage them start saving for a rainy day (or the impending storm) and hence exacerbate things further through the 'Pardox of Thrift'.

We were told that an important task of government is to control inflation. However if an independent BoE won't/can't reduce interest rates to raise inflation, and in fact intends to increase interest rates surely this is not good news for inflation ( ). With this scenario heading our way I can see two possible ways out, but both will be expensive, and will require government policy U-turns.

The government can either embrace a form of Keynesian economics and embark on a program of public spending to boost the economy and raise inflation. Alternatively the government could agree to above inflation wage increases to Civil Servants, Nurses, Police, British Forces etc. and hope that the commercial sector follows suit and there then follows a carnival of unrestrained spending on the high street. Either way, baring divine intervention (and we all learned in A222 that this extremely unlikely, or to be more accurate, impossible) they will need a significant cash injection into the economy, and where is that coming from.

So can somebody who understands these things far better than me please tell me what I have got wrong, and why everything is going to be OK and that we shouldn't fear the fact that deflation may be just round the corner.


Oh, and the StudentHome webpage still hasn't published the tutorial dates. I find this perplexing, and I wonder what effect this will have on the attendance at the first tutorial due to the extremely late notice being given.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - I have the date of the first tutorial, but shhhhhh don't tell anyone.

You hear about secret organisations splitting themselves into cells to ensure that no one person has access to all the information that the organisation has access to. Therefore should the organisation be infiltrated it makes it very difficult for the covert operative to gather all the information necessary to conduct a successful espionage plot.

This all makes perfect sense if you are that secret organisation, but surprisingly this also appears to be the strategy that the Open University has adopted in order to drip feed us the information we require to plan our study/lives.....

The story so far.....

Yesterday the StudentHome page had no information on my tutor or my tutorial dates.

The Student Support Team were also still unaware of this information

I then received an email from the OU saying who my tutor was, but still no news on the StudentHome page regarding the tutorial dates.

I contacted my new tutor to introduce myself, which was a surprise to them because although they knew they had been allocated a DD309 tutor group, they still didn't know the names of the students in their own group. 

Having convinced them that was I indeed studying DD309 and was in their group, and was not trying to infiltrate their group from another course, I then asked them about the tutorial dates which they had, and had for some time.

So I now know my tutor, the first tutorial date and who I am - which is the first time this year that any one person has had access to these three key pieces of information, and I'm not talking about Mrs Peacock, in the Study, with the Candlestick.

I feel the infiltration mission has been a success and I am now half way through my application to MI6.

.... and of course I am not yet sure if I can make the tutorial as I now need to wait for a colleague to confirm if they can/or are willing to swap a shift with me. If only this had happened last week.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - 2 Weeks to Go

I don't like moaning, no really I don't, but I am going to.

I think it is ridiculous and inexcusable that with two week to go until the course starts and by past experience 3 or 4, maybe 5 weeks until the first tutorial that the dates of the tutorials are still not available.

I have contacted the 'Student Support Team' who sent me a very pleasantly worded but completely unhelpful email saying the information would be available shortly, and no - they don't know when that will be, but to look out for messages on the course forum from my tutor. And no - they don't know who my tutor is yet, and are unable to tell me when I will find out, but perhaps look out for updates on the course website for information on the tutorial dates and that will tell me who my tutor is. I'm now getting dizzy from going round in circles, while getting nowhere.

The reason I am so exercised about this is that having put off planning my work and family life for as long as possible, which has inconvenienced my colleagues and family who have been as understanding and flexible as possible, yesterday I had to commit to certain dates and so flights have now been booked, meetings have been arranged and reservations have been made. 

I have made a guess at when the tutorials may be, I have assumed a weekend, and kept two weekends clear out for the next six weekends. I am now committed. Three of them are effectively set in stone, one I may be able to change with some disruption to others. 

I signed up for this course in May. I cannot understand why at this late stage the OU are unable to tell me when the first tutorial will be, and when they eventually do I may already be unable to attend. It is extremely unsatisfactory.

This does however go some way to explain why past attendance at tutorials has been so poor, I can not be the only person who has to plan ahead. 

Rant Over.

The online Future Learn course on tackling Research Projects has been quite interesting so far. It talked a bit about transferable skills, and I had no idea I had so many, so I must update my CV while this is still fresh in my mind. They also took you through a fairly simple but very useful tool to help you focus on your choice of a Research Question. This seemed very useful and is one of the things most worrying me about this years EMA. If you don't start off with a good question and/or idea of what you are investigating you will never really get the project off the ground.