Alcohol at University

Okay.. so I’ve just got back to college from meeting a few old school friends in town. Today was matriculation (the ceremony that officially accepts students into the university) and so tonight was the notorious “matricu-lash”, where people drink to celebrate this. I decided to not go out tonight for a couple of reasons, firstly I’m currrently trying to avoid drinking and secondly, my workload is so high that going out would screw up my rhythm and I’d fall really far behind.

Anyway to cut things short I just walked through Oxford City Centre, on a Saturday night around midnight completely sober. What I’ve seen has actually quite upset me. During a 5 minute walk I saw people smashing bottles, multiple people being sick, quite a lot of screaming (at other drunk people but at sober people too) etc. When I got back to college someone had passed out on the lodge floor surrounded in sick and was being cared for by a porter, while an ambulance came.

We seem to live in a society that has built up a reliance on alcohol and drugs to have a good time. Tales from other freshers seem to revolve around clubbing 4-5 times a week, keeping “chunder charts” (of how many time each flat mate has been sick”) and so many other depressingly drug/alcohol dependent ways of attempting to have fun. This is probably just going to turn out to another late night rant but this binge drinking / drug culture seems to be having really negative implications on our society. One thing I saw during freshers week was how heavily binge drinking is normalized and facilitated during freshers.

Basic conclusion to this post, yeah I completely appreciate alcohol helps you have fun and over come awkwardness as a fresher but this sense that alcohol is the only thing that provides fun and that going past your limits regularly with it (and other drugs) is acceptable worries and saddens me.

An Alternative View On Unemployment

In my reading I’ve come across a really interesting alternative view on unemployment that I thought I’d go though on this blog. Throughout A-Level Economics, I’d always been taught that the market for labour could be drawn as a standard supply and demand graph, where the equilibrium point was the wage (unless this fell below the minimum wage in which case there was excess supply). An example of this diagram is shown below:

Economics wage determination graph
Graph Courtesy of Wikipedia

However I have now come across a significant flaw in this theory. In many situations a rise in wage can lead to an employee who many have been previously working full time reducing their hours to part time. This fundamentally contradicts the idea that the supply of labour increases as the wage rate increases. An example of where this happened has been anecdotal evidence from the NHS in the UK. In the late 2000s the Labour government introduced a significant increases in GP pay. As a result of this many GPs decided to switch from being full time to being part time (contradicting the assumptions made above). This being because the improvements in their welfare from going part time outweighed the extra welfare benefit of additional income. Theoretically then another pay rise may give them the incentive to work longer than they initially did at the start of the scenario. On a graph this could look similar to the graph below.

Economics Diagram showing three equilibrium points where supply and demand equal, similar to one found in Anthony Atkinson's Inequality.
Adapted from a similar diagram found in Anthony Atkinson’s Inequality.

This scenario interestingly leads to there being multiple equilibrium points. Might be a useful piece of evaluation in Economics A-Level when discussing pay, wages, minimum wages etc!

I’m only a first year (undergraduate) economist, so I write what I believe to be correct. Please don’t hold mistakes against me! My inspiration for this article came from Inequality by Anthony Atkinson. 

 

Michaelmas Week -1

Okay so here I am, going off to start a new chapter in my life tommorrow, starting at Oxford University.  It feels like education up to this point has been directing me to this point, from the start of studying GCSEs, all teachers seem to have talked about is University.

“You should do this to put on your personal statement”

“You should go and look round this university”

“You won’t get into X university if your grades don’t improve”

Now that I am about to start I feel utterly inadequate (although I suspect this is the normal feeling), I am about to start studying one of the most competitive courses and one of the most competitive universities in the world and all I can seem to think is how a combination of lucky events has brought me to this point, and that at some point my lucks going to run out. For those who didn’t know Oxford starts back incredibly late and has 8 week long terms (michaelmas, hilary and trinity).  What this has meant for me is that I’ve watched almost all of my friends travel off around the country to university and begin having brilliant times. Some are about to begin their third week at university…

I just don’t know what to expect, today I tried on sub fusc for the first time. (sub fusc is academic dress, revolves for me around a gown, white bow tie and mortar board.)  There are two ways that I can see the next 3 years going. I will either find that Oxford is elitist and out of touch and really not enjoy myself or I will find a progress place with interesting people from all walks of life. The requirement to wear sub fusc three times a week is starting to make me think that I might find it more of the former than the later.

To add to my current feelings, I was born and have grown up in Oxford all my life. I’ve always seen Oxford as a lovely and inclusive city, I don’t want the next 3 years to taint this. Furthermore I don’t want to become bored of the city, I’ve been to most of the clubs, cafes etc before, so where will I explore?

Well, I’ll try and keep this blog updated with how this goes, perhaps in the hope that it may provide future students in my position a bit of support!

Participation Income As A Method To Reduce Inequality

To give this post a bit of context, I’ve just finished reading Inequality by Anthony B. Atkinson, a professor based at Nuffield, Oxford. The book takes an interesting format, it begins by examining the causes of changes in inequality over the past century, noting that post war inequality has decreased significantly but that post 1980s it’s been on the rise in the developed world. Atkinson then makes a number of recommendations of ways in which we can rectify this worrying trend. I’ve listed a few of these below:

  • The every citizen of the UK, who is eligible, should receive a minimum capital endowment (inheritance) on turning 18.
  • Every citizen who participates in the economy through employment, volunteering, caring or other recognized activity is paid a participation income. This income could replace Job Seekers Allowance for those unemployed and some aspects of the State Pension for Pensioners.
  • Income tax should be adjusted so there is no longer a personal allowance and that the highest rate rises from 40% to 65%.

When the Greens included a “Basic Citizens Income” in their manifesto for 2015, I thought that they were proposing economic suicide. What is the purpose of being employed if you can be paid without working at all. Atkinson makes the case, however, for a participation income very well. Major causes of poverty currently include people not being aware of what benefits they are eligible for, and them finding the application processes for these too complicated. The participation income would require a person to contribute to our society and work (or seek work) but would remove these issues. Furthermore income tax could then be reformed to remove the personal allowance, but could still be applied progressively (through banding income) to bring in tax revenue. Atkinson suggests raising the top rate to 65%, this is something I will come to in another post.  On the whole however I felt when reading this proposal that it could do our country a great deal of benefit. A participation income will ensure everyone in our society has enough money to eat and survive, but will require them to contribute and will still provide an incentive to people to work, everyone being eligible will bring a reduction to some of the red tape that currently exists.

When it comes to a minimum capital endowment, if enacted well I think that this could be successful. By raising inheritance tax and adjusting it’s remit we could substantially increase revenue, this could be used to fund a minimum capital endowment. This would be a guaranteed payment of a sizable amount, perhaps £10,000, that would be paid to every person (presuming a citizen of Britain) at a certain time in their life, perhaps their 18th or 21st Birthday. Inheritance in itself is inherently a significant cause of inequality. By providing those who wouldn’t not otherwise receive a inheritance with one, this would allow recipients to start small businesses, pay for training (or an apprenticeship) or to save for a deposit. This will allow many lower income households to defeat poverty while placing the burden of this on those who tend to have the highest standard of living.

Atkinson makes an interesting point when justifying some of his more economically inhibitive proposals, including a higher top rate of income tax. This is that (using an analogy) a smaller cake shared more equally is surely better than a marginally larger cake shared much less equally. Why prioritize GDP growth if the benefits of such a measure are going to fall in (and stay in) the wallets of the rich? Both UK and EU policy should take heed of this.

In this post I’ve written up some of the most interesting proposals that the book contained but in order to gain a full idea of those please go and read it! You will not regret it 🙂