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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Feb. 2, 2005 / 22 Shevat, 5765

Economics for the citizen

By Walter Williams


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Part Six of a Ten-Part Series


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | My last article introduced the law of demand, which states, holding everything else constant, that the lower the price of something, the more people will take of it, and the higher the price, less will be taken. But there's a bit of complexity we must add. It's crucial to recognize that it's relative prices that determine choices, not absolute prices.


Relative price is one price in terms of another price. Here's an example; actually, it's a trick I pull on freshman students. I say, "Suppose your company offered to double your salary if you'd relocate to its Fairbanks, Alaska, office. Would you consider it an good deal and accept the offer?" Some students thoughtlessly answer yes. Then, I ask, "What if upon arrival you find out that rents are more than double what you're paying now and the prices of food, clothing, gasoline and other items are three and four times more expensive?" The end result is that while your absolute salary has doubled, your salary, relative to other prices, has fallen.


A bit trickier example of how it's relative prices, not absolute prices, that influence behavior comes with the observation that married couples with young children who can't be left alone tend to choose more expensive dates than married couples without children. The couple's income and tastes have little to do with their decision; it's relative prices. Keeping the numbers small, say an expensive date, dinner and concert, has a $50 price tag and a cheap date, a movie, $20. The choice of the $50 dinner-and-concert date requires that the married couple without children sacrifice two and a half movies that they could have otherwise enjoyed.


The married couple with children must pay a babysitter $10 whether they go on the expensive or cheap date. With the cost of the babysitter figured in, the dinner and concert will cost them $60 and the movie $30. In choosing the dinner-and-concert date, they sacrifice only two movies. The dinner-and-concert date is relatively cheaper for the married couple with children since they sacrifice only two movies compared to the married couple without children's two and a half. Since it's cheaper, we can expect to observe married couples with children to take more expensive dates when they go out. It doesn't take economic analysis to come up with this. A husband might suggest, "Honey, let's hire a babysitter and take in a movie." The wife replies, "That doesn't make sense. Since we have to pay $10 for a babysitter whether we go on a cheap or expensive date, why not get our money's worth and take in a dinner and concert?"


How about another example of relative prices? Suppose today's coffee price is $1 a pound, and you typically purchase two pounds per week. You hear news that a freeze in Brazil destroyed much of its coffee crop and coffee prices are expected to rise. What would you do, and why? I'm guessing you'd make larger coffee purchases now, but why? The average person would answer, to save money. That's an OK answer, but it doesn't tell the whole story. Once again, it's the law of demand working. If coffee prices are expected to rise next week, that means coffee prices this week have fallen relative to those next week, and the law of demand says that when a price of a good falls, people will take a larger quantity. It works in reverse as well. If coffee prices are expected to fall next week, you'd buy less coffee this week. Why? Coffee prices have risen this week relative to next week.


You might be tempted to ho-hum this coffee analysis as oversimplification, but it is the basic principle underlying the complexities of futures markets such as the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, where people, as speculators, become rich, sometimes poorer, guessing about the future prices of commodities.


Our next discussion will see what the law of demand says about discrimination.

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Walter Williams Weekly Column Archives

Economics for the citizen, Part Four
Economics for the citizen, Part Three
Economics for the citizen, Part Two
Economics for the citizen, Part One


© 2005, Creators Syndicate