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The Foundations of Economics

March 18, 2013 Leave a comment

When a disaster strikes a community, there is always a frenzy for resources.  In the case of a blizzard, many people might go without power, water, or food.  The consistent event of natural disasters poses a problem for all societies.  Understanding economics can help with responses to disasters and also give insight to how a group of people functions in the inevitable event of a natural disaster.

To start off, Economics is the study of how people seek to satisfy their needs and wants by making choices.  In the case of a blizzard, an economist would look at how a consumer or city would work to satisfy the need for resources.  The problem with resources is that they are scarce.  Scarcity is the offspring of constant wanting by consumers.  There are only limited quantities of a resource, but constant demand.  This is different than a shortage, where a resource is only unavailable for only a period of time.  Scarcity is always a given, and never ending, while shortages are only for a period of time.  In the case of a blizzard, shovels might enter a period of shortage driven by a natural disaster.

The Factors of Production

Looking at where the shovel actually comes from and is made involves the factors of production.  There are three categories of the factors: Land, Labor, and Capital.  The materials used to make the shovel come from the land, or any natural resource used to produce a good.  This includes the wood for the handle, or the steel for the blade.  The shovel is assembled by people; the labor factor.  And finally, the shovel best associates with the capital factor because it is a human made item used to produce other things more efficiently.  The shovel efficiently helps a laborer get rid of fallen snow.  These three ways of producing goods are an essential backbone to economics because they give an answer to where products come from.

When a blizzard hits, a society has to think of the trade-offs they will do.  Trade-offs are basically all the options a person has when making a decision.  Because items are scarce, and sometimes go through a shortage, people can not choose every option they have.  This might mean spending money on an expensive shovel, or buying food and water.  The opportunity cost is a type of trade-off, but it is classified as the second best choice that a person could choose.  A person could buy the shovel, but they must weigh the opportunity cost of not having enough money to buy food and water.  Additionally, a person thinking at the margin who is buying food will weigh the costs and benefits of buying one more waterbottle, or loaf of bread.  Thinking at the margin is making a decision on buying one more unit of something.

Depending on the type of economic system one has, the different ways a society will respond to a blizzard.  An economic system is the method used by a society to produce and distribute goods and services.  There are four types of economic systems: traditional, market, command, and mixed.  Examples of these types include African tribes (traditional), Hong Kong (market), North Korea (command), and the United States (mixed).  If the blizzard hit the United States, the government and the normal market will work together to approach the issue.  Because the government is a mixed economy, the term guns or butter arises.  Guns are essentially used to associate with a government’s military costs, while butter is consumer goods.  Hopefully a government would choose butter over guns, and help a suffering society.  Safety nets come into play when a person faces economic struggles.  If a person becomes injured during a natural disaster, an ambulance would arrive to help the person.  Safety nets are important because a society does not like uncertainty.  These nets, in advance, protect people in the case of an accident.

cartoon-hand-md

The Components of Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand

Thinking all the way back to the shovel, everything comes down to the consumer.  Economies are driven because all people have self-interest. Self-interest is exactly as it sounds, doing something for one’s own profit.  If a man’s driveway is covered in snow, he will go buy a shovel to help himself.  Additionally, self-interest motivates a market economy because it controls prices; most gain for least amount of money.  Competition is the rivalry between two producers trying to gain consumer’s money.  Competition is the regulating force behind an economy.  If there were only one store in a city that sold shovels, the owner could potentially raise prices to whatever he or she wanted to because their store is the only place to get the item people need.  However, due to self-interest, if there is a competing store nearby that also sells shovels people will go to the store with the lower price.  The two stores balance each other and keep each other’s prices low.  This is an important part of the self-regulating economic system.  The two forces, self-interest and competition, working together make up what is known as the invisible hand.  Invisible hand is a term coined by Adam Smith to establish that drive behind a self-regulating market.

Overall, understanding how economics work is an essential part to the survival of a community.  It is important to know how to respond to any disaster, and economics helps a society figure that out.  A blizzard is only one example of how to relate economic terms to a situation.  In class, we read about the crab market in the Chesapeake Bay.  We took that example and matched up the economic terms with the situation.  From this we learned why there was a problem, who it effects, how to respond to the issue.  It was not a coincidence that the foundations of economics matched up with the story; these terms can apply to everything.

Categories: B1

Becoming a Citizen

February 28, 2013 Leave a comment

One can be a technically be a citizen, but if they do not practice their duties, are they really a citizen?  Government taught me not only the foundations of our government system, but also how to understand, manipulate, and follow it.  The thing I found most interesting was the election process.  Honestly, I didn’t know anything about the electoral college before taking the government course.  Knowing how the American government system works is the first step in becoming an active, and true citizen.  Furthermore, knowing how to find and understand information is what makes an active citizen unique.  Understanding the aspects of government is not small; there are many different components to it, but with the use of new information mediums, it is a reasonable task.  The use of internet allows access to an abundance of information and must be utilized by an active citizen.

Electoral College

Elections represent the founding spirit and beliefs America abides by, and are arguably the most significant facets of our society.  To begin, when looking at the electoral college, I was surprised to find a vote really isn’t a direct vote for the president.  At the same time, votes are the solely the most important part of a democracy, and passively sitting back defeats and purpose of the system.  Understanding what one’s vote is actually doing, as well as the power behind it is what makes a true citizen.  The interactive part of our course where we made predictions on the outcome of the 2012 election was especially interesting.  Looking at all the different information at hand, and then coming up with conclusions was really helpful in understanding what exactly was going on.  It was also exciting on the election day to see who was wrong or right (my predictions were correct as usual).  With all the excitement wrapped up in that, the use of technology was a refreshing outlet for all thoughts and opinions.  Most teachers neglect to follow the technological world, and the integration of Twitter was exceptional.  As a student, I was exposed to endless viewpoints from real people, and as a citizen I was able to conclude rational things based on the information at hand.

The word refreshing describes that technology is not used enough in the classroom.  There is quite literally endless amounts of knowledge, and information provided though this medium.  Technology adds fuel to the engine that is a student’s brain.  When they think that they are doing something just for a grade, the ethics are not as enthusiastic.  The internet backs assignments with reason and cause because of an audience.  Using the internet as a medium also allows group collaboration between peers, and even outside sources.  This is a valuable asset to current learning.  I learned not only how to access the internet and manipulate for my on benefit, but also how to collaborate and gain new perspectives.  All this information is necessary for a citizen to participate properly in government.

Participation in voting, although increasing, is below 70%
American citizens need to be more active and understand their role

After understanding where to find the information, as well as learn all the facts, a citizen must understand the importance of using these facts, and the role they play in society.  The Presidential elections is an obvious example of the necessity a citizen plays, but is only one of many.  Understanding votes is easy, but there so many other ways to get involved in elections.  The basis of getting involved in elections is through the pathways of actions (court, grassroot-mobilization, cultural change, lobbying, elections).  These are the main seeds which have endless potential for growth.  Elections are one of the pathways for a citizen to get involved.  Deciding who to vote for is the first main issue a citizen faces.  Grassroot Mobilization is a way to draw attention to a candidate.  In addition to all the other pathways in government, I learned that a citizen must take an active role using pathways to become an avid voter. Voting is only a start to getting involved in elections, there are many other aspects a person can get involved in, especially in media and internet.  Insight on how elections work is just one example of the importance of a citizen.  The fundamental of American government is the citizen, and knowing one’s value is key.

Overall, the use of internet was the most unique, and boundless part of the course.  Through it I rediscovered a new area of knowledge, and interaction.  It has helped me become a well rounded citizen, and gave insight to information I didn’t understand before.  Taking a passive role as a citizen nulls the efforts a democracy creates.  Additionally, taking an active role as a citizen but remaining ignorant is just as bad.  Not participating as a citizen cancels the idea, ideology, and overall beliefs of America.  Active involvement in government, in addition to knowledge is essential for the system to work properly.  Information is readily available to anyone who seeks it; government has taught me that.

Participation in the election process is one key role an active citizen must engage in

How to Approach Gun Violence

February 21, 2013 3 comments

Ever since the “Dark Knight” shooting on July 20, 2012, the nation has been in a frenzy over gun control.  Since then, there have been multiple infamous events including the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.  Gun control has been a popular debate topic for quite some time now, but why?  Shootings are not a new issue, so why are they so important now?  To start off, the media, our main source of knowledge as 21st century citizens, is blurred with filter bubbles.  Filter bubbles are essentially the systems in media sites, like Google, that automatically do an advanced search to help find the most relevant information one is looking for by tracking one’s history.  Although intended to be helpful, filter bubbles might provide only one side of information to a researcher and not allow them to get a full perspective.  It is common knowledge that the media tends to be liberal; with that in mind, the information a citizen sees tends to be filtered for the liberal agenda.  This extends to say that when President Obama, our Democratic president, makes an announcement there tends to be less counter argument due to these filter bubbles.  Every person is biased, making filter bubbles inevitable, but it is the responsibility of a citizen to pop these bubbles and get down to the basic information and facts on a topic.  Back the the original question, why is there such an issue with gun control now?  This question is hard to answer, and so far hasn’t been answered because gun violence is not a new issue.  It is obvious to say that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting added fuel to the debate.  Using this event as an example, a responsible citizen must look at how they approach an issue before developing an opinion on a topic, much like how they should with the Presidential Election.

Banning guns will not solve anything

There are surplus amounts of stories on gun violence on the news, and it is important to step back and look at the facts.  First, the increase in gun violence stories has increased rapidly partly because of filter bubbles.  Look at these stories but remember to take away the bias emotion associated with them.  This is not a new idea either: in Federalist #78, Alexander Hamilton approaches the idea of letting go of one’s emotions and just focusing on the facts with his argument about the “ill humors” of the people.  Second, remember the Constitutional rights.  The second Amendment of the United States’ Constitution gives citizens “the right… to keep and bear Arms.”  The radical solution to get rid of guns is unconstitutional, and not logical.  Remember where and why amendments were made: what is the history behind this amendment?

CNN does a good job of keeping up with the gun control debate.  In the article and video, Biden: Obama exploring executive orders to combat gun violence, Josh Levs goes through not only the main issue about violence, but also introduces ideas about the effects a change will have on gun sales. When approaching this article, it is important to notice the biased viewpoints.  The article consists of quotes by Vice President Joe Biden.  His perspective is that change will “affect the well-being of millions of Americans, and take thousands of people out of harm’s way.”  This is only one opinion.  The article breaks down filter bubbles by bringing in the National Rifle Association, who “has argued that it is committed to keeping people protected, but that a focus on stricter gun control is misguided.”  The evidence of no filter bubbles is prevalent again when CNN gives information past Biden’s quotes. The fact that “Wal-Mart initially said scheduling conflicts would prevent its “experts” on gun control from attending” but later “announced it will send representatives to the Thursday meeting” provides key information on changes, even on the economic level.  Showing that Wal-Mart is getting involved provides information to a voting citizen that gun control does not only affect the safety of people.

There are many aspects of gun control, and an accountable citizen should learn all facets of an issue before developing an opinion, even if that means suppressing passionate emotions.  The CNN article above serves to show what an article without filter bubbles looks like; multiple perspectives, and an overall look at the situation. There are a lot of emotions wrapped up in gun control, and it is illogical to make a decision on an emotional whim.

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