Economics Lecture Fourteen

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Economics Lectures - [1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13 - 14]

This is the final lecture of this course.

Your Instructor's appearance on the Colbert Report last week was replayed again by its producers the following Monday evening. Let's consider that in economic terms. This show is funded by advertisements, and the advertisers pay higher amounts depending on how many watch a show. By choosing to rerun this particular show again the following Monday, its producers probably felt it could attract a higher viewership than other shows, and thereby maximize advertising revenue. Alternatively, Stephen Colbert may have liked the high quality of this particular show and chose to replay it for that reason, or perhaps he selected it again for its educational value.

Several of our students in this class are starting a new homeschooling publication, which will soon be announced on and available online. A student who took this class in 2007 and who is now excelling in college is publishing an article that includes this observation:

My microeconomics class has been almost all review for me, because of the similar class I took from Mr. Andy Schlafly .... Although other students who attended public schools may have taken 'economics' before, they have struggled with microeconomics this semester, because their high school classes completely ignored the free-market and Austrian economics[1] which are taught [in college].

Let's begin this lecture by summarizing the percentages the CLEP exam devoted to particular topics. This will be immensely helpful to our students who will be taking the CLEP exam, and will also assist everyone else by facilitating their organization of the material covered in this course. Our final exam next class will use a similar distribution in topics as the CLEP exam, but without over-emphasizing government policy as the CLEP exam does. Instead of so many government questions, we will substitute in some of the additional topics we covered in this course.

Topics on Exam

Here is a list of the topics on the CLEP exam, along with how many questions are asked about each topic (as a percentage of the overall exam), and comments:

cost measures (e.g., ATC, AFC, AVC) 10% FC is total cost when output is zero; convert to average costs by dividing by output and remember that ATC=AFC+AVC; know when a firm should shut down
Government policy 10% unbiased: price ceilings cause shortages and taxes cause social (deadweight) loss;
biased: several pollution questions and the Lorenz curve (see discussion below)
Inputs to a Firm (espec. labor) 10% key here is applying logic and other concepts to reason back from product demand to a firm's need for labor (workers); know effects of minimum wage laws; might also be asked about capital
Perfect Competition 6% costs and profits and price are lowest for this market: P=MC=ATC and "economic profits" are squeezed to zero. If price falls, shut down in short run when P<AVC; shut down in long run when P<ATC.
Monopolistic Competition 6% can set its price above MC, but the low barrier to entry allows competitive forces that prevent long run profits and require P=ATC
Production Possibilities 6% trade-off among goods output; requires technological advance or other big change to reach points beyond the "frontier" (curve)
Price Elasticity 5% measures how demand responds to price changes; "elastic" means big change in demand for a small change in price of good
Monopolies 4% the firm sets its price above marginal cost, but not higher than where MR=MC; economic profits are greater than zero; economic rent exists. P>MC. P>ATC.
Demand Curve 4% what the public will pay; all firms in all kinds of markets are restrained by the Law of Demand
MR 4% marginal revenue is the increase in total revenue due to selling one more unit; profit maximized where MR=MC
MC 4% marginal cost, which equals price in perfect competition. For a monopoly P>MC but equals MR=MC
Public Goods 3% know the difference between these and private goods: public goods cannot exclude people from using the good
Returns to Scale 2% think Wal-Mart for increasing returns to scale; think a restaurant for decreasing returns to scale
Consumer Surplus 2% what someone was willing to pay above what the good actually cost
Comparative Advantage 2% nation with lower production costs should do what it does best
Oligopoly 2% only a few firms, like two gas stations at an intersection far away from any others; usually one Nash Equilibrium-type exam question
Imperfect Competition 2% P>MC for this market, which is "allocatively inefficient" (is not efficient in the allocation of resources); it takes perfect competition to drive P down to MC
Utility 2% Overall satisfaction. Recall our problem about hiking and reading? Marginal utility is your next bit of utility. Indifference curve shows trade-off in utility.
Cross-Price Elasticity 2% Comparing change in demand for one good due to change in price for a different good
Opportunity Cost 2% keep in mind that "economic costs" include opportunity costs in addition to actual out-of-pocket (accounting) costs
Substitutes 2% think Coke versus Pepsi
Complements 2% think ketchup with french fries
Long Run v. Short Run 2% in the long run all costs are variable and can be minimized; short and long run mentioned in 20% of questions, to distinguish between quick changes and permanent ones
Externalities 2% two types: positive (music in an open-air park) and negative (pollution)
Inferior v. Normal Goods 1% when income goes up, demand for an inferior good or service goes down (e.g., demand for bankruptcy services)
substitution and income effects 1% increase in price means less demand because public uses substitutes (substitution effect of price increase) and becomes poorer (income effect of price increase)
Cartel 1% an oligopoly that illegally agrees to fix (set) prices, as OPEC does
Price discrimination 1% charging different prices for the good; only possible if the market allows the firm to set its own price

The above list is all that is on the CLEP exam, in the percentages shown. At first glance, the CLEP exam may not seem biased. But it is. The CLEP exam omits important concepts like the invisible hand, free market, charity, transaction costs, the time value of money, interest rates, the Coase theorem and Gresham's Law. Why does the CLEP ignore these fundamental aspects of economics? Because each of these concepts tend to lead students toward truthful, but conservative, conclusions. For example, once a student realizes how inefficient transaction costs are, he or she will probably not like government regulations much! Instead of these concepts, the CLEP exam adds lots of questions about government regulation that cast it in a positive light. Also, even when the CLEP exam does include certain topics like opportunity cost, it asks less about them than it should.

But don't think most of the CLEP questions and answers are biased. They are not. Nearly all of the questions on the CLEP exam have unbiased, correct answers. The only exceptions where political bias becomes a factor are a few questions about government regulation. For these few questions, the CLEP exam pretends that government regulation can make a market more efficient. This is untrue, as proven by the Coase theorem, but the CLEP exam writers want people to think that more regulation is somehow good, and that government can somehow make a market more efficient.

Exam Bias Concerning Regulation and Efficiency

There are only two or three questions (out of nearly 100) on the CLEP exam that have biased answers. They concern regulation and efficiency. You can expect to see one or two CLEP questions where the correct answer is to support government regulation against pollution. The best way to think about pollution is in terms of its "negative externality," but the CLEP exam writers cast the issue in terms of an efficient use of resources. Under this view, pollution is inefficient because it results in inefficient harm to the environment. Laws against pollution supposedly increase efficiency by preventing harm to the "resource" of the environment. These regulations that prohibit pollution cause less output but supposedly ensure a more efficient use of environmental resources.

While most of us support a cleaner environment, efficiency is usually associated with greater output, not less output. Government regulations almost never improve efficiency; the free market does that best without government interference. That said, you can pick up one or two easy points on the CLEP exam by assuming that environmental regulation increases efficiency by protecting the "resource" of the environment for its better uses.

When companies are allowed to pollute without paying for it, their marginal cost (MC) is artificially lower than it should be. These companies are avoiding the cost of their own pollution. A lower MC means they will produce more goods than if their MC were higher. The term “marginal social cost” is used by economists to represent the true cost of their activities, including the cost of their pollution. Because companies produce more than they would if they had to pay for the cost of their pollution, some consider this to be inefficient. On the CLEP exam, it takes regulation to make it efficient by preventing the companies from putting out the pollution.

Outside the topic of government regulation, there are no biased answers. Do not choose one answer instead of another for reasons of bias except in one or two rare cases.

Other Questions Concerning Government

In areas unrelated to pollution, government establishes price floors, supports and ceilings. Do we all recall the differences? Price “ceilings” (or controls) are the easiest: the government says that the good cannot be sold for a higher price. Just as you cannot reach above your ceiling, the price is prohibited from rising above the ceiling that the government sets for it. It would be requiring gas to be sold for no more than $1.50, for example. The quantity supplied will decrease (move down the supply curve), while the quantity demanded will increase (move up the demand curve). Shortages result.

What is a price floor? Just the opposite of a ceiling. We cannot reach below the floor, and a price floor prevents the price from falling below a certain level. It would be a government law that prohibited milk from selling for less than $2 a gallon, for example. It would be intended to help the suppliers, such as dairy farmers. What happens when government imposes a price floor? There is a surplus of the good, as supply exceeds demand.

Now, how about a price support? That occurs when the government buys large quantities of good, such food, at prices higher than the competitive equilibrium. The government does this to “support” a higher price, instead of passing a law to require a higher price. A price support is designed to help the firms producing the goods, such as farmers. The rationale is that farmers are politically important and that pure competition is too brutal on their business and their lives, and also that foreign countries engage in the same practices. The effect of a “price support” is similar to a price floor: it creates a surplus of the good when the support is above the equilibrium price

When government regulates labor, the analysis is similar to its regulation of price. A “price floor” is created by the minimum wage: the buyer (an employer) must pay at least a certain amount for a service (labor). The minimum wage creates an oversupply of the service: too many workers. Not all of them will be able to obtain jobs at a wage higher than equilibrium. Unemployment results from a minimum wage that is higher than the equilibrium wage.

General Preparation Advice

As always, be sure you fully understand the question before you answer it, and use common sense and logic. In fact, many of the questions can be answered correctly with basic reasoning skills.

Maximizing Marginal Utility in Studying for Exam

Let's put our knowledge from this course to good use in studying for our final exam, and preparing for the CLEP exam. We maximize our utility by scoring as high as possible on these exams. To do so, we need to maximize our marginal utility in allocating our time towards the exam topics listed above. If we spend all our studying time on "price discrimination," which is only 1% of the exam, then we are not maximizing our marginal utility and will not reach our full potential.

This is similar to our homework problem earlier in the course about maximizing our marginal utility with respect to hiking and reading. This time, however, the decision each student must make is which topic to focus on first in the above list, and how much time to spend on it before moving on to another topic in the list. The answer may be different for each student.

This same challenge in optimizing strategy could be expressed as a problem of "allocative efficency": allocating resources (time and information) in the most efficient way. Just as efficiency is essential to successful businesses, efficiency is also important to becoming a successful student. Spending your time efficiently in preparing for the final exam, and preparing for the CLEP, is crucial to your ability to do well on them. Look at the above list of topics and how often they appear, and ask yourself: where should you focus first in order to pick up the most points in the shortest amount of time?

Should you simply start reviewing at the top of the list and work your way down to the bottom? That strategy has the advantage of focusing on the most important topics first. If you run out of time in reviewing, then you will miss only the less important topics. But you might improve further on that strategy by moving more quickly through topics that you already understand well. Alternative, there may be topics that you find too difficult to understand, and you might give up some points there in order to focus better on topics where you can pick up more points.

For the rest of this class this lecture will focus on topics which might provide the greatest marginal increase in your exam scores. This takes into consideration the topics we have already reviewed (you have the materials for those), and avoids duplication of that review. You, however, may decide for yourself that you can benefit most from reviewing those prior topics.

Your instructor emphasizes studying strategy for a reason. The biggest reason why some students do not succeed is a lack of effort. But the second biggest reason is poor studying and test-taking strategies, like a football team that runs ill-advised plays. Education, like business and perhaps even life itself, rewards good strategies and punishes misguided ones.

Review: Inputs to a Firm (Espec. Labor)

For many students, the most additional points can be obtained by reviewing the "Inputs to a Firm" category. It will be on 10% of the questions on the final exam and the CLEP exam. That's a significant chunk of these exams. Without review, these questions look hard and are easy to miss. But with some extra preparation, you should be able to answer nearly all of them correctly. In maximizing your score and making the best use of your time, this category may result in the biggest increase in correct answers with the least amount of effort. That's what maximizing marginal utility is all about.

Accordingly, in economic terms, the greatest marginal utility from studying for the exam is probably obtaining by focusing on this topic first. We've already covered the other two topics comprising 10% apiece of the exam (cost measures and government regulation), so there may not be many more points to pick up there. Realize that you will probably get some exam questions right without additional studying, and other questions you may get wrong no matter how much you study. But in this category of "inputs to a firm," you can pick up some points that you would otherwise miss. Let's review it now.

Questions about inputs to a firm focus on what a firm will do with its inputs (usually labor, but sometimes capital) in order to maximize its profits. The questions usually concern the following:

  1. impact of improvement in technology on the production by a firm
  2. adjusting inputs to minimize the overall cost at a constant level of output
  3. the effect of minimum wage on the competition for labor
  4. comparing the cost of an input (usually labor) relative to the additional revenue that results
  5. why a firm's "demand for labor" is called a "derived demand"
  6. what causes an increase in demand for labor
  7. the relation between hiring additional workers and the marginal cost
  8. calculating overall costs (total cost and average variable cost) based on wages

Review the above list now. How many of the above 8 topics do you know well enough to answer a question about them correctly? Let's briefly review each of these concepts so you can maximize your score on this big part of the exam.

1. "the impact of an improvement in technology on the production by a firm"

If technology improves, as in helpful new inventions or advances in communication (like the internet), then this helps shift the Production Possibilities Frontier (Curve) outward. A firm can produce more output now. So an improvement in technology enables a firm to increase its output or its supply to the market.

2. "adjusting inputs to minimize the overall cost at a constant level of output"

How does a firm adjust its inputs (e.g., workers or equipment) so that it has reached the lowest possible overall cost? By making sure that he is getting the most "bang for his buck" for each input. In other words, the firm makes sure that each input is producing the most marginal product per dollar spent on that input. If one worker is producing more than another worker, and both are being paid the same, then the owner has not lowered his costs to a minimum. He could fire the lazy worker and hire a part-time worker like his good one, and then produce the same output at less cost.
Summarizing the above, the firm minimizes its overall costs by making sure the marginal product per cost for each input is equal. If one input (e.g., one worker) is producing more marginal product per cost than another, then the overall costs are not minimized. The unproductive worker is wasting the firm's money.

3. "the effect of the minimum wage on the competition for labor"

Increasing the minimum wage has the effect of increasing unemployment. Workers who have jobs make more money when the minimum wage is increased, but firms can afford to hire fewer people. The number of the unemployed (the people who cannot get jobs) increases when the minimum wage is increased.
Also, although this will never be asked on a CLEP exam, raising the minimum wage causes more high school students to drop out and pursue jobs rather than stay in school, which would enable them to obtain higher-paying jobs in the future.
Sometimes the CLEP exam will twist the question about minimum wage to obscure its harmful effect, by asking what happens when the labor supply increases when there already is a minimum wage. This makes it look like the fault is an increase in the labor supply rather than the minimum wage law. The correct answer is the same in both cases: unemployment increases.

4. "comparing the cost of an input (usually labor) relative to the additional revenue that results"

This type of question probes how a firm increases its inputs in relation to the additional revenue that results from such an increase. The key here is to be very careful and very logical. A firm will increase an input (such as labor) until the value of the marginal product of that input equals the marginal cost of that input. Read that sentence over and over until you understand it. It simply means that the firm will equate the marginal cost of the additional input (such as an additional worker) to the marginal revenue that the additional input produces.
Often students miss this type of question because they are not careful to compare dollars to dollars. If you have the marginal cost in terms of dollars (such as a wage rage for the additional worker), then you need to equate it to the marginal value of the marginal product of the labor (value is in dollar units), not the marginal product itself (which is a unit quantity).

5. "why a firm's "demand for labor" is called a "derived demand"

This is an easy point to pick up on an exam. A firm's demand for an input (such as labor) is called a "derived demand" because it depends on the demand for the goods produced by that input. For example, a restaurant's demand for waitresses is entirely dependent on the public's demand to be served at the restaurant. If there is no public demand to be waited on at the restaurant, then the restaurant (the firm) has no demand for waitresses!

6. "what causes an increase in demand for labor"

This is another easy issue, similar to the prior one above. If the public demand for the product of the labor increases, then there is an increase in demand for the labor itself. If more people want to eat McDonald's hamburgers, then there is more demand for workers to make McDonald's hamburgers.
How do we know when the demand by the public for the product of certain labor increases? When the price of the good or service produced by the labor increases. When that price goes up, then there is an increase in demand for the workers who make that good or service.

7. "the relation between hiring additional workers and the marginal cost"

This is a more challenging issue that requires two steps rather than one in order to answer correctly. Marginal cost is additional cost to a firm for making one more unit. It is measured in dollars, not in units. Making sure you have the right measure (dollars or units) for your answer will help you reduce mistakes. The answer for any question about marginal cost must be in dollars (or cents) per unit.
Accordingly, if you are told how many additional units are produced by each additional worker, then calculating the marginal cost requires dividing the cost of the additional worker by the additional number of units he produces. The more units an additional worker produces, the lower the marginal cost that results from adding that worker.
Example: suppose a firm hires Tom and sees the output increase by 20 units, and then hires Mary at the same wage and sees the output increase by 15 units. When is the marginal cost of the firm the lowest? After it hires Tom, but before it hires Mary. That's because the marginal cost of hiring Tom is his wages divided by 20, while the marginal cost of hiring Mary is the same wage divided by 15. A wage divided by 20 is less than the same wage divided by 15, so the marginal cost to the firm after hiring Tom is less than after hiring Mary.

8. "calculating overall costs (total cost and average variable cost) based on wages"

The key here is simply to be careful in doing the calculations, and then double-check your answer. You need to be sure you are using the correct level of output before you calculate the total cost (TC) and average variable cost (AVC) at that level of output. To find the total cost, add the fixed cost (FC) to the labor cost (total wages times the number of workers), for a given level of output. Then, to find the average variable cost, find the total variable cost (TVC=TC-FC) and divide by that level of output.
Example: a firm can produce 100 units with 5 workers and 200 units with 10 workers. Its fixed cost is $50 and its wage rate is $20 per worker. What is its total cost and average variable cost to produce 100 units?
Answer: note first that the question asks about the costs at 100 units in output, not 200 units. Total cost at 100 units is the fixed cost ($50) plus the labor cost ($20 times 5 workers, or $100), for a total of $150. The average variable cost is the total cost ($150) minus the fixed cost ($50), divided by the output (100), for a total of $1 per unit.

Master the above eight issues, and you'll convert 10% of the exam from wrong answers to correct ones. That could enable you to earn college credit.

Review: Different Types of Markets

You instructor wonders what topic will maximize our marginal utility next. About 20% of the exam is devoted to questions about different types of markets, ranging from the most advantageous for the public (perfect competition) to the least advantageous (monopoly). That's a large chunk of questions, and with some extra review here we can probably convert wrong answers to right ones.

The key to answering these questions correctly is to realize that the more competition there is, the lower the price of the goods and services and the lower the profits for the firms. Some of these questions are special cases and should simply be memorized: a cartel is an oligopoly that illegally agrees to fix (set) its prices, and an oligopoly is an industry where just a few firms dominate the market. When given a grid about where an oligopoly ends up selling its goods (its Nash Equilibrium), the answer is always symmetric (all firms sell at the same price) and usually not the highest price that a monopoly could sell at.

The monopoly questions look harder than they really are. The monopolist sets his price higher than marginal cost, which would be the optimal price from the standpoint of the public (or government). Instead, the monopolist price sets his price where marginal revenue equals marginal cost (MR=MC). If shown a graph, you may have to find the quantity where MR=MC, and then find the corresponding price on the demand curve. Note that a monopolist has no supply curve, because a supply curve represents many firms in an industry and a monopolist is the only firm in the industry.

There can be general questions about these markets. A perfectly competitive market uses resources in a perfectly efficient way. At the other end of the spectrum, a monopoly uses resources the least efficiently of all. Its high pricing causes a huge social loss ("deadweight loss") by eliminating consumer surplus. The monopoly reduces output in order to cause a scarcity that increases the price to an artificially high level. This is bad for everyone, except the owner of the monopoly, who enriches himself. This is how Bill Gates became the wealthiest person in the world.

Here is a puzzle to leave you with. What is the impact on quantity of a price ceiling in a competitive industry compared to a price ceiling in a monopoly? In which one (competitive v. monopoly) might a clever price ceiling actually increase quantity? Think about it, and learn to ask yourself questions like this in order to master economics. The answer is in this footnote.[2]

Be sure to spend time on the review sections in the prior lectures for more information about this and other topics on the exams.

Review: Public Goods

A public good is a good which is nonexcludable and nondepletable. The first condition means that it is impossible to exclude consumers from partaking in the good, and the second condition means that one consumer's consumption of the good does not prevent others from consuming it.

Explained another way, a public good is available to all such that consumption by one person does not reduce its availability to others. An example of a public good is national defense, as it protects everyone and its benefits to one person does not diminish its benefits to others.

Other examples of public goods are law enforcement (protection by the police), public fireworks, clear air, street lights, radio and television transmissions, lighthouses, and some inventions. Some of these examples, such as lighthouses, are contested as to whether they must be a public good, as it is possible to charge ships port fees to pay for them. Also, while radio and television transmissions are available to all to receive them, it does cost money to buy radios and television sets, so these are not truly public goods either.

Liberals like to emphasize the concept of public goods on exams in order to support the argument for more government. Under this view public goods represent market failure and the need for government services supported by taxes.

Final Tips on Test-taking in Economics

Good test-taking techniques are particularly important to doing well on an economics exam. Simple questions are often intentionally disguised as something more complicated. It is easy to become confused and misguided in analyzing economic issues. 99% of the public would say that we would be better off if Congress put a price ceiling or cap on gasoline at $1 a gallon. It takes a bit more thought to realize that massive shortages would result, and we would all have to waste hours each week waiting in line for gasoline. Some who really need gas in hurry, such as people trying to take someone to a hospital, may not be able to obtain gas in time.

The ability to eliminate wrong answers can help. Let’s try the elimination technique on these questions:

Question: Consider the poverty-level of income for a family of four in America. Which of the following can be said about how the government defines this specific income level?

(A) It helps determine who is eligible for Social Security benefits.
(B) It decreases when there is an increase in welfare benefits.
(C) It proves that 50% of Americans live in poverty.
(D) It is determined by tripling the cost of a nutritionally adequate diet by three.
(E) Government does not adjust this number due to changes in the cost of living (inflation).

Virtually none of you would know the answer to this question at first glance. The question is not really appropriate for a microeconomics exam, but CLEP asks it anyway. Questions about poverty, gaps between the rich and poor, and government programs are always favorites among liberal educators. You will see many more questions about these issues than about the invisible hand or the creation of wealth.

So what do we do when faced with this question? Simply give up? Move to the next question and hope it is easier? Blindly guess at an answer? None of the above.

We can narrow the choices, and thereby reduce our risk of error, by eliminating wrong answers. Basic economic principles (or common sense) serve as our guide.

Let’s start with choice (C). Think about it: is half of our nation living in poverty? What would that mean for elections? Who would pay to run government? If we called half of us "poor", then what word would be use for the really poor? Choice (C) can't be true. Using common sense, we can eliminate this answer.

Let’s turn to choice (E). Why wouldn’t it be adjusted? Poverty must be relative to the cost of living. If the cost of living doubled, then the numbers in poverty would increase greatly. But failure to adjust for the cost of living would miss that effect. Again, common sense leads us to eliminate this answer.

Next we can turn to choice (A). That doesn't work either, because everyone who pays into Social Security has a right to receive benefits when they grow old, regardless of whether they are rich or poor. “Social security” is not “security only if you’re poor.” We can eliminate this choice.

We’re left with only two possibilities: (B) and (D). Realize that has increased our odds of choosing the right answer to 50% now. If you took the CLEP and at least narrowed every difficult question down to two choices, then you would likely pass the test. How do we next make our best choice among these final two options?

Option (D) seems to have the right amount of detail, and fits the question well grammatically. In contrast, Option (B) does not fit the question as well or make as much sense (definition of what the poverty level is should not change based on distributing some benefits). Even if you had no idea between (B) and (D), (D) is a better fit. It’s our best guess. (D), indeed, is correct.

It helps to choose an answer that gives the most meaning to the purpose of the question. The purpose of this question is to ask about how poverty-level income is calculated. Answer (D) most directly furthers that goal. It makes for a good guess if you did not otherwise know. You won’t always be able to guess the right answers, but by increasing your chances you can significantly increase your overall score.

Let’s try one more CLEP-inspired question, this time relating to labor:

Question: Assume a perfectly competitive market for both inputs and output. If capital is fixed and the price for the output increases, then a firm in the short run will increase its production by which of the following ways:

(A) increase capital until P=MR
(B) increase labor until the value of the marginal product for workers equals the wage rate
(C) increase capital until its average product equals the price of the additional capital
(D) increase labor until its marginal product equals the wage rate
(E) increase labor until the ratio of the price of the output to labor's marginal product equals the wage rate

This type of question benefits from being reread. “Capital is fixed,” according to the question. So capital cannot be increased. Answers (A) and (C) can be eliminated that easily. Sounds too obvious, but many students miss this. They fail to read and understand the question.

Only labor can be increased, which is possible under answers (B), (D) and (E). We've improved our odds of success to a 33% chance. Those are good odds on a difficult question like this. But we can improve our chances even more.

(B) and (D) look similar so let’s turn to (E) first. The “marginal product of labor” is the additional units (“product”) produced due to an additional unit of labor. Remember “MP”? The term does not include “revenue” or “price”, so it only gives you the quantity. We need to multiply that quantity by product price to obtain revenue, what the firm owner cares the most about. Choice (E) makes no sense by dividing terms that should be multiplied together. We can eliminate it.

Back to (B) and (D). The only difference between the two is the term “value of” in (B). Think about what “marginal product” is. It is a quantity, not a dollar amount. Yet we are comparing it to “wage rate,” which would be in dollars. We need to insert “value of” to convert a quantity into equivalent dollars. (B) is must be the correct choice because it compares dollars to dollars, while choice (D) does not.

The key to good test-taking, particularly on economics exams, is to make sure you fully understand each question before trying to answer it.

Final Comments

You have all learned a great deal of material in this course, information that will help you the rest of your lives. The insights and powerful concepts covered by this course can yield greater and greater benefits the more you think about them. Every week I see still something new and helpful in concepts taught in this course. Many students say that this is the best course they took from me, among other helpful courses. Use this course for your benefit.

If there is one unifying theme to this course, then I suggest it is summarized in Jesus's Parable of the Talents. Be productive, and God can multiply the benefits of your work. If you reach out, if you do more, if you make good use of your time, if you maximize your efficiency, if you consider the opportunity costs, and if you increase your output, then you give God more to work with. But if you bury your talents in the ground or if you are like the tree that does not bear fruit, then you give God less for His purpose.

Carpe diem. And be the good that drives out the bad as we discussed in connection with Gresham's Law.


Read this lecture and study for the final exam, which will be January 7th (snow date, if needed, is January 14th). It will be a multiple choice exam similar to the mid-term exam. Knowing all the concepts asked on the mid-term exam is an excellent way to prepare, along with concepts learned since then.


  1. "Austrian economics" is an approach to economics that emphasizes the free markets, minimizing governmental interference, respecting private property rights, and promoting gold as a monetary standard. Beware, however, that Austrian economics organizations are often more libertarian than conservative on social issues, and Austrian economics itself has been slow in incorporating new economic insights such as the Coase theorem.
  2. A price ceiling is a maximum price limitation, just as a real ceiling limits the height. A perfectly competitive industry is already selling at its maximum output, so a price ceiling can't help there. But a monopoly increases its price by reducing its output. If a price ceiling is imposed against a monopoly, then it must reduce its price and increase its output, for the benefit of the public.