University of California – Los Angeles Economics Discussion

Description

Questions1. Read only the introduction paragraph of your partner’s essay. In your own words, explainwhat you think the essay is about and the main argument the essay will make. Does theauthor’s thesis statement clearly state what they will be arguing and why they think thatview is correct?2. Read the rest of the essay. If you had no prior knowledge of their chosen thinker’sargument, do you feel that you would understand their main beliefs? Do you think theauthor devoted a proper amount of space to explaining the chosen intellectual’s views?How could they have made their description more clear?3. Now that you have context from the rest of the essay, do you feel that the introductioneffectively introduced the reader to the main ideas discussed in the rest of the essay? Is thethesis consistently argued throughout the essay?4. Identify the part of the essay that is the strongest defense of their thesis (can be a wholeparagraph or a specific example within a paragraph). Identify the part of the essay that isthe weakest defense of the thesis (or that is not useful to defending the thesis). Should theauthor rework this section or delete it entirely?5. Read the first sentence of each paragraph in the essay. Can you identify from the topicsentence what each paragraph will be about? Does each paragraph have a clear purposein their paper?6. Identify three sentences in the essay that you found either confusing/unclear and should bereworded or that could be deleted without hurting the author’s argument.7. Using the letter grade scale on the last page of the essay assignment, grade the author oneach of the four components and explain why you gave them that grade for each.

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Essay Assignment 1
Prompt
Choose an intellectual who has a position on capitalism that you disagree with. Explain their
position and o er an argument against their position. You should nd an article or series of
articles that lays out their viewpoint – a primary source is encouraged, but secondary sources
can work as well. You do not have to (and should not) argue against everything your chosen
intellectual has ever written, but rather narrow it down to one speci c point that you can
e ectively argue against in a short essay.
Requirements
1. Your chosen intellectual does not have to be an economist, but they should be an academic
– no politicians (journalists can be acceptable if they have a rigorous argument). You cannot
pick Keynes, Hayek, Mises, Marx, Lange, or Lerner and you cannot do Milton Friedman’s essay
“The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Pro ts”
Some ideas (De nitely feel free to choose someone not on this list):
Ayn Rand
Ben Bernanke
Brad DeLong
Christine Lagarde
Edmund Phelps
Esther Du o
Gary Becker
George Stigler
Glenn Loury
Ha-Joon Chang
Janet Yellen
Joan Robinson
Joseph Schumpeter
Joseph Stiglitz
Lisa D. Cook
Matthew Kahn
Milton Friedman
Murray Rothbard
Noam Chomsky
Paul Krugman
Richard D. Wol
Robert Nozick
Robert Reich
Ronald Coase
Stephanie Kelton
Thomas Piketty
Thomas Sowell
Walter E. Williams
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Another good way to choose somebody is to think of an issue that interests you (healthcare,
environmental, business cycle, etc.) and nd a scholar at the forefront of that issue who you
disagree with (the good thing about economics is you can almost always nd someone on both
sides!). As long as you can connect that issue to capitalism it is acceptable for this essay.
2. By the end of your rst paragraph, you should have a clear statement of your thesis – what is
the idea you disagree with and why do you disagree with it.
3. In addition to sources related to your chosen intellectual, you must cite at least two other
sources (this can include citing data that supports your argument).
4. Paper should be at least 3 pages and no more than 4 (double spaced, 12 point font, 1 inch
margins). You cannot go over the 4 page limit.
5. Your rough draft should be submitted on Bruin Learn and given to your two peer review
partners. The rough draft does not have to be fully polished, but it must be complete.
Grading
Total – 200 points
Peer Review/Rough Draft – 50 Points
10 points – Submitted complete rough draft on time and sent to two peer reviewers
40 points – Participated in peer review and provided substantive comments to your peers.
Please view the lecture and peer review questions for my expectations regarding peer review.
(Your peer review comments will be graded separately by the grader for this class and the
grade for these 50 points will appear together on Bruin Learn)
Final Draft – 150 Points
30 points – Introduction paragraph clearly introduces the chosen intellectual and includes a
clear statement of your thesis that explains what the chosen intellectual’s argument is and why
you disagree with it. At the end of the introduction, I will ask myself if I think I have a pretty
good idea of what the essay will be arguing. If I can’t answer yes to that question, you will not
do well in this category.
45 points – Essay includes a full description of the chosen intellectual’s position. Essays
scoring high points in this category will demonstrate a strong understanding of the chosen
intellectual’s views and an ability to describe these views in their own words clearly and
concisely. Strong essays will also make an e ort to give a fair reading to the thinker even
though they disagree with their point of view. Do not argue against a straw man.
60 points – Essay o ers a clear argument against the view of the chosen intellectual. You do
not have to disagree with their position entirely, but you must point out the de ciencies you nd
in their analysis. Strong essays will e ectively synthesize at least 2 additional sources into their
analysis (without simply restating the arguments of other thinkers) as well as consider potential
counterarguments. Be sure that your argument relates back to the broader topic of capitalism.
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15 points – Essay is logically organized and thoughtfully written. You will not be graded on
grammar or style, but the argument needs to make sense. Each paragraph should have a
consistent topic, and ideas should be connected in a logical way.
Scoring Guidelines:
Intro/Thesis
Description of
Position
Argument
Organization/
Structure
Overall Score
A+
28-30
42-45
56-60
14-15
140+
A
25-27
37-41
50-55
12-13
125-139
A-
22-24
33-36
44-49
10-11
110-124
B+
19-21
28-32
38-43
8-9
95-109
B
15-18
22-27
30-37
6-7
75-94
Shuyi??Li? ?
Picketty’s??Capital??Tax??May??Increase??Inequality? ?
In??Capital??in??the??Twenty-First??Century,?T
? homas??Picketty??posits??that??more??perfect??capital??
markets??are??more??likely??to??have??the??rate??of??return??on??capital??significantly??outpace??the??growth??rate??
of??the??economy,??leading??to??extreme??income??and??wealth??inequality??unless??action??is??taken??to??
prevent??it.??He??recommends??an??increase??in??income??tax??along??with??a??progressive??annual??tax??on??
capital??as??a??way??to??remedy??the??imbalance??in??capital??ownership.??Specifically,??Picketty??suggests??a??
steep??progressive??income??tax,??with??a??marginal??top??rate??of??80??percent??on??incomes??over??$500,000??
or??$1??million,??and??a??global??wealth??tax??of??five??to??ten??percent??(Piketty??660,??684).??However,??by??only??
analyzing??income??shares,??Picketty??understates??how??capital??owners??have??contributed??to??the??rising??
standard??of??living??by??utilizing??their??capital??in??productive??ways??to??generate??returns,??a??mechanism??
which??his??recommendation??may??disrupt.?? ?
Pickety??argues??that??the??process??by??which??wealth??is??accumulated??and??distributed??in??
capitalist??societies??contains??both??forces??of??convergence??and??divergence,??which??may??engender??
extreme??income??and??wealth??inequality??if??left??to??itself.??Forces??of??convergence??include??the??
diffusion??of??knowledge??and??skills,??which??is??essential??to??productivity??growth??and??decreasing??
inequality.??He??acknowledges??that??the??diffusion??of??knowledge??and??skills??is??a??powerful??force??of??
convergence??but??argues??that??there??is??no??natural??process??that??can??prevent??inegalitarian??forces??of??
divergence??from??prevailing.??The??main??destabilizing??force??for??divergence??that??captures??the??logic??
of??Piketty’s??argument??involves??the??inequality?r? >g?,??what??he??calls??the??“fundamental??structural??
contradiction??of??capitalism”??(Piketty??747).?1?? ?Pickety??argues??that??when??the??private??rate??of??return??on??
capital??markedly??exceeds??the??growth??rate??of??income??and??output??for??an??extended??period??of??time,??
1 ?where?r? ??is??the??average??annual??rate??of??return??on??capital,??which??includes??profits,??dividends,??rents,??interest,??and??other??
income??from??capital,??and?g? ?i?s??the??rate??of??growth??of??the??economy,??or??the??annual??increase??in??income/output??(Piketty??
34).? ?
inherited??wealth??grows??faster??than??output??and??wages.??Under??such??conditions,??inherited??wealth??
becomes??increasingly??important??as??it??only??takes??a??small??flow??of??new??savings??to??grow??one’s??
wealth??at??a??faster??rate??than??the??economy??itself.??He??thus??concludes??that??a??rate??of??return??on??capital??
that??markedly??outpaces??the??growth??rate??of??an??economy??increases??the??risk??of??divergence??in??the??
distribution??of??wealth.??
However,??Pickety’s??analysis??is??based??solely??on??income??shares??and??thus??downplays??the??
substantial??rise??in??the??standard??of??living??of??all??groups??due??to??capital??owners??utilizing??their??capital??
in??productive??ways.??Income??and??wealth??inequality??are??not??necessarily??an??accurate??measure??of??
how??well??low-income??individuals??are??doing.??It??is??a??fact??that??over??the??past??two??centuries,??the??
general??standard??of??living??has??skyrocketed,??a??phenomenon??that??American??economist??and??
historian??Deirdre??McCloskey??calls??“the??Great??Enrichment.”??A??study??on??the??relationship??between??
this??trend??and??capitalism??finds??that??people??in??the??bottom??10??percent??of??a??country’s??income??
distribution??are??significantly??better??off??in??absolute??terms??in??free??market??economies??with??low??state??
ownership??(Lazear??12).??As??countries??transition??from??heavily??government-controlled??to??free??
market??economies,??the??absolute??incomes??of??all??groups??also??increase,??including??the??poor??(Lazear??
18).??While??Lazear’s??study??does??suggest??that??economic??liberalization??affects??high-income??and??
low-income??groups??differentially,??this??is??not??necessarily??a??problem??if??the??economic??pie??has??grown??
and??the??poor??are??receiving??a??larger??share??of??it.??For??example,??the??ratio??of??the??average??income??of??the??
top??10??percent??to??the??bottom??10??percent??in??China??soared??from??eight??to??40??between??the??1980s??and??
2010.??However,??the??income??of??the??bottom??10??percent??grew??five??times??during??this??same??period??
(Lazear??2).??By??focusing??on??relative??well-being??instead??of??absolute??income,??Pickety??understates??
the??substantial??rise??in??the??general??standard??of??living??that??has??accompanied??free??market??capitalism.??
Furthermore,??there??has??been??a??reduction??of??other??types??of??inequality??over??the??past??two??centuries,??
most??notably??in??life??expectancy??and??access??to??consumption??and??education.??There??has??been??a??
global??explosion??in??life??expectancy,??with??inequalities??in??age??at??death??decreasing??by??approximately??
two-thirds??throughout??the??twentieth??century??(Delsol??et??al.??24).??Low-income??individuals??today??
also??have??access??to??a??much??wider??variety??of??higher??quality??consumer??goods,??and??studies??have??
shown??that??fewer??hours??of??work??are??needed??to??pay??for??similar??goods??compared??to??50??years??ago??
(Horwitz).?2?? ?The??reduction??in??educational??inequality??has??been??even??more??dramatic.??In??1950,??
around??half??of??the??world’s??adults,??which??includes??the??majority??of??the??low-income??population,??had??
never??had??any??schooling.??This??proportion??dropped??to??one-seventh??by??2010??(Delsol??et??al.??25).??
While??the??reduction??in??these??other??types??of??inequality??does??not??minimize??the??issue??of??income??and??
wealth??inequality,??it??does??suggest??that??the??latter??by??itself??paints??an??incomplete??picture??of??the??
impact??of??capitalism??on??the??poor.?? ?
Moreover,??since??the??enrichment??of??all??income??groups??along??these??measures??has??been??the??
result??of??capital??owners??employing??their??capital??productively??to??add??value??to??the??overall??economy,??
Piketty’s??policy??recommendation??may??even??reduce??growth??and??contribute??to??inequality.??Whether??
capital??owners??are??stockholders??or??managers,??they??take??on??risks??in??competitive??markets.??Their??
incomes??are??thus??the??result??of??them??making??successful??investments??that??help??grow??the??economic??
pie.??Instead??of??being??passive??actors??who??simply??accrue??returns??on??their??capital,??capital??owners??are??
active??decision??makers??who??face??the??risk??of??making??negative??returns.??A??high??capital??tax??would??
disincentivize??people??to??incentivize??in??human??and??nonhuman??capital.??As??a??global??capital??tax??is??
unrealistic,??capital??flight??will??likely??occur??with??investors??moving??to??countries??with??low??tax?
regimes,??which??would??slow??economic??growth??and??exacerbate? ?inequality.?? ?
2 ?Howard??notes??that??a??color??TV??would??have??cost??127.8??hours??at??the??average??1959??wage??but??only??20.7??hours??at??the??
average??2013??wage.?? ?
Since??Picketty’s??analysis??focuses??on??income??shares,??he??de-emphasizes??the??substantial??
increase??in??absolute??income??and??general??standard??of??living??as??well??as??the??contribution??of??capital??
owners??to??this??trend.??Picketty??does??not??fully??take??into??account??the??fact??that??capital??owners??risk??
their??capital??when??they??make??investments??that??are??not??guaranteed??to??yield??positive??returns??and??
that,??in??doing??so,??they??add??value??to??the??economy,??which??benefits??everyone.??While??Piketty’s??
proposed??capital??tax??has??the??right??intentions,??it??may??in??fact??slow??growth??and??increase??income??and??
wealth??inequality??by??discentivizing??investments??in??capital.?
??
Works??Cited? ?
Eberstadt,??Nicholas.??“Longevity,??Education,??and??the??Huge??New??Worldwide??Increases??in??
Equality.”?A
? nti-Piketty:??Capital??for??the??21st??Century?,??edited??by??Jean-Philippe??Delsol??et??
al.,??Cato??Institute??Press,??2017.?? ?
Horwitz,??Steven.??“Inequality,??Mobility,??and??Being??Poor??in??America.”??Social??Philosophy??and??
Policy?,??vol.??31,??no.??2,??2015,??pp.??70–91.,??https://doi.org/10.1017/s0265052514000260.?? ?
Lazear,??Edward??P.??“Socialism,??Capitalism,??and??Income.”?H
? oover??Institution?,??
https://www.hoover.org/sites/default/files/research/docs/prosperityproject_lazear_final.pd?
f.?? ?
Piketty,??Thomas.?C
? apital??in??the??Twenty-First??Century?.??Translated??by??Arthur??Goldhammer,??The??
Belknap??Press??of??Harvard??University??Press,??2017.?? ?
?
Peer Review Essay 1
There are 3 main goals for this assignment. First, I hope that it will help you get useful feedback
on your own essay from other students who may not be as familiar with the topic as you are. It
is always helpful to have an extra set of eyes look over a piece of writing and nd parts that are
maybe not as clear as you thought. Second, it will give you the opportunity to read two other
essays to see what other people thought and hopefully give you some additional perspectives
on topics you may not have thought about before. Finally, it will help you hone your editing
skills.
For the assignment, you are assigned to a group of 3 (see the link on Bruin Learn). You should
send your essay to the two other people in your group before 12:30pm on Thursday 1/20. You
should also submit your rough draft to the link on Bruin Learn. Then you should answer the
following questions about the two essays you receive, send your comments to the author and
submit them on Bruin Learn within 24 hours. Feel free to o er additional comments beyond
those addressed in the questions.
I expect you to spend a good amount of time carefully reading each essay and providing
thoughtful comments (approximately 30 mins per essay). My grader will be looking at them and
if she doesn’t feel you put in e ort she will take o points. The rough draft and peer review are
worth 50 out of the 200 points for the essay.
Questions
1. Read only the introduction paragraph of your partner’s essay. In your own words, explain
what you think the essay is about and the main argument the essay will make. Does the
author’s thesis statement clearly state what they will be arguing and why they think that
view is correct?
2. Read the rest of the essay. If you had no prior knowledge of their chosen thinker’s
argument, do you feel that you would understand their main beliefs? Do you think the
author devoted a proper amount of space to explaining the chosen intellectual’s views?
How could they have made their description more clear?
3. Now that you have context from the rest of the essay, do you feel that the introduction
e ectively introduced the reader to the main ideas discussed in the rest of the essay? Is the
thesis consistently argued throughout the essay?
4. Identify the part of the essay that is the strongest defense of their thesis (can be a whole
paragraph or a speci c example within a paragraph). Identify the part of the essay that is
the weakest defense of the thesis (or that is not useful to defending the thesis). Should the
author rework this section or delete it entirely?
5. Read the rst sentence of each paragraph in the essay. Can you identify from the topic
sentence what each paragraph will be about? Does each paragraph have a clear purpose
in their paper?
6. Identify three sentences in the essay that you found either confusing/unclear and should be
reworded or that could be deleted without hurting the author’s argument.
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7. Using the letter grade scale on the last page of the essay assignment, grade the author on
each of the four components and explain why you gave them that grade for each.

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