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Band 6 Economics Essay Example

Want to ‘WOW’ your HSC Economics markers? Feel like learning more about historical and contemporary economists and their main ideas?

Yes, yes you do. And you’ve come to the right place.

I’m going to show you four of my favourite economists (in chronological order), and succinctly explain their economics theories. I’ll also show you when you could potentially discuss them in an economics essay.

Although you won’t get any extra marks directly from mentioning these economists, you must use them and their ideas to help ensure you receive a top band in terms of economic explanation and reasoning.

Many parts of the HSC Economics syllabus are directly built from their pioneering work.

1. Adam Smith (1723 – 1790)

Bio: Who was he?

Out of all of the economists I’m about to mention, Adam Smith is arguably the most famous in the field of economics. Adam Smith was a very hardworking student (like you if you’re reading this!) who was born in Kirkcaldy, Scotland in 1723. He was briefly kidnapped by gypsies, but we won’t go into that. He loved logic and aesthetics, yet his desk was often very messy.

Adam Smith wanted to understand economics and the money system because his underlying ambition was to make nations rich and people happier.

Smith trained as an academic philosopher and wrote a major book about the importance of sympathy. Yet he insisted that philosophers should really only worry about one thing; the economy – namely how money is earned, spent and who gets how much for doing what task.

Work: What was his main idea?

Adam Smith was a busy man and produced many great ideas. I’ll cover a few of them:

Specialisation

Smith argued that it’s far better to split everything up into smaller, more specialised tasks. A nation where people made their own bread for breakfast, had a go building their own house during the day and tried catching their own fish for dinner were doomed to live in perpetual poverty.

The fact that we sometimes don’t understand what someone’s job is from its title, e.g. logistics supply manager, highlight the economic logic of Smith’s insight.

Consumer capitalism

Smith defended capitalism and argued that the desire for luxury goods generated immense wealth through increased trade and employment and this afforded the state to take care of it’s weakest members, poor children and the elderly, through hospitals and poor relief.

The rich are not greedy

Hear me out on this one. Smith believed that the rich accumulate money not because they are materially greedy, but because they are emotionally needy.

The rich don’t care about money, they care about the honour and respect that comes with it. He argued that governments should give the rich plenty of honour and status, is return for doing all of the good things that these narcissists wouldn’t normally do, e.g. funding schools or providing amazing conditions for workers.

Educate consumers

Adam Smith suggested that it’s not evil companies that primarily degrade the world, but it is the consumer’s appetites, which firms merely serve.

Smith said that capitalism needs to be saved by elevating the quality of consumer demand. Consumers should want better-quality things and pay a proper price for them that affords the protection of the environment, and negates exploitation.

Use: Key points to apply in an essay and when to use it.

Adam Smith also coined the term ‘invisible hand’ to describe the unobservable market force that helps supply and demand reach an equilibrium.

If you have an essay based on market equilibrium and you’ve drawn a supply/demand graph, then you can mention Smith’s invisible hand as the mechanism that guides supply and demand to meet in equilibrium.

Relevant Syllabus Points:

  • Use supply and demand diagrams to explain how the value of a currency is determined under different exchange rate systems
  • Effects of changes in supply and/or demand on equilibrium market price and quantity through the use of diagrams

 

2. Karl Marx (1818 – 1883)

Bio: Who was he?

Karl Marx was born in 1818 in Germany. He got into a duel as a teenager, and racked up huge debts. His father moved him to the University of Berlin, where Marx eventually joined a group of philosophers called the Young Hegelians, who strongly disliked modern economics.

Soon after, Marx became involved with the Communist Party. He became secretly engaged to a wealthy young woman, Jenny von Westphalen but due to his political activity, they had to flee Germany and ended up settling in London.

It is here that Marx wrote an enormous number of books.

Work: What was his main idea?

Modern work feels ‘alientating’. Marx argued that work can be one of the sources of our greatest joys. He said that in order to be fulfilled at work, workers need to “see themselves in the objects they have created”, which is very hard to do in work that becomes increasingly specialised.

In Marx’s eyes, all of us are intrinsically generalists. It’s the economy that forces or pushes us to make personal sacrifices to become very good at one thing and one thing only. He argued that although specialisation may be an economic imperative in a modern economy, it is true human betrayal.

Marx also believed that capitalism makes the human being utterly expendable. Modern work is largely insecure. He offers communism, which emotionally understood, is a promise that we always have a place in the world’s heart. We will never be castout. This is deeply poignant.

Use: Key points to apply in an essay and when to use it.

I use the ideas of Marx to bring up important discussions as his ideas help us to see the other side of an agreement. As one of economics greatest critics, Marx’s work helps us avoid taking economics theories as completely black-and-white.

For example, when discussing unemployment, the business cycle or inequality you can mention Marx. He pointed out that we have crisis in capitalism not because of shortages, but because of surreal abundance. We have too much stuff. Our factories are too efficient. The job of 100 people can now be fulfilled by one machine. Yet instead of seeing this as a positive, we continue to see the unemployment it creates as a curse or failure.

Marx argues that perhaps logically, the goal of economics should be to make more and more of us unemployed, and celebrate this fact as progress, rather than failure.

Relevant HSC Economics syllabus dotpoint:

  • Investigate the economic and social problems created by unemployment

3. John Maynard Keynes (1883 – 1946)

Bio: Who was he?

Keynes was a British economist born in 1883 who fundamentally changed the theory and practice of macroeconomics. He believed that free markets were not perfect and sometimes the economy would need government interference to restore full employment.

Work: What was his main idea?

In his book The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, Keynes helped to formulate the equation AD = C + G + I + (X – M).

This is a macroeconomic formula you must know. It says that Aggregate Demand (AD – Also known as Output or Total Income (Y)) is equal to Consumption (C) + Government Spending + Investment + Net Exports (Exports – Imports).

Use: Key points to apply in an essay and when to use it.

You’ll need to use this formula often in the HSC in the multiple choice section, short answer and extended response. I think it’s nice being able to throw in Keynes’ name and have some knowledge as to how it was formulated.

Relevant HSC Economics Syllabus Dotpoints:

  • Economic growth
  • Aggregate demand and its components: Y = C+I+G+X–M

4. Thomas Piketty (1971 – Present)

Bio: Who is he?

I’ve been fortunate to actually see Thomas Piketty speak live at the Sydney Opera House. Piketty is a French economist who works on wealth and income inequality. His book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2013) has been a very large success.

Work: What is his main idea?

Piketty’s main idea is that, in developed countries, the rate of capital return (i.e. interest) is persistently greater than the rate of a nation’s economic growth (i.e. Gross Domestic Product – GDP).

Essentially, he argues that wealth inequality will continue to increase in the future as long as this is the case.

For example, if people can receive a 5% rate of return on their money, yet the economy is only growing at 2% then over time, wealth will accumulate in the hands of the wealthy elite. This is because average incomes only increase at a rate around the GDP growth rate.

Use: Key points to apply in an essay and when to use it.

Piketty’s ideas are great to bring up when discussing income and wealth inequality. Piketty advocates for higher wealth distribution through higher taxation.

He is a supporter of inheritance taxes (Australia’s inheritance tax is currently 0%) and wants to see a fairer society. His ideas and the solutions he suggests can and should be included in your HSC economics essays on inequality.

Relevant HSC Economics Syllabus Dotpoints:

  • Investigate recent trends in the distribution of income in Australia and identify the impact of specific economic policies on this distribution
  • Analyse the economic and social costs of inequality in the distribution of income

Conclusion

Adam Smith, Karl Marx, John Maynard Keynes, and Thomas Piketty each have valuable ideas to add to our own economic understanding. Incorporating their thoughts and ideas into our responses can simultaneously improve our grades, whilst also expanding upon our economic insight of the world we live in.

Good Luck!

Have a question for us? 

Flick us a message on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/artofsmart/), give us a call on 1300 267 888, or email us on info@artofsmart.com.au.


Thomas Woolley loves Economics and Business Studies. He completed his HSC in 2013 and has been working at Art of Smart since 2014. He enjoys helping out his students whilst studying B Commerce / B Education at UNSW to become an actual economics/business studies teacher in 2018. Since high school Thomas has also learned to scuba dive, salsa dance, and he can fly a quadcopter like a pro. However, he still cannot skateboard.

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Essay writing is the most important skill you need to develop in your HSC year. Success in HSC English will depend on your ability to write convincing, powerful essays that convey your understanding of both the Area of Study and Modules units. It’s understandably daunting to think that so much of your mark revolves around one skill but fortunately, with a bit of direction and structure, a Band 6 essay is achievable.

When marking an essay, teachers and HSC markers want to see that you’ve developed a complex and in-depth understanding of a text (or pair of texts, as the case may be) and in order to show them this, you need to express your ideas clearly. As such, nothing is more important than simplicity and structure!

The first is self-explanatory – if you misuse complex words because you think they’ll make your essay look more intelligent, you’re more likely to lose marks on account of their misuse. If you get a point across using straightforward language you’re guaranteeing that the marker will understand you and you’re more likely to get marks that way. If you are not confident about how to use a new word, it’s best to leave it out and replace with a word you are comfortable with.

Structure is another story altogether. A good essay is a circular (in that the conclusion always links back to the introduction), self-sustaining (in that all arguments put forward will be thoroughly explored in the essay) beast, one that gives the reader everything they need to know. In order to achieve this, you need to structure the following elements.

Introduction

The introduction is the first impression your reader will get, so it’s the most important part of an essay. You need to answer the question asked within the thesis statement then expand on your thesis in the introductory paragraph by introducing the texts, the themes within the texts and their relation to your Area of Study or particular Module. You also need to give an overview of the key techniques you will discuss later.

Example:

Question: How does the comparative study of two texts from different times deepen our understanding of what is constant in human nature?

Introduction (the thesis is bolded):

The comparison of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein and Ridley Scott’s 1992 film Blade Runner  the Director’s Cut  facilitates the examination of transforming societal values and the human condition. An examination of the transition from early 19th century England when Romanticism was challenging aspects of the dominant Enlightenment discourse founded upon science and rationalism to late 20th century America, a period influenced by Reaganomics and rampant scientific development in cloning and technology, reveals a shift in societal values.

However, both texts explore similar aspects of humanity including humanity’s pursuit of  progress and power, questioning of the human identity and refusal to consider the morality of their actions, albeit in different paradigms. Thus, as texts are a reflection of their context and its values, it is evident that aspects of human nature remain constant irrespective of context.

If you would like more detailed information on how to write introductions, you should look at our essay writing series. Read the first post How to Write a Thesis Statement – a step-by-step guide and we’ll explain why a thesis statement is so important, and walk you through the process of creating them.

 

Body Paragraphs

Each body paragraph must deal with a particular theme or text, and must start with a topic sentence. A topic sentence, similar to a thesis statement, will tell the reader what you plan on discussing. From there, you must justify your statements with evidence. A basic tool you can use is the T.E.E. system – highlight a technique, identify an example and explain the effect – the effect will relate to your topic sentence, which in turn relates to your thesis! The conclusion of a body paragraph must sum up your argument for the paragraph and relate it to the thesis once again.

In terms of what should be in your body paragraphs, you should aim for analysis which is insightful and informed. It is not always easy to form an insightful opinion of a complicated text, so to get started, you will have to do some reading of critical analysis written by experts like academics, reviewers of plays or productions.

Example:

The T.E.E structure in practice has been indicated with the following colours:

Technique
Evidence 
Effect

In Frankenstein, Shelley explores the transgression of the natural order in the Romantic ideal by humanity’s ongoing pursuit for progress and knowledge, a consequence of the Enlightenment Era and the Industrial Revolution. Victor’s overreaching ambition to overcome the natural boundaries of mortality by taking God’s creator role is highlighted in the metaphor “Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds… I should break through“.Victor’s hubristic ambitions criticises aspects of Enlightenment rationalism which attempted to control natural processes, exemplified in Galvani’s experimentation with “animal electricity”.

If you would like to know more about writing topic sentences, you should read our posts on How to Write a Thematic Framework and How to Write a Topic Sentence to see learn how the introduction and topic sentences work together. In addition, our step-by-step guide will walk you through how to write a body paragraph.

 

Conclusion

A conclusion can often be both the easiest and most difficult part of an essay. You must never introduce new arguments or information in a conclusion, nor can you merely restate the introduction. A conclusion must draw on the fundamental idea that you have extracted from the question, and which you have based your entire essay on – in essence, you need something reflective and thought-provoking to leave with the reader.

Example: In the shift from 19th century England to Reaganite America, the foundation of power migrated from scientific knowledge to a greater focus on economics and capitalism. However, despite their differing contexts, both Frankenstein and Blade Runner  suggest that humanity’s pursuit of power and progress has resulted in a continuous foregoing of the moral and ethical concerns of their actions. Thus the comparison of these two texts reveals how these fundamental flaws are ingrained in human nature and that they will paradoxically remain constant even as society and its values inevitably shift.

For more detail on how to write a conclusion, read our step-by-step guide.

Want to take your English skills next level?

 

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