ECON 1401 Term 3, Written Assignment
The written assignment for ECON 1401 is an opportunity for you to showcase your abilities to apply particular economic perspectives and abstract ideas to modern, real-world problems facing Australia today, to develop and present arguments based on sound economic logic, and to express yourself in clear, thoughtful prose. Preparing your written assignment will also help you to develop in-depth knowledge of particular economic perspectives explored in this course, and to enhance your skills in critical analysis.
The application of abstractions to particular concrete scenarios is one of the most difficult challenges for many undergraduate students. Some students also find it difficult to construct a focused, engaging written narrative that presents a convincing case to an intellectually-inclined audience. This assignment is designed to help you hone these crucial academic and professional skills.
What to do
In your assignment, you will apply the conceptual frame of TWO economic thinkers to explore ONE of the following issues in Australia today (in the first one-third of your paper), and then build and articulate an economic argument to support ONE government policy intervention to address that issue (in the final two-thirds of your paper). You may choose to argue that the Australian government should adopt one of the policy interventions listed under each issue below, or another policy intervention of your choosing. 1. Low/stagnating wages and/or insecure work. Some suggested policy interventions for addressing this issue include increasing the minimum wage, reinstituting penalty rates for hospitality and retail workers, increasing investment in training programs, increasing the NewStart allowance, increasing protectionist trade policies, and introducing a “freedom dividend” for all Australians. 2. Climate change. Some suggested policy interventions for addressing this issue include introducing a carbon tax, introducing a congestion tax, increasing subsidies for research and development into clean energy or adaptive technology (e.g., drought-resistant crops), increasing subsidies for links between academia and clean energy industries, subsidizing consumers’ investments in clean energy technology (e.g., roof-top solar panels), and introducing a cap-and-trade system for industrial emissions. 3. Obesity. Some suggested policy interventions for addressing this issue include introducing a tax on sugary beverages, introducing a tax on people with high body mass indices (BMIs), subsidizing wellness programs at schools and workplaces, introducing more stringent food-labelling requirements, and nudging consumers to make healthier choices (e.g., banning vending machines from schools). 4. Low innovation and/or slow growth. Some suggested policy interventions for addressing this issue include loosening or tightening Australia’s intellectual property laws, increasing tax breaks for people who invest in companies pursuing innovative research and development, increasing subsidies for links between academia and high-growth industries, and reducing protectionist policies.
The first task of the assignment is to select one of the above four topics. The second task is to select two of the thinkers we are studying in the course, who will serve – in the first one-third of your paper – as your focal thinkers in exploring the issue you choose. A list of thinkers from whom each student must choose two is provided below. To select your thinker, visit Moodle and sign yourself up using the “Select Your Thinker – Written Assignment” links under Course Assessments and General Resources. A maximum of 35 students may adopt each person as one of their two focal thinkers. The third task is to select a policy intervention and develop an economically sound argument for why that intervention successfully addresses your focal issue.
This assignment should take the form of an essay. In the first third of the essay, you will explore your focal issue based on the views your thinkers had, or that you expect they each would have had (if they had been asked), about that issue. How do the economic issues your thinkers addressed in their work relate to, and thereby illuminate the economic dimensions of, your focal issue in Australia today? How economically important would your thinkers have considered your focal issue, why, and in what ways? If you think that one or both of your thinkers would have deemed your focal issue unimportant or irrelevant to economics, thoroughly explain why. You may wish to conduct some additional research into your thinkers’ works to deepen your understanding of their perspectives.
In the final two-thirds of the essay, you will first explain why and how your focal issue has economic import, articulating the type of economic problem(s) that it is associated with and hence why and with what mental framing economists might advocate government intervention to address it. Following on from that explanation and contextualisation of your focal issue as an economic concern, you will build an economic argument to support a particular policy intervention that you would like to see Australia’s government adopt to address it. You may find it useful to conduct some background research about common policy settings in the area, in Australia and overseas, in order to fully understand the alternative policy options that have been proposed. Your argument should acknowledge scarcity of resources by considering seen, unseen, direct, and indirect costs and benefits of the intervention you propose, including likely longerrun general equilibrium effects, and should also consider the practicality and feasibility (politically and otherwise) of the intervention. You should make clear why, how, and in what ways the policy intervention would address the economic concerns that you have claimed are associated with the issue, using sound economic logic.
Finally, design your essay to convey your developed thoughts successfully to an intellectual audience that is broadly aware of your focal issue, but unfamiliar with your focal thinkers or with the specifics of or economic rationale for your chosen policy intervention.
Tips on how to do well
Think first; write only after you have thought. Take advantage of the opportunity to submit a 500-1000 word outline of your essay at the end of Week 6 and receive feedback on it from staff.
Ensure you use complete sentences, well-organised paragraphs, and reputable source material that is referenced consistently in a standard bibliographic referencing style (such as APA). Stick to the word count guidance and report your word count at the end of your essay. You will be penalised if your assignment is under 3500 words or over 4000 words. Do not use a font size below 11 point, and do not select extreme spacing or margin settings. Clear attempts to make your essay appear longer or shorter than it is will result in a loss of marks.
For a full guide on how you will be assessed, refer to the marking rubric on the final pages of this document.
Group work and plagiarism
This assignment is an individual assignment. The ideas and expressions in your assignment should be created independently by you, and no one else. Do NOT copy and paste unattributed text from any primary or secondary source, and do not write the same material as another student. This will be considered plagiarism. Inadequate paraphrasing, even if the ideas in your text are attributed to an original source, will also be considered plagiarism. (NB: Short direct quotations, properly attributed to their original author(s) and enclosed in quotation marks, are acceptable).
In the School of Economics all cases of suspected plagiarism or other academic
More information about academic integrity and how to avoid plagiarism can be found in the Working with Academic Integrity module accessible via the left sidebar of the course Moodle. You must staple the Completion Certificate from the Working with Academic Integrity module quiz to the front of your assignment before dropping it in the assignment box.
List of thinkers
Adam Smith Robert Owen Henri de Saint-Simon John Stuart Mill Karl Marx Francis Edgeworth Frédéric Bastiat Henry George John Hobson Alfred Marshall Thorstein Veblen David Ricardo Parson Malthus John Maynard Keynes Friedrich Hayek Joseph Schumpeter
Criteria and Weightings
50% – 74% (Pass-Credit)
≥75% (Distinction-High Distinction)
1. Clear and accurate communication of ideas and information (20%)
Poor command of written expression in English, e.g.,:
• Main ideas and arguments not clear • Expression/grammar frequently inaccurate • Terminology not used appropriately or correctly
• Main ideas and arguments generally clear, although some details may not be developed clearly • Expression/grammar may contain some errors which occasionally impede clarity • Generally appropriate and accurate use of terminology
• Ideas and arguments presented clearly throughout • Accurate use of language and grammar (or with negligible errors which do not diminish reader’s understanding) • Accurate and appropriate use of terminology
2. Logical and coherent structure (20%)
Does not present material logically, e.g.,:
• No clear focus; ideas are difficult to follow; may include irrelevant material or go off track • Not structured clearly to convey key messages to the reader; e.g., inadequate introduction and/or conclusion; subsections that do not progress the arguments; unclear division into two sections (1/3, 2/3) • Too long or too short
Presents key material logically and coherently, e.g.,:
• Has a mainly clear focus, with little/no irrelevant material; reader can follow development of main arguments • Structured adequately to reinforce key points, e.g., informative introduction and/or conclusion; sections are linked and progress the arguments; clear division into two sections (1/3, 2/3) • Proper length
Presents material logically and persuasively in a well-structured essay, e.g.,:
• A clear focus, with no irrelevant or repetitive material; a logical sequence so that the reader can follow ideas • Structured to reinforce key ideas and distinguish from supporting details, e.g., introduction clearly defines aim; sections are well-developed and clearly linked; clear division into two sections (1/3, 2/3) • Proper length
3. Depth of engagement (25%)
Does not display adequate engagement with material, e.g.,:
• Little reference to relevant texts/ideas, thinkers’ perspectives, and/or policy issue • Superficial regurgitation of phrases and terminology, with little evidence of understanding • Little evidence of outside research on the topic or economic thinkers
Reasonable level of engagement, e.g.,:
• Clear references to relevant course material (texts/ideas), thinkers’ perspectives, and policy issue • Competent level of understanding of both abstract concepts and concrete policy issue, although some details may remain fuzzy • Some engagement with genesis of ideas and policy issue • Some evidence of outside research on the topic or economic thinkers, possibly including citations
High level of engagement, e.g.,:
• Excellent grasp of the nuances of both relevant course material (texts/ideas), thinkers’ perspectives, and concrete policy issue • Demonstrated superior engagement with the complex genesis of ideas and policy issue • Clear evidence of outside research on the topic and economic thinkers, including appropriate citations
4. Successful application and critical analysis of ideas (30%)
Inadequate application or critical analysis, e.g.,:
• Little to no evidence of application of texts/ideas/perspectives to policy issue • Lack of critical comments about material • Lack of case for targeted policy intervention, or economically unsound
Some evidence of application and critical analysis, e.g.,:
• Appropriate, logically sound application of texts/ideas/perspectives to policy issue • Some critical comments and intellectual questioning of texts/ideas/perspectives
Evidence of strong abilities in application and critical analysis, e.g.,:
• Rich and engaging application of texts/ideas/perspectives to policy issue • Compelling, logically coherent critical analysis of texts/ideas/perspectives • Well-argued, economically sound case made for targeted intervention to address policy issue grounded in texts/ideas/perspectives
arguments for policy intervention • Presentation of texts/ideas/perspectives and policy issue as mainly unrelated entities • Inappropriate or incorrect use of outside research
• Reasonable economic argument for targeted intervention to address policy issue • Good use of outside research to support critical analysis of the topic and the ideas of the economic thinkers • Some engagement with consequences and limitations of the policy intervention advocated
• Excellent use and application of supporting outside research to enhance critical analysis of the topic and the idea of the economic thinkers • Strong demonstrated ability to foresee and explain consequences and limitations of the policy intervention advocated
5. Reflection on performance (5%)
Either no marks or full marks; no partial credit.
Full marks are awarded only if both (a) your performance on each criterion is self-assessed in Review, and (b) the scores you estimate you will achieve on each criterion are reasonably justified by two to three sentences of thoughtful reflection on your performance that you write in the “Student Comment” box. Do not include your selfassessment scores or text in the body of your work. Instead, use Review’s slider scales to record your self-assessment scores on each criterion, and type or paste your reflection text directly into the “Student Comment” box in Review.
Note that markers will not see your self-assessment scores or comments before they mark your assignm
Make sure you include an introductory paragraph that clearly sketches for the reader all of what you are going to do in the essay.
The first third of the essay where you talk about the thinkers’ views should not yet be spent defending or evaluating the intervention you plan to propose in the latter two-thirds of the essay. Talk instead about the thinkers’ views of the economic issue as a whole. You should keep the discussion mostly at a high level, not going into the weeds of the specific Australian situation too early. Then, propose and defend (with reference to your thinkers’ views if you like, but that is not required) a particular intervention in the latter two-thirds of your essay. This is where you will go into depth about the Australian context, and you can use any of the material from the course in your evaluation/analysis/defence of the intervention you propose in the latter two-thirds of the essay.
Everything you say about your thinkers should relate in some way to your chosen issue: it is the issue that should serve as the primary focus of this essay, rather than the thinkers.
Under no circumstances should you refer to your economic thinkers by their first names (you should say “Smith” and “Ricardo”, not “Adam” or “David”).
Your line of argument should proceed not from the point of massive and unsupported assertion (e.g., “X should be the primary target of any government”) but rather from objective statement (“If X is seen as the primary target of government, then…”).
In general reduce your use of big abstract nouns. Stick with simple language and just say directly what you mean. Avoid the passive voice.
You need to provide a reference for every direct quote used, and you can do this either in footnotes on within the text, using an in-text citation (e.g., “Smith 1788, p. 34”) that then matches to an entry on the bibliography at the end of your essay. If you use a footnote then again be sure to provide all bibliographic details. Do not refer to some online repository as the ultimate source of any direct quote you use. Tell the reader what the original work was from which the quotation was drawn (e.g., Wealth of Nations), which you do by listing full bibliographic details.