|ECO 105Y L9901||1||Prof. Avi J. Cohen|
|Fall/Winter 2019/20||Winter 2020|
MIcroeconomic Op-Ed Writing Assignment
(15% of course grade – 90 marks)
One goal of this course is to help you understand and apply basic economic concepts to daily life. Part of your role as an informed citizen involves making sound arguments about economic issues that matter to you and communicating these arguments effectively to others. This assignment will give you practice developing a convincing written argument about an economic issue for a general audience.
How to (Re-)Write an Abstract.
|ECO 105Y L9901||2||Prof. Avi J. Cohen|
|Fall/Winter 2019/20||Winter 2020|
DUE DATES & SUBMISSION STEPS
Copy and paste your draft into the text box in the CREATE step, including: 1) Your Title; 2) Your Op-Ed (with word count- excluding title – in parentheses at end); 3) Leave some space; 4) Put in some cut-and-paste form of the original article. This could be just a URL, or text from the article. If the original article is a print-only source, provide a complete reference. When in doubt, include more original article material rather than less. Save a copy of your draft.
If you submit by this deadline, you are eligible to earn up to 15 marks for assessing your peers’ Op-Ed assignments. If you miss this deadline, you will miss the assessments in 2) and so lose the 15 marks for assessments. You also lose the benefit of getting feedback from classmates that might improve your final draft. Without feedback from classmates you also lose on the Reflection — the highest grade you can get on the Reflection is 6 marks instead of 9.
Address your suggestions to the writer, not to the Professor/TA.
If you submit by this deadline, you receive a maximum of 15 marks, according to this grading
Rubric for Assessment
15Strengths and weaknesses for each assigned paper, with specifics
10Fair attempt but weak, lacking specifics
5No real effort
0Missed 22 January 2020 deadline, or did not attempt assessments
a maximum of 66 marks for the final draft (marked according to the rubric below) and a maximum of 9 marks for the reflection (6 marks if missed assessments). If you miss this deadline, you lose all 66 marks as well as the 9 marks for reflection. Avoid this fate by at least submitting your first draft the day this submission opens, the resubmitting a final draft.
Rubric for Reflection
9Thoughtful and detailed, refers to peer comments, incorporated revisions
6Fair attempt but lacking specifics — maximum if missed assessments
4No real effort
|ECO 105Y L9901||3||Prof. Avi J. Cohen|
|Fall/Winter 2019/20||Winter 2020|
Your audience is the general reading public. Assume your audience has some education and background in current affairs and understands basic economic concepts, but is not knowledgeable about the details of economic theory or policy. In other words, you’ll need to explain any economic concepts and specialized vocabulary in a way that keeps their interest and respects their intelligence. Your audience is not the professor or the TAs. You need to write more like a journalist than an academic.
WRITING STRUCTURE AND STYLE
THE ECONOMIST STYLE GUIDE
If you want additional advice on writing, see the Style Guide of The Economist Magazine posted on Quercus. The Economist is widely recognized as the world standard for economic journalism.
NEWS ARTICLE SOURCES
To find news articles to comment on, try the following sources. Other sources are also acceptable.
Globe and Mail Report on Business
Toronto Star Business
|ECO 105Y L9901||4||Prof. Avi J. Cohen|
|Fall/Winter 2019/20||Winter 2020|
You can access The Economist through Robarts Library at http://go.utlib.ca/cat/7704354 . Click on any link beside the word “Web” to browse by issues, or use the search box to find a specific topic.
For other examples of commentaries you might use as models for you own commentary, or use as articles to comment on, try the following sources.
Globe and Mail
Report on Business Commentary https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/commentary/
The Star Opinion Pages
Financial Post Opinion FPComment
Wall Street Journal
The best source for conservative (hands-off) opinions on economic issues, but you must pay for access. http://online.wsj.com/home-page
New York Times Economix Blog
Look for the economics articles in all sections.
The final draft of your op-ed will be evaluated on how well you make reasoned economic arguments and write clearly, convincingly, correctly, and concisely. In addition, your participation in the peer assessment and reflection processes is worth 24 of the 90 marks, based on the rubrics above for assessment and reflection.
Here is a sample rubric that will be used in marking your final draft, worth 66 marks. A 0 – 100% scale is rarely used for writing assignments, as it is impossible to discriminate that finely between papers. Letter grades are more commonly used.
Since we have to integrate the score on this assignment with your other numerical scores, your grade will be based on the marks you earn in each category of the rubric below. You will receive a numerical mark (for Excellent, Good, Competent, Problematic) in each of the four categories, which will be added to get a score out of 66 marks. For example, if you get the top (Excellent) score in each category, you score will be (13+27+14+7 =) 61/66 = 92%. If you get the second (Good) score in each category, your score will be (11+22+12+6 =) 51/66 = 77%. With the lowest score in each category, your score will be (7+12+8+4 =) 32/66 = 47%.
|ECO 105Y L9901||5||Prof. Avi J. Cohen|
|Fall/Winter 2019/20||Winter 2020|
|Title/intro get||Clear title/intro, but||Boring title and/or||Unsatisfactory or|
|reader’s attention.||could be more||too long/short intro.||missing title and/or|
|Aimed at||Mostly aimed at||Appropriate audience||Wrong audience.|
|Right amount of||Some background||Minimal or excessive||Missing relevant|
Economic Argument, Reasoning, Counter-argument, Evidence
|Clearly stated||Fairly clear,||Somewhat confusing||No clear argument.|
|argument, use of||convincing argument.||argument. Weak in||Confused/no use of|
|economic reasoning.||Adequate use of||applying economic||economic reasoning.|
|Presents and||Adequate use of||Missing counter-||Confused/no use|
|effectively refutes||counter-argument||argument or||counter-arguments.|
|Reader convinced by||1-2 reasons or||Weak or no||Poor quality and few,|
|at 1-2 solid reasons||examples, although||supporting reasons or||if any, supporting|
|or examples.||may leave questions||examples.||reasons or examples.|
|for reader.||Reader left confused.||Reader unconvinced|
|and/or put off.|
Logical order of ideas. Excellent paragraph structure (very clear topic sentence & 1 main idea per paragraph).
Closing gives a clear and convincing call to action.
Mostly logical order of ideas. Good paragraph structure (fairly clear topic sentence & mostly 1 main idea per paragraph).
Closing gives a fairly clear and convincing call to action.
|Somewhat logical||Confusing order of|
|order of ideas. OK||ideas. Illogical or|
|(topic sentence and||paragraph structure|
|attempt to structure||(confusing or missing|
|each paragraph||topic sentences and|
|focused on 1 main||paragraphs no clear|
|Closing gives a call to||No clear or|
|action, although not||convincing call to|
|well supported.||action at close.|
|Pleasure to read.||Mostly easy to read.||Some problems with||Many problems with|
|Writing enhances||clarity, concision, and||clarity, concision, and|
|understanding and||correctness at the||correctness at the|
|interest.||sentence level.||sentence level.|
|[minus 2 from||Clear, correct,||Mostly clear, correct,||Some passive voice||Considerable passive|
|concise sentences||concise sentences||and/or jargon.||voice and/or jargon.|
|any score for|
|with active voice.||with active voice.|
|word count]||Very few errors and||A few errors that||Some errors that||Many errors that|
|none that impede||slightly impede||impede meaning.||impede meaning.|
|meaning.||meaning, if at all.|
|ECO 105Y L9901||6||Prof. Avi J. Cohen|
|Fall/Winter 2019/20||Winter 2020|
Rating (out of 5 stars)
List 1 thing done well:
List 1 thing needing improvement:
Overall assessment – one general paragraph of constructive comments assessing the op-ed overall:
ECO105Y Micro Op-Ed Exemplars 1 2016-2017
Much Ado About Nothing:
Rabid Reactionaries and Environmentalist Extremists Lash Out over PM Trudeau’s Altogether Lacklustre National Carbon Strategy.
Prime Minister Trudeau’s comments in the House of Commons early last October concerning a national carbon strategy sparked perhaps the greatest drama in recent Canadian politics. Provincial environment ministers very publically, and somewhat melodramatically, walked out of negotiations with Ottawa saying they were being subverted and strong-armed. Since then, the slinging of proverbial muck has only grown more intense, especially after the PM finally used the dreaded word “tax.” Scandalous. What critics from the left and right fail to understand is that carbon pricing is premised on basic economic concepts of negative externalities and internalization. Carbon pricing will not pull the rug out from under the Canadian economy. And what government would pursue policies that would self-sabotage?
If we could all tone down the political rhetoric, we can attempt to premise this debate on facts. Industrial activity and pollution will always have negative repercussions for society. The cost of cleaning up environmental messes and the additional burden to health-care systems are negative externalities of pollution. Negative externalities are costs which stem from a lack of defined ownership concerning common goods, in this case the environment. There have been no mechanisms for ensuring that individuals pay their fair portion of environmental damage as no individual can claim ownership over the environment. Until now, that is. The entire point of carbon pricing mechanisms is to divvy up those costs and impose, or internalize, them onto polluters so that society is not left with the bill.
The method of carbon pricing suggested by Trudeau is an emissions tax. Ideally, the price per tonne of emissions set by the tax equals the cost of the negative externalities of pollution. Trudeau’s plan only begins to reflect the full cost, beginning at 10$ per tonne to 50$ in 2022. This is where radical environmentalists believe Trudeau is being too weak. Alternatively, provinces can implement a cap and trade system. This mechanism creates a market for emissions in which the government auctions permits for producers to pollute, with the total amount of emissions allowed by the permits equal to the province’s emissions target. Some environmentalists disapprove of this because selling “permission” to pollute is unseemly to them.
Brad Wall, the firebrand premier of Saskatchewan, epitomizes the conservative stance. He argues that carbon pricing hinders business and growth while rendering Canada uncompetitive in the world market. This is quite exaggerated. The tax only seeks to reflect the true costs of doing business, which most people would agree the businesses themselves should pay. If carbon pricing just barely covers the cost of pollution, it won’t restrict competitiveness and will incentivise businesses to cut costs and approach the economy in a new way.
The economy and the environment are about trade-offs, one without the other is unsustainable. A certain degree of pollution is necessary for the economy to function, and if we balance it with modest proposition such as carbon pricing, we can insure that the environment and the economy can move forward into the millennium stronger than ever.
ECO105Y Micro Op-Ed Exemplars 2 2016-2017
Take the High Road, Canada
With an incoming Trump administration comes an expected resurgence in the American fossil fuel industry. The timing is less than opportune for Canada, as the liberal government has taken a tough stance on the oil and gas industry, and instead has pushed for increased research into sustainable resource development. Although Financial Post’s Joe Oliver argues that Canadians should abandon their stance of “morally superior denial,” I resolve that Americans are in fact those who are in denial; by ignoring the very real threat of climate change and inherent negative externalities caused by resource extraction, the Trump administration will cause irreversible damage that future generations will be forever indebted to. Canada should be commended for their morally superior stance on this issue.
The environmental and societal impact of climate change cannot be ignored. Unlimited resource extraction will lead to vast expenses burdened onto both current society and future generations. From an economic standpoint, these inherent costs felt by a third party are called negative externalities. The negative externalities associated with resource extraction are extensive; by continuing to make this resource widely accessible on a global scale, we are responsible for increasing carbon dioxide levels within the atmosphere. This leads to a rise in global temperatures and declining air quality, cites Environmental expert and University of Toronto professor, Andrea Olive. The costs of these worsening global conditions cannot be underestimated, and will leave nobody untouched.
One could argue that our industry will not remain competitive against pro-oil states, and the short-term economic repercussions will be too great. Trudeau’s response to this particular point is that Canada will face great opportunity for investment within a few years time. Although Oliver may label this as a naïve stance, I commend Canada’s foresight within this sector. Through their support of sustainable resource development, the Canadian economy is undergoing changes now that other countries will be forced to make in the coming years. The potential for future investment is truly significant.
Finally, Oliver makes the point that all other resource-rich affluent nations are proceeding without caution, so why not Canada. This ignores the fact, however, that such nations will be held financially and socially accountable for their actions all the same. Canada is simply one step ahead on the global stage; by phasing out resource extraction, we are doing now what other countries will be forced to do in years ahead. Though choosing this path presents drastic challenges at the present, the end result will most certainly be worthwhile. Taking the high road is never easy after all.
(Word count: 416)
ECO105Y Micro Op-Ed Exemplars 3 2016-2017
Lower income tax, higher paycheques – Is it as good as it sounds?
Michigan state representative Lee Chatfield has announced a new bill to reduce personal income tax starting from 2018 and bring it down to zero over next 40 years. However, does making individual residents wealthier by the cost of cutting state income benefit everyone? Lost state revenue must be made up in other ways, which may not be pleasing to all.
The biggest portion of Michigan’s revenue is the income tax, generating more than $9 billion annually. This is the money used by the government to build roads and schools, improve transportation systems, fund college students and other projects that are aimed to better the life for the residents of the state. If such a large chunk of money stops flowing into the state budget, government initiatives will be put under risk of not being approved for the lack of financial support. This may slow down infrastructure development and improvement, making the state a less desirable place to live.
The officials are claiming that the Michigan state economy is on the rise and there is a budget surplus, which allows them to make this decision. The expectation is that lower income taxes will attract more residents and businesses that will create more jobs. State Senator J. Brandenburg has said that influx of people will result in higher tax revenues for the state. However, this is only an expectation and the state hasn’t announced a clear plan on how to make up for the lost revenue, so the whole idea sounds less convincing.
This bill is not a new practice – 7 states currently have no income tax. Methods to make up for the revenue loss are simple – raise other taxes. Tennessee has the highest sales tax in US and New Hampshire has one of the highest property taxes. Other states have high gasoline and natural resources taxes. This all results in a higher than average cost of living in these states, which includes prices on housing, food, health care, etc. Residents are earning more, but they also end up spending more money on everyday needs. Current tax burden (amount of money deducted for taxes from one’s paycheque) for the lowest 20% of the income class is around 11% and top 1% of the population is at 5%. Higher taxes on food, gas, and property will hit the poor, who earn just the minimum wage, harder than the others.
As seen from the practice of the aforementioned states, this method of raising wages does not necessarily make residents wealthier in the long run. Kansas is an example of things going wrong
Original article: “Michigan Republicans Roll Out Plan To Eliminate Income Taxes” from 01/11/2017 at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/michigan-income-tax_us_5876e4d0e4b092a6cae54bcd
ECO105Y Micro Op-Ed Exemplars 4 2016-2017
What Goes Around, Comes Around on the Autobahn
For decades, the slogan “Freie Fahrt für freie Bürger” (Free driving for free citizens) lingered throughout German society. There was always an implicit agreement between citizens and their leaders in regards to free-of-charge public highways. In 2013, however, a new law was passed by German transport minister, Alexander Dobrindt, enforcing payment for the use of the Autobahn motorway. As millions of travelers entered the Autobahn from Austria and Switzerland annually, they were now required to pay 8.90€ for 10 days of usage or a yearly price of 86.40€. Subsequently to the charges, immediate disputes broke out throughout Europe. Recently, the Austrians made a claim that they regard this law as a friendship betrayal from their neighboring country. They teamed up with the Netherlands, intending to sue Germany in the European Court of Justice for “discriminating against the citizens of other [European Union] member states”. Nevertheless, Germany’s actions were based on economical-thinking and well developed smart-choices.
Generally, free motorways produce positive externalities, or benefits that are enjoyed by parties other than the providers of the roads. In this case, the externalities were simple: foreigners used the public Autobahn without paying for any land taxes, construction costs, or maintenance fees.
Consequently, the German government used smart economic thinking to fix the issue. They established property rights for the motorway. By charging tolls for entrance, they were able to remind the free-riders that there is ownership to the road and that its benefits need to be paid for. Through this lens, Germany aims for an outcome that is both efficient, in regards to getting paid for externalities, and equitable. Prior to the road-tolls, Germans were required to pay similar prices for entering the Austrian and Swiss Alpine motorways. Now, Germany is also charging a toll, and is able to achieve an equitable solution by treating the Austrian citizens the same way that they treated German travelers.
Recently, Austrians protested new German tolls that only apply to foreign “free-riders” of the Autobahn. Still, to pay for the externality domestically and reach the socially responsible equilibrium, Germans increased their carbon tax for German citizens.
Regardless, the Austrians are appealing to the European Union because they fear that the tolls will decrease their citizens’ demand to travel. This fear translates into a lack of confidence and balance between the needs of citizens and their influence on the Austrian government. In fact, Austria initiated the controversy by charging their own motorway fees. Therefore, it should be no surprise for the Austrian government, as well as the European Union, when Germany introduces and enforces tolls on the Autobahn.
(Word Count: 496)
Another european crisis; motorway charges. (2017, Jan 07). The Economist, 422, 24-43.