THIRD EDITION. ECONOMICS and. MICROECONOMICS Paul Krugman Robin Wells. Chapter 16. Externalities

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1 THIRD EDITION ECONOMICS and MICROECONOMICS Paul Krugman Robin Wells Chapter 16 Externalities

2 WHAT YOU WILL LEARN IN THIS CHAPTER What externalities are and why they can lead to inefficiency and government intervention in a market The difference between negative, positive, and network externalities The importance of the Coase theorem, which explains how private individuals can sometimes solve externalities Why some government policies to deal with externalities such as emissions taxes, tradable permits, or Pigouvian subsidies are efficient, but others like environmental standards are inefficient

3 The Economics of Pollution Pollution is a bad thing. Yet most pollution is a side effect of activities that provide us with good things. Our air is polluted by power plants that generate the electricity that lights our cities, and our rivers are damaged by fertilizer runoff from farms that grow our food. Pollution is a side effect of useful activities, so the optimal quantity of pollution isn t zero. Then, how much pollution should a society have? What are the costs and benefits of pollution?

4 Costs and Benefits of Pollution The marginal social cost of pollution is the additional cost imposed on society as a whole by an additional unit of pollution. The marginal social benefit of pollution is the additional gain to society as a whole from an additional unit of pollution. The socially optimal quantity of pollution is the quantity of pollution that society would choose if all the costs and benefits of pollution were fully accounted for.

5 The Socially Optimal Quantity of Pollution Marginal social cost, marginal social benefit Marginal social cost, MSC, of pollution Socially optimal point $200 O Marginal social benefit, MSB, of pollution 0 Q OPT Socially optimal quantity of pollution Quantity of pollution emissions (tons)

6 Pollution: An External Cost An external cost is an uncompensated cost that an individual or firm imposes on others. An external benefit is a benefit that an individual or firm confers on others without receiving compensation.

7 Pollution: An External Cost Pollution is an example of an external cost, or negative externality; in contrast, some activities can give rise to external benefits, or positive externalities. External costs and benefits are known as externalities. Left to itself, a market economy will typically generate too much pollution because polluters have no incentive to take into account the costs they impose on others.

8 A Market Economy Produces Too Much Pollution Marginal social cost, marginal social benefit Marginal social cost at Q MKT Optimal Pigouvian tax on pollution Marginal social benefit at Q MKT $ O Q OPT Socially optimal quantity of pollution Q H MSB of pollution MSC of pollution Q M K T Market-determined quantity of pollution The market outcome is inefficient: marginal social cost of pollution exceeds marginal social benefit Quantity of pollution emissions (tons)

9 FOR INQUIRING MINDS TALKING, TEXTING, AND DRIVING Traffic safety experts take the risks posed by driving while using a cell phone very seriously: A recent study found a sixfold increase in accidents caused by driving while distracted. And using hands-free, voice-activated phones to make a call doesn t seem to help much because the main danger is distraction. Why not leave the decision up to the driver? Because the risk posed by driving while using a cell phone isn t just a risk to the driver; it s also a safety risk to others to a driver s passengers, pedestrians, and people in other cars.

10 FOR INQUIRING MINDS TALKING, TEXTING, AND DRIVING Even if you decide that the benefit to you of using your cell phone while driving is worth the cost, you aren t taking into account the cost to other people. Driving while using a cell phone, in other words, generates a serious negative externality.

11 Private Solutions to Externalities In an influential 1960 article, the economist Ronald Coase pointed out that, in an ideal world, the private sector could indeed deal with all externalities. According to the Coase theorem, even in the presence of externalities, an economy can always reach an efficient solution provided that the transaction costs the costs to individuals of making a deal are sufficiently low. The costs of making a deal are known as transaction costs.

12 Private Solutions to Externalities The implication of Coase s analysis is that externalities need not lead to inefficiency because individuals have an incentive to find a way to make mutually beneficial deals that lead them to take externalities into account when making decisions. When individuals do take externalities into account, economists say that they internalize the externality. Why can t individuals always internalize externalities? Transaction costs prevent individuals from making efficient deals.

13 Private Solutions to Externalities Examples of transaction costs include the following: The costs of communication among the interested parties costs that may be very high if many people are involved. The costs of making legally binding agreements that may be high if doing so requires the employment of expensive legal services. Costly delays involved in bargaining even if there is a potentially beneficial deal, both sides may hold out in an effort to extract more favorable terms, leading to increased effort and forgone utility.

14 ECONOMICS IN ACTION Thank You for Not Smoking Second-hand smoke is an example of a negative externality. But how important is it? A paper published in 1993 in the Journal of Economic Perspectives found that valuing the health costs of cigarettes depends on whether you count the costs imposed on members of smokers families. If you don t, the external costs of second-hand smoke have been estimated at about only $0.19 per pack smoked.

15 ECONOMICS IN ACTION Thank You for Not Smoking A 2005 study raised this estimate to $0.52 per pack smoked. If you include effects on smokers families, the number rises considerably. If you include the effects of smoking by pregnant women on their unborn children s future health, the cost is immense: $4.80 per pack.

16 Policies Toward Pollution Environmental standards are rules that protect the environment by specifying actions by producers and consumers. Generally such standards are inefficient because they are inflexible. An emissions tax is a tax that depends on the amount of pollution a firm produces. Tradable emissions permits are licenses to emit limited quantities of pollutants that can be bought and sold by polluters. Taxes designed to reduce external costs are known as Pigouvian taxes.

17 GLOBAL COMPARISON Economic Growth and Greenhouse Gases in Six Countries A more meaningful way to compare pollution across countries is to measure emissions per $1 million of a country s GDP, as shown in panel (b). On this basis, the United States, Canada, India, and Australia are now green countries, but China and Uzbekistan are not. What explains the reversal once GDP is accounted for? The answer: both economics and government behavior.

18 GLOBAL COMPARISON First, there is the issue of economics. Countries that are poor and have begun to industrialize, such as China and Uzbekistan, often view money spent to reduce pollution as better spent on other things. From their perspective, they are still too poor to afford an environment as clean as wealthy advanced countries. They claim that to impose a wealthy country s environmental standards on them would jeopardize their economic growth.

19 GLOBAL COMPARISON Second, there is the issue of government behavior or more precisely, whether a government possesses the tools necessary to effectively control pollution. China is a good illustration of this problem. The Chinese government lacks sufficient regulatory power to enforce its own environmental rules, promote energy conservation, or encourage pollution reduction. To produce $1 of GDP, China spends three times the world average on energy far more than Indonesia, for example, which is also a poor country. The case of China illustrates just how important government intervention is in improving society s welfare in the presence of externalities.

20 Environmental Standards versus Emissions Taxes Marginal benefit to individual polluter $600 MB B (a) Environmental Standard Marginal benefit to individual polluter $600 MB B (b) Emissions Taxes 300 MB A S B MB A 150 S A Emissions tax 200 T A T B Environmental standards forces both plants to cut emission by half Without government action, each plant emits 600 tons Quantity of pollution emissions (tons) Plant A has a lower marginal benefit of pollution and reduces emissions by 400 tons Quantity of pollution emissions (tons) Plant B has a higher marginal benefit of pollution and reduces emissions by only 200 tons

21 Policies Toward Pollution When the quantity of pollution emitted can be directly observed and controlled, environmental goals can be achieved efficiently in two ways: emissions taxes and tradable emissions permits. These methods are efficient because they are flexible, allocating more pollution reduction to those who can do it more cheaply. An emissions tax is a form of Pigouvian tax, a tax designed to reduce external costs. The optimal Pigouvian tax is equal to the marginal social cost of pollution at the socially optimal quantity of pollution.

22 Production, Consumption, and Externalities When there are external costs, the marginal social cost of a good or activity exceeds the industry s marginal cost of producing the good. In the absence of government intervention, the industry typically produces too much of the good. The socially optimal quantity can be achieved by an optimal Pigouvian tax, equal to the marginal external cost, or by a system of tradable production permits.

23 Positive Externalities and Consumption (a) Positive Externality Price, marginal social benefit of flu shot Price of flu shot (b) Optimal Pigouvian Subsidy P MSB Marginal external benefit O S Price to producers after subsidy O S P OPT P MKT E MKT MSB of flu shots Optimal Pigouvian subsidy E MKT D Price to consumers after subsidy D Q MKT Q OPT Quantity of flu shots Q MKT Q OPT Quantity of flu shots

24 Private versus Social Benefits The marginal social benefit of a good or activity is equal to the marginal benefit that accrues to consumers, plus its marginal external benefit.

25 Private versus Social Benefits A Pigouvian subsidy is a payment designed to encourage activities that yield external benefits. A technology spillover is an external benefit that results when knowledge spreads among individuals and firms. The socially optimal quantity can be achieved by an optimal Pigouvian subsidy equal to the marginal external benefit. An industrial policy is a policy that supports industries believed to yield positive externalities.

26 Private versus Social Costs The marginal social cost of a good or activity is equal to the marginal cost of production, plus its marginal external cost.

27 Negative Externalities and Production Price, marginal social cost of livestock (a) Negative Externality Price of livestock (b) Optimal Pigouvian Tax P MSC Marginal external cost MSC of livestock S Price to consumers after tax S P OPT P MKT E MKT Optimal Pigouvian Tax E MKT D Price to producers after tax D Q OPT Q MKT Quantity of livestock Q OPT Q MKT Quantity of livestock

28 ECONOMICS IN ACTION The Impeccable Economic Logic of Early Childhood Intervention Programs One problem facing any society is how to break what researchers call the cycle of poverty. Children who grow up with disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds are far more likely to also be poor adults. A 2006 study found that high-quality early childhood programs focused on education and health care lead to significant advantages for kids.

29 ECONOMICS IN ACTION The Impeccable Economic Logic of Early Childhood Intervention Programs Children in programs were less likely to engage in destructive behaviors and more likely to end up with a job and to earn a higher salary later in life. Another study in 2003 looked at early childhood intervention programs from a dollars-and-cents perspective, finding from $4 to $7 in benefits for every $1 spent on early childhood intervention programs.

30 Network Externalities A good is subject to a network externality when the value of the good to an individual is greater when a large number of other people also use the good. Examples include: communication systems: telephones, telegraphs, fax machines, etc. railway systems air travel: hub and spoke

31 Network Externalities Any way in which other people s consumption of a good increases your own marginal benefit from consumption of that good can give rise to network effects. Example: computer operating systems like Windows

32 Network Externalities Windows is used widely so it attracts more attention from software developers. As a result, there are more programs that run on Windows than on any other operating system. A good is subject to positive feedback when success breeds greater success and failure breeds failure.

33 ECONOMICS IN ACTION THE MICROSOFT CASE In 2000 the Justice Department took on Microsoft in one of the most watched antitrust cases in history. By that time, Microsoft had become the world s most valuable corporation, and its founder, Bill Gates, was the world s richest man.

34 ECONOMICS IN ACTION THE MICROSOFT CASE The case involved almost all of the issues raised by goods with network externalities. Microsoft was, by any reasonable definition, a monopoly: leaving aside the niches of Apple customers and Linux users, just about all personal computers ran the Windows operating system. The key fact sustaining the Windows system was the force of a network externality: people used Windows because other people used Windows.

35 ECONOMICS IN ACTION THE MICROSOFT CASE What the government claimed, however, was that Microsoft had used its monopoly position in operating systems to give its other products an advantage over competitors.

36 ECONOMICS IN ACTION THE MICROSOFT CASE Why was this considered harmful? The government argued both that monopolies were being created unnecessarily and that Microsoft was discouraging innovation. Potential innovators in software, the government claimed, were unwilling to invest large sums out of fear that Microsoft would use its control of the operating system to take away any market competitors might win. Microsoft would produce a competing product that would then be sold as a bundle with the Windows operating system.

37 ECONOMICS IN ACTION THE MICROSOFT CASE For its part, Microsoft argued that by setting the precedent that companies would be punished for success, the government was the real opponent of innovation innovation that had benefited customers with lower prices and increasingly sophisticated products. In November 2001, the government reached a settlement with Microsoft in which the company agreed to provide other companies with the technology to develop products that interacted seamlessly with Microsoft s software, thus removing the company s special advantage acquired through bundling its products.

38 VIDEO PBS News: Who Do You Hurt When You Walk Away? More from the strategic default debate today Economist Luigi Zingales of the University of Chicago argues there are damaging spillover effects (negative externalities) when homeowners strategically default. "By walking away, not only do you damage the lenders," Zingales said, "but you damage the community which you leave and you damage everybody else who in the future will try to borrow because the cost of borrowing will be higher."

39 Summary 1. When pollution can be directly observed and controlled, government policies should be geared directly to producing the socially optimal quantity of pollution, the quantity at which the marginal social cost of pollution is equal to the marginal social benefit of pollution. 2. The costs to society of pollution are an example of an external cost; in some cases, however, economic activities yield external benefits. External costs and benefits are jointly known as externalities, with external costs called negative externalities and external benefits called positive externalities.

40 Summary 3. According to the Coase theorem, individuals can find a way to internalize the externality, making government intervention unnecessary, as long as transaction costs the costs of making a deal are sufficiently low. 4. Governments often deal with pollution by imposing environmental standards, a method, economists argue, that is usually an inefficient way to reduce pollution. Two efficient (cost-minimizing) methods for reducing pollution are emissions taxes, a form of Pigouvian tax, and tradable emissions permits. The optimal Pigouvian tax on pollution is equal to its marginal social cost at the socially optimal quantity of pollution.

41 Summary 5. When a good or activity yields external benefits, such as technology spillovers, the marginal social benefit of the good or activity is equal to the marginal benefit accruing to consumers plus its marginal external benefit. Without government intervention, the market produces too little of the good or activity. An optimal Pigouvian subsidy to producers, equal to the marginal external benefit, moves the market to the socially optimal quantity of production. This yields higher output and a higher price to producers. It is a form of industrial policy, a policy to support industries that are believed to generate positive externalities.

42 Summary 6. When only the original good or activity can be controlled, government policies are geared to influencing how much of it is produced. When there are external costs from production, the marginal social cost of a good or activity exceeds its marginal cost to producers, the difference being the marginal external cost. Without government action, the market produces too much of the good or activity. The optimal Pigouvian tax on production of the good or activity is equal to its marginal external cost, yielding lower output and a higher price to consumers. A system of tradable production permits for the right to produce the good or activity can also achieve efficiency at minimum cost.

43 Summary 7. Communications, transportation, and high-technology goods are frequently subject to network externalities, which arise when the value of the good to an individual is greater when a large number of people use the good. Such goods are likely to be subject to positive feedback: if large numbers of people buy the good, other people are more likely to buy it, too. Producers have an incentive to take aggressive action in the early stages of the market to increase the size of their network. Markets with network externalities tend to be monopolies.

44 Key Terms Marginal social cost of pollution Marginal social benefit of pollution Socially optimal quantity of pollution External cost External benefit Externalities Negative externalities Positive externalities Coase theorem Transaction costs Internalize the externality Environmental standards Emissions tax Pigouvian tax Tradable emissions permits Pigouvian subsidy Technology spillover Positive feedback

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