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EconDebates Online

EconDebates Online keeps you informed on today's most crucial economics policy debates. Each EconDebate, created by John Kane (SUNY-Oswego), provides a primer on the issues and links to background information and current, in-depth commentaries from experts around the world. Review the brief introductions and, for EconDebates of interest, select the full debate.

Supply and Demand



Should the U.S. reinstitute a military draft?

Full Debate

Shortly before the start of the Iraqi war, Senator Ernest Hollings and Rep. Charles Rangel called for the re-instatement of a military draft in the U.S. This helped lead to renewed public discussion of the arguments for and against a draft. This proposal has helped spur renewed public debate concerning the advantages and disadvantages associated with an all-volunteer army.
Does U.S. immigration policy harm domestic workers?

Full Debate

Most U.S. residents today are the descendants of immigrants who arrived in the U.S. during the past 150 years. Concern over the effect of immigration on domestic workers, however, have resulted in the passage of several laws designed to restrict immigration. Unions, in particular, have argued for more restrictive immigration policy on the grounds that immigration lowers the wage and employment levels for domestic residents.
Does the anti-sweatshop movement help or harm workers in low-wage economies?

Full Debate

The anti-sweatshop movement in the U.S. and other industrialized economies has, in recent years, attempted to use consumer boycotts to eliminate sweatshop working conditions and child labor in less developed economies. Unions and college student groups have been leading the drive for sweatshop boycotts.
Does an Increase in the Minimum Wage Result in a Higher Unemployment Rate?

Full Debate

Minimum wage laws in the U.S. were first introduced during the 1930s in response to the Great Depression. This period was characterized by falling output, falling prices, and falling employment. The National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) of 1933 attempted to stop this downward spiral by encouraging the formation of trade association agreements that established price floors and minimum wages. This was the first national attempt to introduce minimum wages in major industries. Those firms that participated in the trade association agreements were able to display a "blue eagle" logo in their establishments. In 1935, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the NIRA was unconstitutional, and these initial minimum wage agreements were terminated.

Do slave redemption programs reduce the problem of slavery?

Full Debate 

In the U.S. and other industrialized countries, slavery is generally viewed as a part of the distant past. Slavery, however, still exists in some parts of the world. In recent years, substantial attention has been focused on the existence of slavery in Sudan. As world attention focused on the problem of slavery in Sudan, several religious and human rights groups attempted to deal with this issue by buying the freedom of these slaves. Several concerns have been raised, however, about the unintended consequences associated with these slave redemption programs. A simple demand and supply model of the market for slaves can effectively illustrate these concerns.

Does a gender wage gap still exist?

Full Debate

The average wage rate for female workers has been below that for male workers for as long as statistics have been recorded. In recent years, female wages have been approximately equal to 3/4 of the level of male wages. At first glance, statistics such as this may suggest that females are the subject of substantial discrimination in the labor market. There is, however, a fair amount of disagreement among economists concerning the cause of this wage differential.

Has Deregulation Caused the Energy Shortage in California?

Full Debate

California began experiencing a serious energy shortage in the summer of 2000. Power blackouts became relatively frequent in many areas of the state. These problems appeared to have begun with the deregulation of the electrical power industry in California. Are these problems the result of deregulation? Or are they the result of regulations that result in inefficient outcomes? This question is of particular importance since many other states are in the process of following California's path to deregulation.

Is a college education a good investment?

Full Debate

One of the questions asked every year by many college students and their parents is: "Is a college education a good investment?" A large body of statistical evidence indicates that, on average, college graduates have higher lifetime earning streams than high school graduates. The rate of return to a college degree, however, is affected by a variety of factors, including: choice of college major, choice of occupation, labor market conditions, college quality, and individual ability. There are, however, several problems that make it difficult to measure the return to education for an individual.
Should there be a market for human organs?

Full Debate

Advances in medical treatments have resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of organ transplants performed each year. A limited supply of organs, however, prevents many individuals from receiving organ replacements that could either save a life or substantially improve the recipient's quality of life.

Do School Vouchers Improve the Quality of Education?

Full Debate 

Several experimental voucher programs have been introduced in the past decade. One of the oldest and largest is a pilot program begun in 1990 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Initial analyses of this data have suggested little or no improvement in the quality of education as the result of a voucher system. These results, however, are quite controversial and are the subject of a good deal of debate. More recent pilot programs in New York City and Cleveland are also beginning to provide additional evidence for this debate. Preliminary, and equally controversial, results from the New York Choice Scholarship Program suggest that a voucher system has resulted in modest improvements in test scores for low-income students that transfer to private schools as a result of a scholarship program.

Is there a need for health-care reform?

Full Debate 

Health-care reform was one of the major issues in the 1992 U.S. Presidential campaign. While no major reform bill was passed during Bill Clinton's first term in office, health-care reform has remained a major topic of congressional debate.

Should marijuana be decriminalized?

Full Debate 

Marijuana is a product derived from the cannabis sativa plant. This plant, also known as "hemp," was a major agricultural product in the United States from the colonial period until the early part of the 20th century. Hemp was used to produce rope, cloth, lacquer, and bird seed. There is evidence suggesting that hemp was grown on the plantations of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

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