Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Economics - Tax and Fiscal Policy


Taxes are an integral part of your life as an American. Each April you spend countless hours pouring over records and receipts, or paying an accountant to do this, in preparation for income taxes. Similarly, in most states whenever you purchase something, like clothing or a car, you are required to pay sales tax. These are just two of the most common taxes faced by the American people. Others include luxury tax, inheritance tax, and corporate income tax. What is all of this tax money used for? Why does the amount of tax change from place to place and from year to year?
Tax revenues are used to support government spending. Health care, defense, social security, and politicians' salaries are all government expenses. From an economic standpoint, it is reasonable to think of the American government as one large company. The total amount of government spending is dictated by the governmental budget, just as the spending of a company is dictated by the budget.
Through taxes and government spending, the American government has a direct hand in the workings of the economy. By changing either taxes or government spending, the government affects the amount of money available to the public. Changes in taxation and in government spending are called fiscal policy. The government actively uses fiscal policy to steer the American economy. In this SparkNote, you will learn both how and why the government utilizes fiscal policy.
But fiscal policy is not the only means that the government possesses to steer the economy. Through monetary policy, the Fed is able to affect output. The key factor that the Fed uses to affect the economy is the interest rate. Because the growth of the economy is dependent upon the interest rate, by manipulating this variable the Fed can effect an increase or decreases in output to help maintain stable growth and low inflation. The workings of monetary policy will also be revealed in this SparkNote. Together, monetary policy and fiscal policy work together as reigns to steer the mighty horse of the economy in the right direction.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Introduction and Section 1, Bourgeois and Proletarians (Part 1)

Introduction and Section 1, Bourgeois and Proletarians (Part 1)

The Manifesto begins by announcing, "A spectre is haunting Europe--the spectre of Communism." All of the European powers have allied themselves against Communism, frequently demonizing its ideas. Therefore, the Communists have assembled in London and written this Manifesto in order to make public their views, aims and tendencies, and to dispel the maliciously implanted misconceptions. The Manifesto begins by addressing the issue of class antagonism. Marx writes, "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles." Throughout history we see the oppressor and oppressed in constant opposition to each other. This fight is sometimes hidden and sometimes open. However, each time the fight ends in either a revolutionary reconstruction of society or in the classes' common ruin.

In earlier ages, we saw society arranged into complicated class structures. For example, in medieval times there were feudal lords, vassals, guild-masters, journeymen, apprentices and serfs. Modern bourgeois society sprouted from the ruins of feudal society. This society has class antagonisms as well, but it is also unique: class antagonisms have become simplified, as society increasingly splits into two rival camps--Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.

The Manifesto then shows how the modern bourgeoisie is the product of several revolutions in the mode of production and of exchange. The development of the bourgeoisie began in the earliest towns, and gained momentum with the Age of Exploration. Feudal guilds couldn't provide for increasing markets, and the manufacturing middle class took its place. However, markets kept growing and demand kept increasing, and manufacture couldn't keep up. This led to the Industrial Revolution. Manufacture was replaced by "Modern Industry," and the industrial middle class was replaced by "industrial millionaires," the modern bourgeois. With these developments, the bourgeoisie have become powerful, and have pushed medieval classes into the background. The development of the bourgeoisie as a class was accompanied by a series of political developments. With the development of Modern Industry and the world-market, the bourgeoisie has gained exclusive political sway. The State serves solely the bourgeoisie's interests.

Historically, the bourgeoisie has played a quite revolutionary role. Whenever it has gained power, it has put to an end all "feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations." It has eliminated the relationships that bound people to their superiors, and now all remaining relations between men are characterized by self-interest alone. Religious fervor, chivalry and sentimentalism have all been sacrificed. Personal worth is now measured by exchange value, and the only freedom is that of Free Trade. Thus, exploitation that used to be veiled by religious and political "illusions" is now direct, brutal and blatant. The bourgeoisie has changed all occupations into wage-laboring professions, even those that were previously honored, such as that of the doctor. Similarly, family relations have lost their veil of sentimentality and have been reduced to pure money relations.

In the past, industrial classes required the conservation of old modes of production in order to survive. The bourgeoisie are unique in that they cannot continue to exist without revolutionizing the instruments of production. This implies revolutionizing the relations of production, and with it, all of the relations in society. Thus, the unique uncertainties and disturbances of the modern age have forced Man to face his real condition in life, and his true relations with others.

Because the bourgeoisie needs a constantly expanding market, it settles and establishes connections all over the globe. Production and consumption have taken on a cosmopolitan character in every country. This is true both for materials and for intellectual production, as national sovereignty and isolationism becomes less and less possible to sustain. The bourgeoisie draws even the most barbaric nations into civilization and compels all nations to adopt its mode of production. It "creates a world after its own image." All become dependent on the bourgeoisie. It has also increased political centralization.

Thus, we see that the means of production and of exchange, which serve as the basis of the bourgeoisie, originated in feudal society. At a certain stage, however, the feudal relations ceased to be compatible with the developing productive forces. Thus the "fetters" of the feudal system had to be "burst asunder," and they were. Free competition replaced the old system, and the bourgeoisie rose to power.

Marx then says that a similar movement underway at the present moment. Modern bourgeois society is in the process of turning on itself. Modern productive forces are revolting against the modern conditions of production. Commercial crises, due, ironically, to over-production, are threatening the existence of bourgeois society. Productive forces are now fettered by bourgeois society, and these crises represent this tension. Yet in attempting to remedy these crises, the bourgeoisie simply cause new and more extensive crises to emerge, and diminish their ability to prevent future ones. Thus, the weapons by which the bourgeoisie overcame feudalism are now being turned on the bourgeoisie themselves.


The Communist Manifesto opens with a statement of its purpose, to publicize the views, aims and tendencies of the Communists. As such it is a document intended to be read by the public, and it is meant to be easily grasped by a general audience. It is also meant to be a broad description of what Communism is, both as a theory and as a political movement.

In this first section, Marx already introduces several of the key ideas of his theory. One main idea is that all of history until now is the story of a series of class struggles. Underlying all of history, then, is this fundamental economic theme. The most important concept being discussed here is the concept that each society has a characteristic economic structure. This structure breeds different classes, which are in conflict as they oppress or are oppressed by each other. However, this situation is not permanent. As history "marches" on, eventually the means of production cease to be compatible with the class structure as-is. Instead, the structure begins to impede the development of productive forces. At this point, the existing structure must be destroyed. This explains the emergence of the bourgeoisie out of feudalism. It will also explain the eventual destruction of the bourgeoisie. Marx believes that all of history should be understood in this way--as the process in which classes realign themselves in compliance with changing means of production.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of this theory of history is what it doesnot deem important. In Marx's theory, history is shaped by economic relations alone. Elements such as religion, culture, ideology, and even the individual human being, play a very little role. Rather, history moves according to impersonal forces, and its general direction is inevitable.

Marx believes that this type of history will not go on forever, however. The Manifesto will later argue that the modern class conflict is the final class conflict; the end of this conflict will mark the end of all class relations. This section begins to suggest why this might be, positing some of the ways in which the modern era is unique. First, class antagonisms have been simplified, as two opposing classes, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, emerge. Secondly, while exploitative relationships were previously hidden behind things like ideology, now the veil has been lifted and everything is seen in terms of self- interest. Thirdly, in order for the bourgeoisie to continue to exist, they must continually revolutionize the instruments of production. This leaves social relations in an unprecedentedly unstable state...

The Communist Manifesto

The Communist Manifesto:

The Communist Manifesto reflects an attempt to explain the goals of Communism, as well as the theory underlying this movement. It argues that class struggles, or the exploitation of one class by another, are the motivating force behind all historical developments. Class relationships are defined by an era's means of production. However, eventually these relationships cease to be compatible with the developing forces of production. At this point, a revolution occurs and a new class emerges as the ruling one. This process represents the "march of history" as driven by larger economic forces. Modern Industrial society in specific is characterized by class conflict between the bourgeoisie and proletariat. However, the productive forces of capitalism are quickly ceasing to be compatible with this exploitative relationship. Thus, the proletariat will lead a revolution. However, this revolution will be of a different character than all previous ones: previous revolutions simply reallocated property in favor of the new ruling class. However, by the nature of their class, the members of the proletariat have no way of appropriating property. Therefore, when they obtain control they will have to destroy all ownership of private property, and classes themselves will disappear.

The Manifesto argues that this development is inevitable, and that capitalism is inherently unstable. The Communists intend to promote this revolution, and will promote the parties and associations that are moving history towards its natural conclusion. They argue that the elimination of social classes cannot come about through reforms or changes in government. Rather, a revolution will be required.

The Communist Manifesto has four sections. In the first section, it discusses the Communists' theory of history and the relationship between proletarians and bourgeoisie. The second section explains the relationship between the Communists and the proletarians. The third section addresses the flaws in other, previous socialist literature. The final section discusses the relationship between the Communists and other parties.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Introduction to Organic Chemistry


Chemical reactions involve the making and breaking of bonds. It is essential that we know what bonds are before we can understand any chemical reaction. To understand bonds, we will first describe several of their properties. The bond strength tells us how hard it is to break a bond. Bond lengths give us valuable structural information about the positions of the atomic nuclei. Bond dipoles inform us about the electron distribution around the two bonded atoms. From bond dipoles we may derive electronegativity data useful for predicting the bond dipoles of bonds that may have never been made before.
From these properties of bonds we will see that there are two fundamental types of bonds--covalent and ionic. Covalent bonding represents a situation of about equal sharing of the electrons between nuclei in the bond. Covalent bonds are formed between atoms of approximately equal electronegativity. Because each atom has near equal pull for the electrons in the bond, the electrons are not completely transferred from one atom to another. When the difference in electronegativity between the two atoms in a bond is large, the more electronegative atom can strip an electron off of the less electronegative one to form a negatively charged anion and a positively charged cation. The two ions are held together in an ionic bond because the oppositely charged ions attract each other as described by Coulomb's Law.

Ionic compounds, when in the solid state, can be described as ionic lattices whose shapes are dictated by the need to place oppositely charged ions close to each other and similarly charged ions as far apart as possible. Though there is some structural diversity in ionic compounds, covalent compounds present us with a world of structural possibilities. From simple linear molecules like H2 to complex chains of atoms like butane (CH3CH2CH2CH3), covalent molecules can take on many shapes. To help decide which shape a polyatomic molecule might prefer we will use Valence Shell Electron Pair Repulsion theory (VSEPR). VSEPR states that electrons like to stay as far away from one another as possible to provide the lowest energy (i.e. most stable) structure for any bonding arrangement. In this way, VSEPR is a powerful tool for predicting the geometries of covalent molecules.

The development of quantum mechanics in the 1920's and 1930's has revolutionized our understanding of the chemical bond. It has allowed chemists to advance from the simple picture that covalent and ionic bonding affords to a more complex model based on molecular orbital theory. Molecular orbital theory postulates the existence of a set of molecular orbitals, analogous to atomic orbitals, which are produced by the combination of atomic orbitals on the bonded atoms. From these molecular orbitals we can predict the electron distribution in a bond about the atoms. Molecular orbital theory provides a valuable theoretical complement to the traditional conceptions of ionic and covalent bonding with which we will start our analysis of the chemical bond..


Anion - A negatively charged ion.

Bond - That which holds together atoms in molecules and ions in lattices.

Cation - A positively charged ion.

Coulomb's Law - A mathematical formula whose consequence is that negatively and positively charged particles attract each other and similarly charged species repel each other.

Covalent Bond - A bond that results from a sharing of electrons between nuclei.

Ion - A charged species created by the gain or loss of an electron from an atom or neutral molecule.

Ionic Bond - A bond that results from electrostatic attraction between oppositely charged ions. The cation is positively charged, while the anion is negatively charged.

Lattice - A regularly repeating three-dimensional array of atoms, molecules, or ions.

Molecular Orbital - A combination of atomic orbitals in molecular orbital theory that provides an orbital description of a molecule analogous to the atomic orbital description of atoms.

Molecular Orbital Theory - A description of bonding that combines atomic orbitals from each bondedatom to produce a set of molecular orbitals.

Molecule - A chemical species containing a covalent bond.

Valence Shell Electron Pair Repulsion Theory - A theory used to predict bonding geometries that states that electron pairs will be distributed about the central atom to minimize electron pair repulsions