Basic Economic Concepts Basic Indicators The following basic economic indicators are important to understand: * Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – is the total amount of all goods and services produced in the country. This includes consumer spending, government spending and business inventories. Real GDP is a variant that takes out the impact of inflation, so that GDP can be compared over time. Real GDP is the basic measure of business activity and tracks the business cycle. Consumer Price Index (CPI) -is a measure of the price of a basket of goods and services; increases to this index indicate an increase in inflation. * Producer Price Index (PPI) -is a measure of the price of commercial items, such as farm products and industrial commodities. PPI indicates the cost to produce items and is the leading indicator of inflation. * Trade deficit – resultswhen a country’s imports exceed its exports. The United Statesusually has a trade deficit. * Trade surplus – resultswhen a country’s exports exceed its imports. Balance of payments (BOP) – is the amount of foreign currency taken in minus the amount of domestic currency paid out; the United States usually has a balance of payments deficit. * Unemployment rate – the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases employment numbers each month that note the number of employed and unemployed people in the United States, as well as the percentage of unemployed. Increases in the unemployment rate tend to occur when the economy declines and vice versa. Swami and Friends| | Swami and Friends is the first of a trilogy of novels written by RK Narayan, a celebrated English novelist from India. The novel, which is also Narayan’s first, is set in pre-independence days in India, in a fictional town – Malgudi, which has almost become a real place in India today, due to the wide recognition and popularity of Narayan’s many novels. His novels are known for their ‘deftly etched characters, his uniquely stylized language and his wry sense of humor’. Swami and Friends is the story of a 10-year-old boy, growing up during this particular time, his innocence, wonder, mischief and growing pains. He is a student at Albert Mission School, a school established by the British which gives importance to Christianity, English literature and education. His life is dramatically changed when Rajam – a symbol of colonial super power – joins the school and he and Rajam become friends. About the Author RK Narayan started his prolific writing career with this novel Swami and Friends written in 1935. It is full of humor and irony. Narayan started writing this novel with the words “It was Monday morning…” to the auspicious time his grandmother chose for him. Like many of his fictional grandmothers, he was close to his grandmother who was well versed with astrology. Despite this it took time for the budding writer to be acknowledged as an author. Fortunately for him, he had helped from many quarters, such as the well-established author British author Graham Green. He called Swami and Friends a work of “remarkable maturity, and of the finest promise…and is the boldest gamble a novelist can take. If he allows himself to take sides, moralise, propaganda, he can easily achieve an extra-literary interest, but if he follows Mr. Narayan’s method, he stakes all on his creative power. ” Notes The novel, first intended for a very young audience, later expanded into a universal one, for its simple narrative and depiction of colonial India. Today in India it is recommended as a textbook or a reference book. One of the most glaring facts about the novel is the similarity of children through out the world, and how they have not changed since the time the novel was written. Children are all mischievous, impulsive and innocent like Swami. They all play and enjoy just like Swami, and try to circumvent doing homework by ingenious excuses and methods. Like Swami most children – even today- attend schools that do not nourish their heritage and culture, throughout the world including the US. The criticism of the educational system and the lack of faith in it is a common theme of Narayan. It runs throughout this trilogy Swami and Friends, The Bachelor of Arts and The English Teacher. Narayan’s own father who was a principal did not think much of the system as Narayan and his many fictional characters, such as Swami, Chandran, Krishna, Sriram and a host of others. But the educational system comes under grave criticism in this trilogy, and discussed at length in The English Teacher. (Read The English Teacher web page in this site. ) It is not that Narayan thought that education was useless, but rather that the school and education system founded by the British was irrelevant. He was maybe among the second generation of persons who received a formal education in India during the time, and saw how his grandparents and many other of his countrymen surviving, thriving and living as good human beings, perhaps even better than the ‘educated folk,’ without any education.