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The book
Murder at the Margin by Marshall Jevons begins with a vacation at the Virgin
Islands, in the first chapter he introduces Henry Spearman and his wife Pidge
and describes how he makes every real life situation and turns it into an
economic law or scenario and uses several concepts like supply and demand and
marginal utility and the definition of rational thinking in the eyes of
economists as those who do whatever to maximize their own profits in order to
understand and predict human behavior and to investigate a murder. During the vacation
he meets a suspect because of his dislike of the man, Professor Dyke, a
theologist who writes about the relativity of morality and becomes deeply
involved in the upcoming murder of General Decker, a very picky perfectionist as
inferred from how he likes his meals a suspect because of his dislike of the
man.  After some length of conversation
and discussions between Spearman and Dyke about the morality and rationality of
people, along with the introduction of Curtis Foote a Federal Supreme Court
Judge and his wife, along with the Mr. and Mrs. Doakes, the wife being a
cookbook seller, it is soon found that General Decker was killed by poison which
starts the murder investigation, in which detective Vincent starts by observing
Ricky Leman, a African American radical and writer of the pamphlet Raider and performer at the St. John’s
hotel. He is a suspect mainly because he writes the address, phone number and
detailed information about who they are so that his followers may harass them
and discourage tourism altogether. After listening to Spearman’s economic
theories behind the murder, Detective Vincent doesn’t feel his ideas are
credible and continues the investigation, much later in the story it is found
that Curtis Foote, one of the Judges on the island was murdered right after
passing Spearman on the Hawks Nest Trail. This had happened after Spearman and
his contemporaries found that he was on the list as one of the people to harass
and someone was taking this too far and murdering these people. Also, Vernon
Harbley, one of the waiters at the hotel and a follower of Ricky LeMan, told
Mamie Leman to stay quiet about his son to the authorities. In the end, even
after the police didn’t believe in the economist’s theories and deductions, it
was Clark and Judy Douglass who killed General Decker, and the connection to Fitzhugh’s
fake drowning, which happened after he saw him leaving for some scuba diving
after the incident of the general’s death was connected to another real death
and found that it was Daryl who killed him because of the fact that the general
killed his youngest brother in the Vietnam war in 1972.

Economic analysis

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From the very first page of the story, there is economic
analysis of the situation and story. The first idea that Henry Spearmen points
out is that of the law of supply and demand and that all someone would need to
do to teach the crux of economics is to simply make them answer “supply and
demand” for every question. This is because it can fit into almost every
situation and the relationships between what causes actual shifts in supply or
demand, such as a change in preference, technology or the amount of income of
the consumer all cause shifts in
demand curves, whereas the amount of technology, the change in prices of
productive resources and substitute and complementary goods all cause shifts on the supply curve. Price of the
supply or final product may cause a change in the quantity of the supply demanded by producers or the quantity demanded of the final product
in consumers. The amount of supply can also affect the quantity demanded of the
product in an inverse relationship and vice versa, or the price of a good can
affect the amount demanded and the same goes for the price of a supply.  In the first page Mr. Spearman talks about the
price of a taxicab and how the six dollar fare was a result of this rule:
depending on the price of gas and the amount of distance driven, the fare price
per mile will change if any factor such as gas prices change, or if the driver
gets less customers per say. Also later in the book other scenarios like that
of the cocktails in the club show the behavior of consumers and how that
affects pricing. From 5-6pm the drinks are half price, and so with people
wanting to find the options that will maximize profit of benefit, he ends the
discussion saying that “the lower the price the greater the quantity consumed”
as the law of demand. So for an economist people rationally do what they can to
maximize profit. Also later in the book Spearman talks about how the economic
boom of the island increased the demand of workers so much that aliens comprised
of about half of the workers, and most of them were even paid more than the
native islander workers. Spearman uses this to explain the cause for hatred
between the native islanders and the aliens, but to LeMans that is all used as
a tool to keep the lower classes divided so that the upper “White” class of the
island can have the most power and money. 
Spearman calls him a Marxist writer by stating the theory of social
unrest on the island. As stated LeMans describes social unrest caused by
bringing in cheap labor to keep wages low and make maximum profit, along with
not allowing the lower class to gain enough money to own any land, and so this
theme of having a mass of people kept under control for the higher class to
conquer is the typical Marxist motif as written by LeMans. This idea is like
that of what is relatively cheaper: since wages are higher at another island or
have increased, leading to more consumer surplus, the workers went there. Now
the only thing that makes this slightly different to the idea of what is
relatively cheaper is that the aliens came only because the increased wages are
probably actually higher that the former, not just an increase in wages. So in
this situation, instead of using substitute goods and using the relatively
cheaper cost for consumer surplus,
the book includes the context in relatively cheaper cost by increase in income.
But Professor Dyke brings up a very good question after that discussion to
Spearman: can’t the business heighten wages by a little amount and take the
lower profit margin? It doesn’t seem ethical to make wages so low just to make
the maximum profit. But of course spearman responds by saying that maximizing
profit it in the nature of human beings. Later in chapter 9, Spearman enters a
market in St. Thomas and his wife asks why everything is so much cheaper in the
islands than back in Boston, in which her husband responds that it is because
of the city being a free port. They don’t have to pay any taxes for any import
duties. That is why everything in St. Johns has more diversity and lower prices
in their markets, like the fact that a Nevada Chronometer is sold for $59 in
the islands and $110 in Boston, being that it’s real, or that a solid Jade and
gold watch is $2025 there, yet easily $3500 in Boston. Lastly, as Professor
Dyke, a theologian on the morality of man says that ” the ends justifies the
means, as long as the end is love”, but as Spearman contemplates the idea,
disagrees on an economic perspective: every person wants to maximize his/her
own utility, but maximizing another person’s is almost impossible to him unless
doing so would satisfy said person, like when people do charity or altruistic
acts because it makes them feel satisfied for doing something right, or when in
the book, a wife dances with her husband on vacation, only to make him happy
even if she doesn’t like to dance. The reason for this behavior is
“interdependent utility” or what economists call ‘love’.

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