Request for requests

by on October 30, 2012 at 12:34 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

It can never hurt to ask…please leave your requests for future topic coverage in the comments.  Thanks!

dave smith October 30, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Regarding sardines, do you have a preferred brand and/or preparation?
Been wanting to ask that since I read An Economist Gets Lunch.

Mofo. October 30, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Same question, but with anchovies.

Rahul October 31, 2012 at 3:31 am

I request a post on Airline Food: Do you have a favorite? Do you have an airline you hate for its food. How could it be made better? Does the right entree choice make it any better?

Do non-American airlines generally serve better food than American airlines? If so why? Why do Asian airlines have better food (if you think they do..)?

D October 30, 2012 at 12:45 pm

A substantial minority, if not a majority, of students at top-tier US universities currently end up in either financial services or consulting upon graduation. Both markets essential consist of providing performance/strategy/financial advice to firms that actually go about producing real value. Why do industry leaders pay substantial sums for this advice? Why don’t firms try to capture some of these gains in-house? Why don’t managers at existing firms conduct their own research? Finally, is this a reasonable outcome given the new information economy, or does it represent a market failure in industry?

Thank you!

CashBovine October 30, 2012 at 1:48 pm
D October 30, 2012 at 2:44 pm

I saw – it’s a good post. I was more curious about a general equilibrium question: why don’t comparably value producing positions exist in industry? Why do consulting/finance firms win the recruitment race?

slothtosser October 30, 2012 at 3:36 pm

My guess: they can play the role of neutral observer providing an objective viewpoint, free from all of the internal organizational politics. In theory, at least.

Dave Backus @ NYU October 30, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Make or buy’s a classic question, could do either. But the trend has been toward buy in lots of areas.

Robert October 30, 2012 at 12:53 pm

The downright bizarre CA Proposition 39, and the battle of the “soak the rich” props: 30 and 38.

Jimmy October 30, 2012 at 1:33 pm

Diddo. And, more generally, which CA propositions have been most / least successful? Why?

JWatts October 30, 2012 at 4:45 pm

I would like to see a general summary of CA Propositions and their likely economic effects, both short and long term.

Andrew' October 30, 2012 at 12:56 pm

More Alex’s brother.

123 October 30, 2012 at 12:58 pm

What will happen to the prices of NGDP options after the switch to the NGDP futures targeting?

Will austrians in long run switch their focus from interest rates to NGDP options?

Should monetary or fiscal policymakers be interested in the price of NGDP options?

DocMerlin October 30, 2012 at 4:15 pm

Once NGDP options exist, NGDP stops being a useful explanatory variable. The options can be used to arbitrage away from NGDP dependency.

Adam October 30, 2012 at 1:00 pm

I’d like to see an analysis of what’s happened to median wages over time that factors in the cost of health care benefits. Are workers being compensated less, or is their compensation just shifting form?

Joe Colucci (@wonkinakilt) October 30, 2012 at 1:25 pm
dave smith October 30, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Maybe something more topical than sardines. If the recent (since ’05) cluster of severe weather events (including Katrina/Rita, massive droughts, Irene/Sandy) increases the electorate’s demand for a government-driven response seeking less carbon intensive energy sources, do you have recommended options for government intervention? If we accept that the government is in a better position than private citizens to fund massive R&D projects, what safeguards could be implemented to maximize the effectiveness of government (tax payer) investment and minimize the influence of political connections on the investment decision process?

Brian Donohue October 30, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Cohort analysis for assessing how we’re doing over time. So much demagoguery around dumb ways of slicing “income” data makes the profession look stupid/manipulable and accounts for a significant percentage of representations to the public about economic performance and ‘fairness’. I think this would be a real public service.

Anon. October 30, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Communists vs Fascists in Greece. Who’s more likely to establish an undemocratic government? Will it be by force or popularity? How would other European nations react?

DCBillS November 12, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Most of the terms you use have lost any meaning they originally had. You also seem to assume that fascist and communist cannot be democratic (although you do point out that they could be established popularly). I don’t think that is true but again those words (f & c) no longer mean very much.

If you want to get a headache, try defining freedom in specific terms.

Overall your questions are good. I did not write this with any intent to diss you.

Really Curious October 30, 2012 at 1:07 pm

There is much that economists actually agree on. Why don’t we have PACs or other groups emerge that push political solutions which represent common sense agreement on a variety of issues.

1ArmedEconomist October 31, 2012 at 10:32 am

I second this.

Joseph Lemien October 31, 2012 at 11:19 am


awfulconcoction October 30, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Thoughts on South Park’s “Margaritaville” (Season 13, Episode 3), concerning the show’s take on bailouts and economic depression.

Mal October 30, 2012 at 1:18 pm

When previously unpaid work becomes paid-work, GDP increases. Does that also improve the economy?

AC October 30, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Or in more general terms: what are good steps to separate out what elements of GDP actually contribute to human happiness, and which are measurement errors/rent seeking/zero sum escalations.

Robert Anderson October 30, 2012 at 1:21 pm

1.Why is a brother up North better than Jordan that ain’t get that break?

2.Why they come up wit the witness protection?

3.Why is the industry designed to keep the artist in debt?

The questions are from Jadakiss, but I still think they have merit.

Morgan Warstler October 30, 2012 at 1:22 pm

On Mexican immigration, I’d like your thoughts on an open door policy conditioned on Mexico changing their Constitution to allow Americans to own beachfront property and companies outright.

The idea being we simply need to get Americans thinking about Mexico like a big Florida, thinking about their boomer parents buying condos and getting cheap medical care. Get entrepreneurs thinking about setting up manufacturing shops in Mexico and generally anything which makes more Americans feel annoyed by a closed border.

Why don’t free market economists that champion the import of human capital and free trade, spend more time pushing Free Market Manifest Destiny? Are we so sure Mexico wouldn’t agree to such horse trading? We push our ideas all over the globe, why not lean on Mexico where it is in our obvious strategic interest?

JWatts October 30, 2012 at 4:47 pm

“The idea being we simply need to get Americans thinking about Mexico like a big Florida, ”


Simon Cranshaw October 30, 2012 at 11:33 pm

In general with regard to immigration, you have said that you are not in favour of open borders. I wasn’t able to fully understand your reasons. Do you feel that open borders would be worse for the world or just for the US? If just for the US, why do you personally put the interests of US citizens above others in the world?

mulp October 30, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Why do economists ignore their micro and claim lower prices mean less cost over all, when the point of free market competition is to increase the total cost to consumers for your goods by maximizing what everyone pays you for your goods?

I have seen such things as calculators and cell phones used to argue costs have good down, but they are actually arguing costs have gone up. The costs of the first calculators caused individuals to spend more, substitution a $100 calculator for pencil, paper, slide rule, book of tables, and time spend doing arithmetic. For most people, they wasted the time saved and got lazier and sloppier rather that becoming more productive.

In 1980, for all practical purposes, the cost of mobile communication was a pocket full of change for the most connected in the neighborhood – most people just planned ahead, and talked face to face. Today, no one plans ahead, but just does everything on the spur of the moment, paying $50-100 a month to interrupt others who then interrupt and disrupt others in meetings and class rooms and even talking and walking. The total cost of talking to people has gone up for individuals and society as a consequence of mobile comm going down thanks to lower priced cell phones over mobile radiophones.

Entertainment from radio and TV have gone to much more costly methods because the price of radio/TV on demand going down. Growing up, radio and TV cost the time listening to some commercials on a limited set of channels, about 10 minutes on TV, but with competition, the cost increased to 18-20 minutes an hour. Or you can pay directly to get entertainment. Except, competition drives down prices in one dimension, but costs in the other – you now pay for a channel then pay by watching 10 minutes of ads. The claim is lower prices means you can have the entertainment on demand you want, except everyone is paying more for higher total costs.

This principle has been applied to health care with intention over the past several decades, so prices have gone down, but over all costs in the US have risen fastest of all in the US without any real benefit.

Unless you consider some people not being able to afford calculators, or not affording cell phones, or not affording cable or iPhones, or not affording health care in the US as lower cost?

msgkings October 30, 2012 at 2:11 pm

mulp, you so crazy

Ryan October 30, 2012 at 8:36 pm

I don’t come here for Tyler or Alex, but for mulp. So much packed in a comment and even with all that, not a lick of sense.

Alan Gunn October 30, 2012 at 6:54 pm

The first calculators cost $1000, not $100; I remember a demonstration in 1967. My wife bought one at Target that will do everything that one did plus percentages for $1.

Margin October 30, 2012 at 1:36 pm

On pleasure vs. pain. Are people more willing to pay for avoiding/ending suffering, seeking pleasures, or both equally? Is there an asymmetry of pleasure vs. pain in economic behavior?

anonymous... October 30, 2012 at 5:43 pm

By their revealed preferences, people do not necessarily seek to avoid suffering. Human psychology is a weird mess, and our unconscious minds take us to unexpected destinations.

“… cause I’d rather feel bad than not feel anything at all” — Warren Zevon, “Ain’t That Pretty At All”

Margin October 30, 2012 at 6:28 pm

But people do buy painkillers.

Joseph Lemien October 31, 2012 at 12:21 pm

People are generally loss-averse. They tend to prefer not losing $100 to winning $100. On average, Daniel Kahneman (winner of the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences) found that a gain of 2X would be required for a person to risk a loss of X. Lots of good info on this in the book ‘Happiness,’ by Richard Layard. Also, see Kahneman et al. (1990) and Kahneman and Tversky (2000).

Margin October 31, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Thanks for the tipp!

Sean October 30, 2012 at 1:45 pm


Mofo. October 30, 2012 at 1:58 pm


Roy October 30, 2012 at 2:00 pm

A really rich tpic, love to see more of this.

These October 30, 2012 at 2:09 pm

are probably the same people^

Nick_L October 30, 2012 at 1:45 pm

What have you (& Alex) learned from setting up and running MRU? Discuss the metrics – attendance, continuity of effort, times of access by the students, student locations etc? What are the next steps?

Mark Thorson October 30, 2012 at 2:12 pm

I have a similar question about the MR blog. What have you learned from the comments? Have you changed your mind about anything because of the comments?

Claudia October 30, 2012 at 2:26 pm

That would require reading the comments… Mark, have you ever changed your mind based on a comment here? I do think the data from and some commentary on MR could provide insights on the effect/role of blogs.

Mark Thorson October 30, 2012 at 4:01 pm

No, I haven’t, but it usually takes quite a lot for me to change my mind about anything. Like the ticket for failing to come to a complete stop when making a right turn at a stoplight. That turned me from being a Republican to an Anarchist. Government is evil, and you don’t have to propose an alternative form of government to be against the one you’ve got.

Andrew' October 30, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Every traffic stop or TSA pat-down a bell rings and a libertarian angel earns her wings.

Claudia October 30, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Andrew’ there’s no way libertarian angels are female (or angels). That’s something I’ve learned from reading the comments.

Mark Thorson October 30, 2012 at 5:16 pm

No, I’m not a libertarian. The error made by libertarians is that they want to fix the government. I don’t want to fix the government. If possible, I want to make it worse, so that more people will adopt my point of view. I want the TSA to strip people naked and pepper spray them for no reason at all. Especially the kids and old people. Vote YES on Prop 37!

GiT October 30, 2012 at 6:19 pm

Heightening the contradictions, eh? Maoist anarchism?

Olaf October 30, 2012 at 8:12 pm

Coincidentally, The Browser has this quote today:
John Kenneth Galbraith, on consistency:
“Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof”

Nick October 30, 2012 at 1:49 pm

In honor of Hurricane Sandy victims, how about your favorite things in the northeastern corridor

Theo Clifford October 30, 2012 at 1:49 pm

This is a kind of developmenty, institutiony political economy question. Why did the 19th Century party of business interests in the UK, the Liberals, advocate free trade, whereas America’s Whigs and Republicans were super protectionist? (Equally, the landed-interest Conservatives were protectionist most of the time, whereas the corresponding Dems were really pro-free-trade).

cthorm October 30, 2012 at 2:00 pm

I’d love to hear your thoughts on technological lock-in and its interaction with risk averse regulatory institutions. The FDA and the NRC come to mind. I think both institutions have been significant contributors to TGS.

Nick October 30, 2012 at 2:05 pm

How has the global economic downturn affected the environment? It seems like less economic activity should mean less carbon output.

msgkings October 30, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Short answer: you’re correct, it has. On a related tangent, less economic activity in the US has reduced Mexican immigration to a trickle, although I just read that’s picking up a bit with the recent housing recovery.

Many of the worlds ‘problems’ are byproducts of growth. Not sure they are truly problems.

Brian Donohue October 31, 2012 at 9:25 am


Philip Wallach October 30, 2012 at 2:05 pm

After listening to some of you MR University talks, I was wondering if you could return to a familiar theme that is perhaps often implicit in the discussion at what role do small-bore theoretic models have in your overarching model of “how the world works”? How do you see the relationship between models and “common sense”? How much should one academic paper be capable of moving you from your prior? How incomplete do you feel that your overarching model is–or, put another way, as you voraciously consume information, how often are you forced to seriously revise something about your understanding of the world? Are “real facts” or new models more likely to prompt such revisions?

Adrian October 30, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Are there any practical steps that a North American can take to improve freedom and welfare in North Korea?

Paul Crider October 30, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Do you have any recommendations for reformed Marxists to read? I’m a libertarian somewhat in the Will Wilkinson mold, but I’m interested in the ways different belief systems adapt to new facts and social conditions (similarly, I’m an atheist interested in how religions adapt over time). I’m also a little enchanted by the cosmopolitanism of Marxism (“Workers of the world unite!”–not “Workers of Nation X unite!”). Are there any Marxists out there who have been clever enough and flexible enough to take the terrible worldview of Marxism and make something halfway useful out of it?

GiT October 30, 2012 at 3:40 pm

You might like to look at the work of economic historian Robert Brenner. Boom and the Bubble, Economics of Global Turbulence. Should be easy to get your hands on shorter articles portending, and then recounting, the crisis (“New Boom or New Bubble?” (2004), “The World Economy at the Turn of The Millennium” (2001), and “What’s Good for Goldman Sachs is Good for America” (2009).) But really any recommendation would depend on what sorts of things you would find to be “halfway useful.”

Adam Gurri October 30, 2012 at 2:22 pm

Deirdre McCloskey’s Bourgeois Dignity. Either its takedown of every prevalent theory of the causes of the Industrial Revolution, or her own hypothesis, or both.

Stan B October 30, 2012 at 2:23 pm

The economic implications of World peace — when we see the money spent on the military, it would be interesting to imagine what the world would look like without any wars / fighting (excl. normal Police work).
Are there any studies on the relative economic prosperity of highly militarised countries (the US, China ?) vs. neutral ones (Norway, Japan ?) ? Does military technology research really really matter (how much of the civilian nuclear technology rely on military science nowadays ?) ?

Plenty of questions….

JWatts October 30, 2012 at 4:52 pm

” it would be interesting to imagine what the world would look like without any wars / fighting ”

Do you mean the Earth before humans existed or after humans are gone?

Mark Thorson October 30, 2012 at 5:36 pm

China is not highly militarized. In terms of soldiers per capita, they’re behind Canada and way behind Norway.

maguro October 30, 2012 at 7:21 pm

How about in terms of picking fights with their neighbors over uninhabited islands?

Mark Thorson October 30, 2012 at 7:58 pm

That’s just a decoy to pull attention away from the Bo Xilai affair and the upcoming replacement of the CPC leadership. Of course, it was very convenient for Shintaro Ishihara to make the provocative move that triggered the crisis. I have to wonder if there was any collusion between him and the CPC.

Stan B October 31, 2012 at 2:37 pm

From Wikipedia, China is the second biggest spender with USD 140+ bn —

Mark Thorson October 31, 2012 at 5:22 pm

It’s not clear how much of that spending ends up as military hardware. The PLA is rife with corruption.

Andromeda October 30, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Kirtsaeng v. Wiley. WTF?

Bill Harshaw October 30, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Traveling the NY Thruway recently–their toll booths have been thinned out and replaced by EZpass. There’s also been innovations in retaining walls and fixing asphalt. All in all the roads were much better shape and travel faster than in 1970. How, if at all, are the effects of these improvements measured in economic statistics? We don’t have a ratio of DOT employees to miles traveled, do we?

rendell de kort October 30, 2012 at 2:28 pm

On teaching economics: could you share tips/useful resources for teaching economics at the undergrad level? Or topics which are over or under-represented in mainstream introductory economics courses.

Smid October 31, 2012 at 5:35 am

Try using some of these:

Dirk Mateer and Wayne Geerling are in the process of writing a book of “tips” for teaching undergrad eco.

Fred October 30, 2012 at 2:29 pm

How do you see the progress in economics? What rate of progress in economics do you expect in the next twenty years?

What is your view on a guaranteed basic income?

Nick Jungman October 30, 2012 at 2:33 pm

The disappearance of the Aral Sea as a development economics problem.

James H October 30, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Honestly a little surprised that there was no link to the Barzun obit or comment on his passing. It seems like there’d be a thought or two from a cultural omnivore.

RM October 30, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Why does South Asian clothing (especially for women) survive as a fashion choice (in that part of the world) when the rest of the world is moving toward (at least what was) western clothing.

Cee-Jay October 30, 2012 at 2:42 pm

1) What is the single most important value/goal the world should attempt to optimize for? You can only pick one. What’s the best metric to use for measurement of our progress (make one up if it doesn’t currently exist).

2) There is a difference between sharing my own heartfelt values and self-righteously tearing down other people and their values. There are plusses and minuses to both approaches. From a societal perspective (as opposed to an individual politician’s perspective), what is the optimal balance of these approaches for US society? Another way to ask this is what’s the optimal amount of domestic partisan hate and misunderstanding?

3) Suppose there is a dial in front of you with markings from zero to ten. Zero represents a world in which humans place incredible importance on nearly every event and moment in their lives. 10 represents a world in which humans take a rather cosmic perspective and treat the world as if it a near insignificant and meaningless ball of dirt in a giant universe. Assuming this control panel belongs to God, where do you judge this dial is currently set. On average, where do you think this dial should be set instead?

4) Alex and Tyler, looking back on your life, what are three important things you have said “yes” to and three important things that you have said “no” to that have been instrumental in making you who you are today. For example, yes to living boldly, no to needing to have the right answer, etc.

JRBlogfan October 30, 2012 at 2:50 pm

I would like to hear the authors’ views on personal/family emergency preparedness in the home. Posts concerning the costs and benefits of emergency stocks of food, supplies, cash, etc. Any economic guidance to these kinds of issues would be interesting to hear, theoretical or otherwise.

Tom Jackson October 30, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Who are your favorite living composers?

Joshua A. Miller October 30, 2012 at 2:51 pm

I second Phillip Wallach’s questions. Great topics.

1. If law school is now a sucker’s bet, what should smart non-engineering college grads do instead? (they can’t all be economists, can they?)
2. What shoulouse do about the glut of humanities PhDs now that MOOCs will be able to replace many of them?
3. What will be the effect of street cars on DC’s neighborhoods, traffic, and restaurants? Will the system designs ever be implemented?
4. How long will it take DC public schools to surpass those in Fairfax?
5. Are you disappointed in Apple after Jobs?
6. What do you make of Kahan’s work on cultural cognition?
7. What are the best novels of 2012-so-far?
8. Is mass incarceration stagnating?
9. Bryan Caplan’s question: advice for 15 year old about escaping poverty?
10. Are twin studies over-rated?

Rob October 30, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Christopher Kimball: the right dose of science-based pragmatism in the kitchen, or just crazy?

Go Kings, Go! October 30, 2012 at 3:03 pm

How do economists advise their children on common childhood obstacles, e.g., a bully at school, chores & grades, team athletics, cliques, fashion, harsh teachers.

Relatedly, do you perceive differences in the way economists generally think relative to the way that lawyers, STEM, entrepenuers, managers etc do? For example, how does each group asses the evidence for climate change, the NHL lock-out, California Prop 32, LA County Measure B, or anything you care to consider?

Bill October 30, 2012 at 5:17 pm

I had to laugh at group asses. Thinking of economists in that way makes me laugh.

Clayton R. October 30, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Hypothetically speaking, of course, what would it take for America to go from its current state to a more robust three (or more) party political system. I mean one in which all three (or more) parties have a serious chance of winning the Presidency or congressional majority.

james l October 30, 2012 at 3:07 pm

1) red queen effect and status-seeking consumption
2) increasing wealth and increasing opportunity costs, decision fatigue
3) approaching limits to free/leisure time and de-materialization/monetization of time

MattW October 30, 2012 at 3:15 pm

What’s more important, innovating or perfecting an innovation?

Renee October 30, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Update on MRU. What’s the likely completion rate? Seems with Coursera, et. al., there are a lot of good intentions and then life happens. Is MRU just focused on delivery or are you hoping to improve completion rates as well? (Thanks)

Jacob Grier October 30, 2012 at 3:22 pm

I’m interested in your thoughts on the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of tourism boards promoting quality food, or the effectiveness of food and drink industry groups more generally. This is something I come across a lot in the industry and don’t think it was covered in An Economist Gets Lunch. These boards subsidize culinary festivals and food/travel press in a variety of ways. Are they a good investment overall? For raising the quality of food in particular?

Malcom Digest October 30, 2012 at 3:24 pm

1) How would the country look if the Federal Reserve were prohibited from doing business with any of the top 25 financial institutions or perhaps from doing business with any institution in a state that is home to any of the top 25. Alternately if there was no corporate protection for anyone receiving total compensation greater than 3x the median income at any business of that business has any involvement with government institutions or programs (FDIC/TBTF/FRB/PBGC/TARP.)

2) What’s the economic growth differences between earlier founded states being able to exploit their natural resources with less regulations while more recently founded states being saddled with more regulation. What would it look like for New York if the EPA demanded, for example, that the Erie Canal be filled and that the harbors and rivers around New York City be restored to natural cleanliness?

Prithvi October 30, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Hi – I am interesting in understanding how to quantify the microeconomic impact of natural disasters – not merely lost productive time but also any lag effects of the temporary incentives to enhanced co-operation. Thanks!

Andrew G October 30, 2012 at 4:01 pm

I’d love for you guys to do a post of the top five (or 10!) unintended policy consequences in US history

John S October 30, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Should the UK leave the EU? What in your opinion is the decisive factor? What is the optimal post-EU arrangement?

DanC October 30, 2012 at 4:24 pm

Could the American West have been settled without the Second Amendment?

What destroys great cultures? War, disease, inbreeding, invasion of other cultures (without violence), or economic failure?

Do we group Asians into simple stereotypes? Do we do it more then we do with women, white men, blacks, hispanics, etc. Is it a problem? Do politicians do it more then the marketplace? Do politicians have more or less incentive to perpetuate stereotypes then private markets?

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