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!

1 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.

2 Mofo. October 30, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Same question, but with anchovies.

3 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..)?

4 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!

5 CashBovine October 30, 2012 at 1:48 pm
6 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?

7 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.

8 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.

9 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.

10 Jimmy October 30, 2012 at 1:33 pm

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

11 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.

12 Andrew' October 30, 2012 at 12:56 pm

More Alex’s brother.

13 123 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?

14 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.

15 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?

16 Joe Colucci (@wonkinakilt) October 30, 2012 at 1:25 pm
17 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?

18 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.

19 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?

20 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.

21 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.

22 1ArmedEconomist October 31, 2012 at 10:32 am

I second this.

23 Joseph Lemien October 31, 2012 at 11:19 am


24 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.

25 Mal October 30, 2012 at 1:18 pm

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

26 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.

27 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.

28 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?

29 JWatts October 30, 2012 at 4:47 pm

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


30 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?

31 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?

32 msgkings October 30, 2012 at 2:11 pm

mulp, you so crazy

33 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.

34 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.

35 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?

36 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”

37 Margin October 30, 2012 at 6:28 pm

But people do buy painkillers.

38 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).

39 Margin October 31, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Thanks for the tipp!

40 Sean October 30, 2012 at 1:45 pm


41 Mofo. October 30, 2012 at 1:58 pm


42 Roy October 30, 2012 at 2:00 pm

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

43 These October 30, 2012 at 2:09 pm

are probably the same people^

44 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?

45 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?

46 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.

47 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.

48 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.

49 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.

50 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!

51 GiT October 30, 2012 at 6:19 pm

Heightening the contradictions, eh? Maoist anarchism?

52 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”

53 Nick October 30, 2012 at 1:49 pm

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

54 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).

55 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.

56 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.

57 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.

58 Brian Donohue October 31, 2012 at 9:25 am


59 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?

60 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?

61 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?

62 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.”

63 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.

64 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….

65 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?

66 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.

67 maguro October 30, 2012 at 7:21 pm

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

68 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.

69 Stan B October 31, 2012 at 2:37 pm

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

70 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.

71 Andromeda October 30, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Kirtsaeng v. Wiley. WTF?

72 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?

73 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.

74 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.

75 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?

76 Nick Jungman October 30, 2012 at 2:33 pm

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

77 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.

78 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.

79 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.

80 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.

81 Tom Jackson October 30, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Who are your favorite living composers?

82 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?

83 Rob October 30, 2012 at 2:53 pm

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

84 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?

85 Bill October 30, 2012 at 5:17 pm

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

86 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.

87 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

88 MattW October 30, 2012 at 3:15 pm

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

89 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)

90 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?

91 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?

92 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!

93 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

94 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?

95 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?

96 Norm October 30, 2012 at 4:31 pm

What happens in Japan if their interest rate returns to, say, 5%? As their government debt of 250% of GDP moves to such an interest rate they would be paying interest of 12% of their economy…unlikely. So how will it unwind?

97 Bill October 30, 2012 at 4:32 pm

1. How would macro economists of the pre-WWII period changed or modified their views in light of new learning in related fields: networks and network dynamics, behavioural psychology, and game theory.

2. Whatever happened to American pragmatism and why has it been replaced by ideology.

3. How will American or other industries which exist without state support compete with countries which subisidize theirs or impose import or other restrictions to protect their industries. How will Red State representatives give up on agricultural subsidies and quotas as we engage in more trade treaties with Latin America.

4. Since corporations have become adept in not paying taxes, how can we identify and charge for services that businesses receive from the government. (Last winter, while in Miami, on our way to accomodations in South Beach, I was reminded that South Beach came into existence only by virtue of a private investment in a bridge paid for by the developer of South Beach property. Today, the government would build the bridge, not the developer, just as the government builds the garage next to the shopping center, not the shopping center; inland waterways; university basic research, etc.)

98 Eric S. October 30, 2012 at 4:36 pm
99 MJ October 30, 2012 at 4:44 pm

Generally speaking, economic consequences and impications of climate change would be an interesting topic. Heavyweights (I am referring to the ideas/repec author ranking, whatever its significance) are either not blogging or otherwise communicating with the general public on a regular basis (e.g. Nordhaus or Weitzman), or are permanently trapped in political skirmish (like Tol). On the other side there is a lot of informal blogging and writing about the topic by non-economists who are either concerned environmentalists or climate scientists (I guess Hansen, for example, is both). Without disregarding the latter, it is not clear to me that they communicate anything like the economic consensus (or, for that matter, that they give an accurate picture of the dissent) on the topic, and I am under the impression that the academic work in this field is poorly represented in media and blogosphere.

Unfortunately you seem to have stopped blogging about it somewhere after the Stern Review was out…

100 Saadia October 30, 2012 at 4:45 pm

Hello, not sure if you have talked about this before (I couldn’t find a post) but I am interested in your thoughts about right to work legislation.

Does it really attract industries with its promise of lower wages and weaker unions, or has that now become irrelevant when we can’t really compete on cheap labour with low cost China, Mexico etc?

For a non-RTW jurisdiction (think nonRTW Canadian provinces) which aspires to become a top class knowledge based economy offering a well educated work force etc, would it really make sense to go RTW (because RTW, in my mind, seems to be promoting the lowest wages, thus not high quality jobs, and ungreat benefits)?

I don’t understand why Indiana decided to go this way.


101 wannbe October 30, 2012 at 4:52 pm

How do we avoid another global economic depression?

102 Jonathan Nowacki October 30, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Michael Spence endorses Obama… or at least that’s what the WSJ is rephrasing this as:

Spence: Obama’s Economic Plan Better than Romney’s</a?

I would love to see Marginal Revolution's comment on this.

103 Jonathan Nowacki October 30, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Michael Spence endorses Obama… or at least that’s what the WSJ is rephrasing this as:

Spence: Obama’s Economic Plan Better than Romney’s

I would love to see Marginal Revolution’s comment on this.

104 Peter KA October 30, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Assuming that Global Warming is real and we can in 2050 control temperature through some sort of geoengineering.

At what level should we set temperatures? The level in 1990, 2010 or 2050?
Who decides this question?
The same scenario but we can control temperature in 2015 or 2100.

105 Olaf October 30, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Lots of great questions here, looking forward to their treatment. For me also:

1. Why does life in large organisations feel like “TGS squared” i.e. except for putting up PC monitors and adding mobile email the workplace has not changed at all in the last decades IMHO. People shuffle papers and stare at their screen. Communicate by phone (fancy video coms still absolutely the exception). All activities full of politics and games, hard to see where any value is created, despite thousands of “revolutionary” concepts and programs of consultants, management gurus etc etc. Still the same treadmill as ever. Outside transaction costs must be astronomical if Coase is right (and corporations still exist in a dominant way) and I would have thought they have come down whereas innerorganisational innefficiencies have remained unchecked, see above.

2. Has the proliferation of economics, game theory, decision-making, psychology, behaviorial sciences/economics in society changed things in an aggregate way? My perception is that although macro/aggregate scientfic views remains of questionable value, on an individual level *everyone* has inhaled so much knowledge about above areas that people have a vast behavioral toolset at their disposal to deceive, game and get ahead at the expense of others or the society at large. Put differently, acting effectively in one’s own interest now seems to come naturally and be effortless and is taken into account accordingly when judging others. If I try to predict if someone will cheat me I no longer think “is he the kind of person who does this?” instead I wonder “can he reasonably expect to get away with it?” (if so, I fully expect him to do it) and I’m afraid this reflects more than a change on my own personal attitude i.e. becoming a cynic. Have the assumptions and postulates of economics and more generally the science of rational behavour (and its dominance in general discourse) become a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy for our society?

106 Dave Backus @ NYU October 30, 2012 at 5:45 pm

1. More on the future of education and the use of technology.

2. Stat programs to read in common data. You just had one for Stata, I’d prefer R, which is free.

107 anonymous... October 30, 2012 at 5:45 pm

It’s 2050. Democracy has ended in most countries, with a few exceptions. What happened?

108 Michael Foody October 30, 2012 at 5:46 pm

Behavioral Economics of advertising viewed through the lens of hedonics.

109 btd October 30, 2012 at 5:56 pm

What requests are often requested, but not answered, and why? And what does it say about both the people making the request and you? The last question is an under-recognized part of the first question.

110 Luke Carlson October 30, 2012 at 6:09 pm

You’ve said before that Woodrow Wilson is one of the worst Presidents we’ve had.

Could you identify who you think are the best and why?

111 Olaf October 30, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Has the proliferation of economics, game theory, decision-making, psychology, behaviorial sciences/economics in society changed things in an aggregate way? My perception is that although macro/aggregate scientfic views remains of questionable value, on an individual level *everyone* has inhaled so much knowledge about above areas that people have a vast behavioral toolset at their disposal to deceive, game and get ahead at the expense of others or the society at large. Put differently, acting effectively in one’s own interest now seems to come naturally and be effortless and is taken into account accordingly when judging others. If I try to predict if someone will cheat me I no longer think “is he the kind of person who does this?” instead I wonder “can he reasonably expect to get away with it?” (if so, I fully expect him to do it) and I’m afraid this reflects more than a change on my own personal attitude i.e. becoming a cynic. Have the assumptions and postulates of economics and more generally the science of rational behavour (and its dominance in general discourse) become a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy for our society?

112 londenio October 30, 2012 at 6:45 pm

1. What simple things should be taught to children aged 8-14* but aren’t.
*age bracket arbitrarily chosen to describe a child that is already curious and capable of understanding technicalities, but is not completely overtaken by teen angst.

2. Do you think that what drives some so-called “rationalists” to “cryonics” is the same underlying faith that drives regular religious pople to believe in an afterlife?

3. How much would you pay for a magic pill that would allow you to speak a foreign language of your choice fluently, though perhaps with a mild accent. I would pay about 20k, but not totally sure. I would love to know what other MR readers would pay.

113 Mark Thorson October 31, 2012 at 11:38 am

The magic pills will be free. Don’t ask what else they teach you.

114 Alan Gunn October 30, 2012 at 6:57 pm

Why do some intelligent people want to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on passenger trains, especially now that driverless cars are just a few years down the road?

115 hunt October 30, 2012 at 7:19 pm

What are your thoughts on the Modigliani Miller theorem as it applies to banks? There seems to be a dearth of literature on this topic despite the importance it plays in weighing in on the costs and benefits of greater capital levels.

116 Joe Smith October 30, 2012 at 7:19 pm

What is the responsibility, if any, of an academic economist to have an actual, honest and reasonable belief in the economic statements made in a public document he endorses for political use. I have in mind both the White Paper for the Romney campaign and the Economists for Romney letter both or which contain statements I consider unsupportable.

The impression I have is that there are no ethical standards for economists.

117 Drew Yallop October 30, 2012 at 7:23 pm

Pros and cons of partial reserve banking.

118 KJ October 30, 2012 at 7:28 pm

There was an interesting article about Daniel Mendolsohn in The Millions.
Particularly the passage:
“I think that we are in a culture of a kind of reflexive celebration of everything and therefore you have to dig in your heels a little and resist. Especially if it’s an overwhelming tsunami of public feeling. Then it’s doubly your duty to use your mind, use your tools, and to dissect the object at hand and to look at it not coldly but coolly. You can find that you like it, I’m not saying that this is necessarily a negative or a destructive enterprise. I do think we’re in a sentimental culture and I think it’s making us a worse culture.”

He is particularly talking about pop culture but I’m sure it bleeds into most portions of life. My question would then be how does one advocate policy when the the way to energize or “Create a buzz” is purely through sentimental means.

Talk about how Google is releasing a Nexus 4 at 349 and attacking Apple as an method to maintain their dominance in ads. As well as what Apple Maps means for the longer term Apple ecosystem where their closed nature is now espousing and decidedly inferior product.

Thank you very much. I enjoy looking to see the fruits of this thread @ MR.

119 mister mister October 30, 2012 at 7:48 pm


120 Greg October 30, 2012 at 7:52 pm

How’s Tyrone doing these days?

121 Bill October 30, 2012 at 8:30 pm

1. How you can give $5 Trillion dollars in tax cuts and pay for them while balancing the budget.

2. How you can actuarially cover pre-existing conditions without a mandate.

3. How you can create a medicare voucher plan to run along side of traditional medicare without health insurers skimming the health, low cost customers, and dumping the rest on regular medicare.

4. How you can justify paying having the govermnent pay 14% more for medicare advantage programs than for medicare.

5. Why government doesn’t create jobs unless it is to purchase military equipment.

122 NickS October 30, 2012 at 8:54 pm

More about your reading habits

123 Chris October 30, 2012 at 9:20 pm

The passing of Arthur Jensen, the controversial IQ researcher.

124 freethinker October 30, 2012 at 9:37 pm

1) How to become a polymath, like Tyler

2) what will happen to humanities departments in universities if subsidies for them are withdrawn ( the commonsense answer is humanities go extinct, but the insights of economists often violate commonsense, as Paul Heyne points out in his textbook)

3) Since Tyler appears to be concerned about India’s economy, how the scarce resources of a poor nation can be utilized more efficiently for promoting useful higher education ( at present huge amounts go down the drain in the support of departments where the there are more teachers and ceiling fans than students)

125 Andrew Barnet October 30, 2012 at 9:39 pm

In your post on “Compassion by the Pound,” you write:

1. From survey evidence, “Food prices” get an “importance score” of %5.06, while “Well-being of farm animals” gets an importance score of %4.15 (p.192). That’s almost on a par.

2. Fifty-five percent of Americans believe that housing chickens in cages is not humane (p.344).

3. The market share of cage-free eggs has never exceeded two percent (p.261).

Do you think that this disconnect stems primarily from imperfect information, in that consumers do not have a clear understanding of where their food comes from (or is something else at play)? And if so, how do you think this problem could best be remedied? I personally think there are serious problems with many attempted solutions, from certification programs to government regulation to farmers’ markets. I would like to hear your thoughts.

(I apologize if you have already answered this question in your paper “Market Failure for the Treatment of Animals,” which I regrettably have not yet read. Your old link to the paper no longer works):

126 Ramagopal October 30, 2012 at 9:49 pm

1) update on the debate in JEL some years ago on whether Austrian economics satisfies the market test: if the market should decide what has value for society, Austrian economics appears to fail the market test

2) Reflect on the point made by Yeager in the JEL debate I referred to that cultural issues are not to be judged by the market. Can libertarians accept this viewpoint?

127 Larry October 30, 2012 at 10:38 pm

What is the best outcome of the fiscal cliff?

128 zbicyclist October 30, 2012 at 10:45 pm

When will certificates of deposit pay (real) interest again? In the interim, how many fewer people will (voluntarily) retire? How much will that increase the employment rate?

129 Simon Cranshaw October 30, 2012 at 11:45 pm

You have said you don’t favour a gold standard. Do you feel people should be allowed to use gold as a currency if they choose? This would mean transacting and accounting could be done in gold without additional dollar fees or administration. At the moment such rules prevent people effectively switching to gold.
If it was allowed, do you think the removal of the need to pay taxes in dollars would lead eventually to a collapse in the paper dollar’s value?

130 sam October 31, 2012 at 12:42 am

A series on Trancendental Idealism

131 Guyren Howe October 31, 2012 at 1:00 am

Why do American politicians not engage in block voting as is the norm in many or most democracies? I’ve never found an answer.

132 William Charlwood October 31, 2012 at 1:15 am

Suppose a population has no trade imbalances with the rest of the world, does not grow,
does not have aging problems, and does not live on debt: in other words a static, balanced,
closed economy.
Will this be a rich place to live or a poor place? Sure, there will be booms and busts.
And I suppose the population will grow/decline over time.
And I suppose it depends on how industrious the inhabitants are.
Most of our economies seem to be based on debt, trade imbalances, and/or population growth.
Are we rich/poor if we eliminate these factors?

133 dirk October 31, 2012 at 3:56 am

If democracy ended in the USA, how do you think it would play out?

134 dirk October 31, 2012 at 3:57 am

If democracy ended in the USA, how do you think it would most likely play out?

135 Mark Thorson October 31, 2012 at 11:42 am

The “democracy” franchise is very popular and will probably be kept no matter how the underlying system changes. Witness China, which calls itself “one-party democracy”.

136 Smid October 31, 2012 at 5:25 am

Agree with earlier comment: More from Alex’s brother. 🙂

And how about something on Myanmar?

137 J D October 31, 2012 at 5:27 am

Jeff Friedman’s new essay on inadvertent dogmatism.

Slavoj Zizek and his popularity

Still plan on publishing a book of political philosophy?

138 Anon October 31, 2012 at 5:30 am

The economy of older university students. Is it worth changing your career at 30, 40 or more?
Many of us studied a profession that is becoming increasingly non-relevant, or see interesting careers we never considered before but are afraid of the big change, mostly financially speaking. Have there been any studies that show the fates of those who tried it?

139 Anon October 31, 2012 at 5:36 am

I always wanted to ask this, especially to more conservative, capitalist, Ayn Rand fans:
In an ideal world, where everyone can become an independent entrepreneur, who would the employees be? Who would want to work for someone else when they could open their own business?
I just think it’s impossible that all of us become so called job creators, because then there would be nobody to give a job to. So, instead, how can we reach a balance between happy employers and happy employees?

140 MM October 31, 2012 at 5:42 am

Ok, correct me if I’m wrong and naive here, but if Greece was a failing company, we would either let it go bankrupt, or invest in it to help it start making money again and in the process pay back its debts. We wouldn’t strip the workers naked and take off the roof of the factory and break down their machines and let them figure out how to start making money again. Why, instead of those ridiculous austerity measures doesn’t the international community help Greek exports and growth? I don’t see any other way that they will get their money back, even if all austerity measures are applied until the last Greek starves to death.

141 Ed October 31, 2012 at 5:57 am

Income taxes in the countries I’m personally familiar with are calculated as discrete functions – rates which increase in a series of “income bands”, with boundaries often set at arbitrary “magic” numbers (e.g. “50% above 100,000!) – each band, inevitably, with its own constituency of interested voters. Isn’t this likely to have unintended consequences near the band boundaries? Wouldn’t a continuous function be more sensible, more elegant, and less prone to dividing voters into tax-band blocs? Perhaps this has already been tried?

142 CC October 31, 2012 at 8:22 am


You haven’t blogged on this in a while, and other academics are pooh-poohing it. Some even suggest that most microfinance loans are used to pay off previous microfinance loans.

143 Paul October 31, 2012 at 9:39 am

Does Tyler have some sort of advanced time management technique that he could share with us? How do you teach full-time as a professor, update a daily website, write books, read seemingly every book published, start a unversity, and have opinions on everything from South American literature to Polish cinema to the best recording of the Goldberg variations? This is not fawning praise. I’m genuinely interested in his thoughts.

144 Clay B October 31, 2012 at 9:51 am

To what extent can a country “manipulate” its own currency? How can they set their own exchange rate without another party agreeing to the exchange?

Why is the US a two-party system? The Constitution does not specify the number of political parties. Are there stable equilibria that involve more than two parties? Does this answer change if there were no party primaries, just a general primary?

145 Ryan October 31, 2012 at 10:03 am

Thanks for writing the best blog on the Internet – keep up the great work!

Topic ideas:
-Developments in antitrust law, and the economics of monopoly power.
-Education technology and policy, the higher ed “bubble,” etc.
-The importance (or non-importance) of different levels of government funding of research.
-The relationship(s) between intellectual property law and innovation.

146 collin October 31, 2012 at 10:50 am


1) How do the developed countries increase their birth rates when their wages and job market are long term weak? It seems like with lower wages one way to the younger generations is lowering expenses (or avoid higher expenses) is not have as many children. Long term this creats a demographic debt deflation spiral. (This is not just the US here.)

2) Your updated thoughts on solar panels. Although it is going not to replace the brown economy and utilities any time soon the consumer economics is getting better. Here in California Inland Empire (Riverside area) solar panels are going up all over the place and most new houses have panels already installed. And yes despite improve consumer economics the producer economics are terrible.

3) Convince the US, the Saudia Arabia of corn, is helped by lower prices. Higher corn prices hurt other countries more than the US.

147 Max October 31, 2012 at 11:10 am

A review/critique/evaluation of Conard’s “Unintended Consequences.” I’ve been reading it and am skeptical of many of his claims, but would love to see Tyler’s opinion.

148 Robert Fraser October 31, 2012 at 11:55 am

What are a couple of good books for a 13 year old to read about economics?

149 Michael Bishop October 31, 2012 at 12:01 pm
150 Tom October 31, 2012 at 1:04 pm

What is the best paper on the relationship of Net Worth to “money” and monetary theories?

I’m convinced that the Net Worth bubble & slow pop (2 years) is the primary cause of the Great Recession’s slow recovery.

The Net worth increased in the bubble: slowly from about 1982 to 1995, then faster thru 2000, then much faster thru 2006; then the house price increase stop, then fall in early 2008, then faster fall late 2008, to bottom out (?) in 2012.

Or, where does data disprove this?

151 Gary S October 31, 2012 at 1:49 pm

In totality, does having a child benefit the economy and civilization? To what extent does the drop in birth rates originate purely from economic self interest? If having children is good economically, what policies (if any) should encourage it? Do declining birth rates spur innovation (e.g. replace labor with capital)?

152 Saturos October 31, 2012 at 2:19 pm

What’s the meaning of life?

153 R Richard Schweitzer October 31, 2012 at 2:20 pm

The condition and trends of surpluses in “national,” “geographic,” “cultural” (and other classifications of units).

Have the “Western Economies” consumed historic (post 1715) surpluses at a greater rate than it has been producing them? cf, TGS.

Where are surpluses being generated currently; in what forms; how accumulated; how redeployed, etc.?

Given the historic importance of surpluses to the expansion, maintenance, stagnation and decline of nations, cultures and civilizations, what possibilities do current conditions and trends in surpluses indicate?

Why is there so little consideration given to the topic of surpluses?

154 Joseph Lemien October 31, 2012 at 2:58 pm

I’d love to see more posts on behavioral economics, and various other areas that mix economics and psychology, or economics and other academic disciplines.

155 Peter V October 31, 2012 at 3:18 pm

What’s your take on “positive money” ( ?
If this proposal were adopted, what would the consequences be?

156 Trailsplitter October 31, 2012 at 8:17 pm

What are your thoughts on the development potential of charter cities? (I’ve become very interested in the topic since I viewed the Paul Romer video on I am currently studying Development and International Relations at a university in Denmark and find the potential of these types of projects to be great. What would you recommend to a student looking to pursue work in this field? How does one go about seeking employment in this type of project?

Thanks again for your blog. I’m a big fan/avid reader!

157 Mark October 31, 2012 at 8:21 pm

What is the optimal property tax. I’m familiar with analysis on all kinds of other taxes but I can’t recall any discussing property tax (is it better or worse than income / sales?)

158 Larry Rothfield October 31, 2012 at 11:58 pm

Does it matter for the future of music that even musicians as successful as Cat Power cannot be sure of not going bankrupt? Should we be dismayed at a future in which careers will be much shorter? Is the impact going on music going to be bad (and bad in what ways)? If so, what is to be done?

159 Robert Guico November 1, 2012 at 12:11 am

How do we reconcile (or, rather, is it possible to reconcile) the need for more education in this country — perhaps judged by graduation rate in STEM degrees — versus the concept of “unschooling”, somewhat described in this blog post: but best summarized as “school is teaching your kid to become a mindless drone”.

How does this tension play out in terms of The Great Stagnation?

160 Eliza November 1, 2012 at 3:01 am

I would be interested to read more posts like this:

I read blogs and opinions on a wide range of economic issues from many different perspectives, however I find it difficult to really compare and contrast opposing arguments as they (blog authors) always seem to be talking past each other. What I’d really like to see is a simple question, such as “How does a financial recession differ from a regular recession and how does this affect recovery?” or “Is privatising schooling a cost-effective way to improve school and post-school outcomes?”, and answers from several different perspectives, as was provided in the comments of your post on taking money out of South Korea.

Incidentally, if there was a book like this on current economic challenges, I would definitely buy it, so if anyone has any recommendations, please let me know!

161 Noumenon72 November 1, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Matthew Yglesias introduced me to the theory that the stock market is about taking money out of corporations, not supplying it to them. Should this make me want to own stocks more or less, compared to when I thought I was supplying companies with money so they could invest it?

162 RH November 1, 2012 at 12:16 pm

An interesting thought experiment, which for the record I’m not at all advocating:

What would the economic, institutional, and other ramifications be of a U.S. annexation of Mexico, or perhaps of a poorly governed African country? In this hypothetical/impossible situation, let’s ignore the local/international furor that would almost certainly result.

163 Tom Schneider November 1, 2012 at 2:38 pm

If driving has so many negative externalities, why doesn’t the government create tax credit incentives like the WOTC program, but aimed at reducing commuting distance?

If companies have an incentive to hire the closer candidate and candidates have an incentive to apply to closer jobs, then there will be less driving. In theory, saving society money.

164 lightreadingguide November 2, 2012 at 1:16 am

Pushkin (poet, not the airport) – overrated or underrated?
Why are rolls with butter on Long Island exponentially better than rolls with butter in Northern Virginia? (I am talking about absolutely normal bread rolls that are generally sold at delis and places like that which also sell hot coffee).
How many years has it been since an opera that does not disappoint has been written? Why?

165 Khaki Burke November 2, 2012 at 10:21 am

With GDP down ~25% from 2008, a further decline of 4% forecast for 2013, the jobless rate near 25%, the government still unable to run a primary surplus, and future haircuts coming from sovereign creditors, do you see any chance of a positive outcome for Greece and if not, how does the spigot get turned off and what happens when it does?

166 Sean Sentenn November 3, 2012 at 12:42 am

What are the solutions to Food Deserts that are the most likely to provide an efficient and equitable outcome? Farmers markets, green carts, urban gardening, incentives to supermarket chains, …?

167 Tom November 5, 2012 at 5:30 am

Are there any “settled” questions in political philosophy?

168 Sam November 6, 2012 at 3:34 pm

What would happen if vote-selling were legalized? For example, local election authorities would be permitted (at their discretion) to issue formal vote receipts with some sort of watermark or cryptographically secure way to verify their authenticity.

A) Would this be so bad?
B) What would the price for a vote be, as a function of state of residence and time till election?
C) How would the lobbying industry change? Would lobbyists lobby for or against this change?

169 Peter Sperry November 8, 2012 at 7:48 am

1. What is the marginal utility of

a. Voting
b. Contributing the maximum amount to a candidate
c. Contributing lesser amounts
d. going door to door on election day
e. going door to door prior to election day (does utility increase closer to election)
f. phone banking

2. How could campaign managers determine margianal utility of various tactics which have been previously successful but may now waste resources?

3. What sort of research would help utilize campaign resources most effectively?

170 LM November 8, 2012 at 9:54 am

We are told that all economists agree that free trade is good and protectionism is bad. And we are familiar with the explanations that cheaper goods for a large number of people is a social good, movement of labor resources to where they are best utilized is a good thing etc.

Are there any economists who dissent from this view? What are their arguments and how worthy are they?

171 Aaron B November 8, 2012 at 11:20 am

Can you shed more light on how the U.S. airline industry operates? Specifically, who owns the property (planes, various gates at the airport, etc.) and decides how it functions. I’ve heard there is quasi-government ownership. Is that true?

If you have time, please compare the U.S. airline industry to other foreign airlines.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: