A request for requests

A very loyal MR reader in New Orleans asks for more space to make requests.  What would you like to read about?

This time I disavow "three times is the charm" as a rule of collective choice.  I do promise, however, that my response to your requests will embody the property of monotonicity, namely that more asks for a topic won’t lower its chance of being covered.  Comments, of course, are open…


The extent to which government should support academic research that is not expected to have any material benefits, in both the arts and sciences. That one should support a variety of research because we don't know what will have benefits may be a fair argument, but is disallowed.

The economics of farting in public.

The future of college tenure systems when the growth of enrollments via expansion to a larger portion of the population loses ground to dropping fertility rates.

Darnit, spelling gets me again. ;-)

Maybe you've covered this, but I'd like to see some commentary on why box office movie prices are uniformly set; that is, why do movie tickets cost the same whether a film is just opening or has been in release for several weeks? And why are ticket prices unaffected by bad reviews, attendance, geographic appeal, audience demography, etc.

the past and the outlook for the price of Google's stock, beginning with its IPO.

I second Africa.


I'd like to know what you think about Utility Curves, including
a) is the concept still normatively useful in light of prospect theory and happiness research or do we have to accept revealed preferences?
b) if the concept remains useful, what is a realistic shape for most people's utility curves and how much does this shape vary.
c) should economic policy be intended to maximize societal utility?


I'd like to hear your ideas about why economic growth rates and per capita GDP in all developed countries are so close to one another despite large differences in history and policies.

economics of feudalism!

I had an idea recently. I'd like to know what you think.

You can read my comment here:

The idea is this: I believe there will be robots within 5-15 years that can do almost any job currently done by manual labor. Picking strawberries, dusting a china cabinet, building a home, stocking shelves & checkout at a Wal-Mart, driving any vehicle, etc...

This isn’t an armchair-roboticist’s view. I work in robotics, and the barriers in that time frame are not technological. This also isn’t based on a super-long extrapolation of Moore’s Law. 5 more years would suffice.

But let’s assume that what I’m talking about is technologically feasible.

Today it is hard to show many people that free trade is good. Some people hate outsourcing. Many folks are convinced immigrants are bad because they “take jobs†. Others want companies that aren’t actually making much profit on the long term to be punished (oil).

What will happen when there is no face to the “replacement labor†? When it is just a robot that can do the job better and cheaper, the sob stories of folks loosing their jobs might appeal to more people. The evil company benefits and the humans are hurt. The story writes itself. And, it will write itself millions and millions of times as automation moves out of the realm of manufacturing.

I am of the opinion that the resources saved when productivity is increased will greatly outweigh personal/individual/temporary losses. The ultimate resource in the humans who used to do a now-automated job is freed. Robots should work. People should think.

But I am concerned that economically illiterate arguments will hurt research and development into further expanding the capability of robots.

What do you think?

Slavery laws seem to restrict freedom in some sense. Why can't one's labour be used for collateral? What are some possible social and economic impacts of allowing the liquidity constrained to use their labour as an asset?

The internet, social networking, myspace.

Generational differences in how we use and view technology - my parents are horrified that I use my credit card to buy things online, or send strangers on ebay my address. On the other hand, I don't understand why people used to pay people to type things up (isn't typing always faster than writing anyway?) and only vaguely remember life before AIM let alone before cell phones.

Ivan Kirigan: I'm pretty sure that globalization invokes nationalistic tempraments and the roboticization will invoke less illiberalism.

"roboticization will invoke less illiberalism."

Do you mean less illiberalism as far as trade or just government control of industry. I hope it doesn't happen, but I can easily imagine a great illiberal government intervention into private industry by banning robots that are accused of hurting employment.

Look at sites like this:

There, the solution to robots taking jobs is giving everyone a welfare check. I don't think he thinks about it the same way as Charles Murray, either...

one thing i've recently discovered and started educating myself about is the fact that the federal reserve is a privately owned entity. any thoughts you have on this would be great to read.

i also agree with the commenters that wanted your thoughts on the possibility of economic reform in africa.

I like the "top things 'everyday people' get wrong

Also how to explain why stockholders allow executive pay to multiply independent of earnings. (why not sell, once you realize? Is this market failure?)

"I believe there will be robots within 5-15 years that can do almost any job currently done by manual labor."

Ivan, I know you work in robotics, but I'm extremely skeptical of this claim. I work in software and we can barely get basic business software to work reliably. The cost of getting the space shuttle's code nearly perfect is astronomical. Furthermore, when you make the 'almost any job' claim, do you also claim that the robots will be as efficient and productive per time unit and per dollar? I can't imagine robots being ready in 15 years to build a house from the ground up. I think the effort to create the software needed to run the house building robot is decades away and I haven't seen anything that leads me to believe we are close to having commercialized bots that can navigate the 3D terrain, space, and essentialy randomly located objects (unless they will always build the exact same home) of a home construction site.

Collusion! And anything related to restraint of trade, I hear that all the time from leftists and statists.

Different pricing schemes in restaurants. Why some countries have a lot of "all you can eat" buffet restaurants while in other countries they are unknown? Why "food by kilogram" is so common in Brazil?

Markets in used goods:
Why are more women's bikes available used than men's?
How about used CD's? books?

I second food pricing. Does offering an all-you-can-eat buffet signal that the food is low quality? I also wonder whether I would really be better off with legislation forcing cable companies to offer a la carte pricing.

I also like RSaunders' draft questions, but, given that you didn't know who Tom Brady was, I'm not optimistic about you addressing it.

latin america. peru. immigration. current events. history.

Robots, obviously. : )

And the economics of limiting Congressional corruption.

Another suggestion -- religion

I second sourcreamus in addition to upholding my earlier suggestions.

At what price per gallon for gasoline will single car drivers change their habits? I would change at $6 per gallon but not at $3. I realize this is greatly over-simplified, but are there available anlyses addressing such issues in a more comprehensive manner?

The first time you did this you asked for suggestions for topics that would be unfamiliar ground for you. I'll repeat my suggestions from then: guns or drugs.

Or robots, of course. That would be fine too.

Giant fire-breathing robots with rocket boots and laser eyes would be best, but that may be too much to hope for.

Mine is a libertarian vote; i would like to read about
capitalism without inheritance rights; capitalism without green cards or passports;
probability of winning (or at leats, impact) of a libertarian guerrilla in a capitalist democracy

I would like to hear about the ways the public's misunderstandings about economics affects the economy.

The robot thing? Sorry, but it's not that close, and it's overdone - almost annoying. Better robots simply multiply labor of robot makers. Go read some science fiction instead.

Good job, here and there!!! Keep it up, I like your guestbook!!! Please add your comments at my :)

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