Month: April 2006

Not Busted in Tuva

It’s interesting how new ideas are often tried first in out-of-the-way places.  Here’s Pablo Halkyard from the World Bank’s Private Sector Development Blog.

The latest issue of Access Finance has a short note on an innovative index-based livestock insurance pilot in Mongolia.

index-based insurance product to indemnify herders based on the
mortality rate of adult animals in a given area was recommended. The
index-based livestock insurance (IBLI) policy pays indemnities whenever
the adult mortality rate exceeds a specific threshold for a localized

The proposed insurance program… combines self-insurance,
market-based insurance and social insurance. Herders retain small
losses that do not affect the viability of their business, while larger
losses are transferred to the private insurance industry and only the
final layer of catastrophic losses is borne by the government.

    Note that this is a version of Robert Shiller’s livelihood insurance which would insure people based not on their income but on an index of income in their profession.  Livelihood insurance would be a form of private unemployment insurance not subject to problems of moral hazard.

Missing words

Often after I’ve heard of something for the first time – a food, a place, a person — I start hearing about it everywhere.  Shouldn’t there be a word for this?

"Newbiquitous" is suggested.

Is there a word for the common experience of saying something to your child and then realizing — often with a shock — that you sound like one of your own parents?

"Mamamorphosis" is one idea.

My husband and I are in search of a word for the fear of throwing a party and having no one show up.


How about people who hit the "send" button for email without first attaching the file?

"Deficit sending" is recommended.  Or "sends of omission."

Jonathan Zuber wants "…a verb meaning ‘to go do something and return having absentmindedly done one or more other things instead.’""

Any ideas?

You can put other requests, or suggestions, in the comments…

How to get a macho guy to give in

Researchers at the University of Leuven in Belgium asked men to play an ultimatum game, in which they split a certain amount of money between them. High-testosterone men drove the hardest bargain – unless they had previously viewed pictures of bikini-clad models, in which case they were more likely to accept a poorer deal.

The sight of flesh had less effect on the bargaining tactics of low-testosterone men. Click here to read the story.

Here is the full post, from Mahalanobis.  The accompanying photo is just barely (no pun intended) safe for work.

Markets in everything: weird on-line commerce

How about:

…a Bag of Crap. The fabled and fetishized BOC costs about $8 and
includes up to three random items from the warehouse, most of it likely
to be useless, but sometimes, according to legend, Woot occasionally
drops in big-ticket items like a 61-inch television.

Order here, but it is available only sometimes.  Here is a list of other unusual items for sale on-line.  Did you know you can project the image of a digital clock onto your wall?  Or buy a cow for a family in a developing country?

My neuroeconomics column

Here is the no subscription required permalink.  Excerpt:

Not all of neuro-economics uses brain scans. Andrew W. Lo, a professor
at the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, applied polygraph-like techniques to securities traders to
show that anxiety and fear affect market behavior. Measuring eye
movements, which is easy and cheap, helps the researcher ascertain what
is on a subject’s mind. Other researchers have opened up monkey skulls
to measure individual neurons; monkey neurons fire in proportion to the
amount and probability of rewards. But do most economists care? Are
phrases like "nucleus accumbens" – referring to a subcortical nucleus
of the brain associated with reward – welcome in a profession caught up
in interest rates and money supply? Skeptics question whether
neuro-economics explains real-world phenomena…

The next step? Perhaps neuro-economics should turn its attention to
political economy. Do people use the same part of their brains to vote
as to trade? Is voting governed by fear, disgust or perhaps the desire
to gain something new and exciting?

Arctic Monkeys

On my first listen I didn’t believe the ‘ype.  By the twentieth listen I was believing, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I Am Not is a great CD.  Reminscent of The Who but popped up a notch with reggae and ska beats, Arctic Monkeys are a garage band from Sheffield, England.  Original guitar licks and the lead singer’s Yorkshire accent give the album real flavor.  I also like that it’s thematically whole, revolving around bars, bouncers, and the desperation and self-loathing that comes from trying to pick up women.  I like this: 

Last night these two bouncers 
one of em’s alright

The other one’s a scary
His way or no way

And this:

Everybody’s trying to crack the jokes and that to make you smile

Those that claim that they’re not showing off are drowning in denial

But they’re not half as bad as me, say anything and I’ll agree

Cause when it comes to acting up, I’m sure I could write the book

Yeah, I’ve been there.

Robin Hanson, impish mind

A lunch with Robin is better than an email from him, but at least I can offer you the latter:

Reasonable economic cases can be made for allowing people to sell their organs, and for allowing people to buy the ability to immigrate into our country.  Cautious people avoid such proposals, because they push too many emotional buttons.  Mischievous folks like myself, however, wonder what happens if we push all the buttons at once: what if people could enter the country if they give up a kidney, or similarly valuable organ?  Would those who worry about the loyalty of immigrants who just pay cash to come here be reassured by the symbolic loyalty of giving up an organ?  Would those who fear that organ sellers are exploited be reassured by the huge value immigrants gain from living here?  Impish minds want to know.

Who needs self-awareness?

Self-awareness, regarded as a key element of being human, is
switched off when the brain needs to concentrate hard on a tricky task,
found the neurobiologists from the Weizmann Institute of Science in
Rehovot, Israel.

team conducted a series of experiments to pinpoint the brain activity
associated with introspection and that linked to sensory function. They
found that the brain assumes a robotic functionality when it has to
concentrate all its efforts on a difficult, timed task – only becoming
"human" again when it has the luxury of time.    

Here is the full story.

Ed Glaeser reviews Richard Florida

Here it is; excerpt:

But while I agree with much of Florida’s substantive claims about the real, I end up with doubts about his prescriptions for urban planning. Florida makes the reasonable argument that as cities hinge on creative people, they need to attract creative people. So far, so good. Then he argues that this means attracting bohemian types who like funky, socially free areas with cool downtowns and lots of density. Wait a minute. Where does that come from? I know a lot of creative people. I’ve studied a lot of creative people. Most of them like what most well-off people like–big suburban lots with easy commutes by automobile and safe streets and good schools and low taxes. After all, there is plenty of evidence linking low taxes, sprawl and safety with growth. Plano, Texas was the most successful skilled city in the country in the 1990s (measured by population growth)–it’s not exactly a Bohemian paradise.