Request for requests

Comments are open, so please let us know what you are interested in reading about.  The only promise is that of weak monotonicity, namely that your mention won’t lower the chance of the topic being covered.


What impact will algorithmic game theory have on economics?

How does having the most well-developed system of intellectual property rights affect the United States in the global balance of trade in human capital?

On mainstream versus "fringier" economic schools of thought (and schools themselves too if you like); and on different schools of thought generally, and your take on them; where economic theory is at present.

Personal DNA sequencing, implications, business models off the back of a collection of DNA

How about a post about Sallie Mae (SLM) and the student loan market?

Difficulties in cultural communication, translations, or other sorts of cultural confusions. Personal stories from your many travels abroad would be a plus!

Is taking a photo or video of an event for later viewing worth it, even if it means more or less missing the event in realtime? What's better, a lifetime of mediated viewing of my son's first steps or a one-time in-person viewing?

Nothing to do with economics, but I find it infuriating that assassinated former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko has had his harshest allegations repeated publicly many times (Russian FSB blew up their own buildings, and trained al-Qaeda's number 2 just months before he became al-Qaeda's number 2 and set them on the path to 9/11), and yet no news publication will seriously consider the ramifications of them being true (i.e., there is really no such thing as home-grown Islamic terrorism on the scale that we see today). Ditto with assassinated dissident journalist Anna Politkovskaya (her allegations were just about the FSB's domestic terrorism – nothing on Ayman al-Zawahiri). And this despite the vindication of most everything both of them said (including both of them predicting their own deaths).

More on classical music. I've loved classical for years, but have recently been trying to expand my listening repertoire, especially to avoid a quiet house now that I'm a freelancing fulltime. What do you think is the best way of discovering new (to me) composers/works/artists (that I would like)? What do you think of Pandora's newish classical capabilities? I have been impressed with its accuracy but infuriated by the fact that you can only get one movement at a time.

Explain exchange rates, in particular what affects them other than trade arbitrage.

Can the "new president" bring change? Public Choice versus Coordination problems.

Francis -- I just wrote this post on YOUR questions about water. (Sorry for the hijack Tyler...)

In celebration of the warm weather:

How does an office/shopping mall/theater decide how low to set its air conditioning? It seems like they've found a bizarre and expensive equilibrium where the "normal" indoor temperature is 63 degrees (in August) and everyone carries an extra long-sleeve layer to keep warm. How did it get this way, and is there some way to fix it?

I read two article in the Times yesterday. The first about The Wealth Trajectory: Rewards for the Few at
Talks about the growth of skilled workers has slowed:
Because growth in the supply of skilled workers has slowed, their wages have grown relative to those of the unskilled.

The second talks about the decline of the $20 wage:

In the second I saw this:
Even now, roughly 15 percent of college-educated workers find themselves in jobs for which they are overqualified, the Economic Policy Institute reports, and many of these jobs pay less than $20 an hour.

The first article speaks to a shortage of skilled workers. But according to the second story 15% of college educated workers are overqualified. How can both be true?

The Washington Wizards in general and Caron Butler in particular as an extremely tiny benefit from the horrors of the drug war.

Why is it that any proposal to expand health insurance (that I have heard about) seeks to thoroughly regulate the activity and have wealthy users subsidize the insurance of poor patients?

Poor people cannot afford many things and the normal policy in those case is to subsidize their demand, not reform the whole activity (e.g., food stamps). Would it be better to regulate health care industry to make it as efficient as possible (allowing for all the right incentives to control costs and research for new cures) and subsidize demand for the poor (e.g., health insurance stamps) instead of creating all of these cross- subsidies?



I'd like more analysis of the "food crisis." I have heard friends in El Salvador already talk about recent large run-ups in food prices. The article below quotes Joachim von Braun, the head of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), as saying "“World agriculture has entered a new, unsustainable and politically risky period."

Things are getting bad enough in the Philippines that they are lifting rice import quotas (what a concept!):

Of course, they are continuing with "land reform" there anyway:

"Habito acknowledged that skeptics and oppositors of agrarian reform blame the program for an aggregate decline in agricultural investments and farm productivity since the enactment of Republic Act No. 6657"

I don't know if this "food crisis" is truly a serious problem, whether it is a brief fluctuation due to a drought in Australia, a longer-term problem leading from widespread biofuel subsidies, or a real long-term problem associated with Asian economic growth meeting lack of Asian agricultural productivity rises.

The economic future of the Euro and Europe as a whole. While currently quite strong, I don't see the European economy is as dynamic as the US or China. Also, the sheer weight of bureaucracy, both from the social-program-oriented national governments and the EU government on top of them, seems to be self-limiting. And did I mention demographic trends?

Carbon Tax Vs Cap and Trade - more information on the economics of pollution

I'd like you to address the economics of dating and finding a husband or wife.

Are you still doing a BBQ book? What's your thoughts on Texas Ribs & BBQ in Clinton, MD? And why do I not understand the appeal of Baltimore pit beef after shlepping out to Chaps a couple of weeks ago?

Purchasing Power Parity (please).

I'm allergic to most seafood. What should I make for dinner?

The crowding out effect of government sponsored science R&D on private science R&D.

NBA predictions

The Metropolitan Opera has scored big by simulcasting to movie theaters. Is this good--can the Met do more good opera with the money, or does it kill off local opera companies? And why can't Harvard do the same--Mankiw can teach Econ 101 to all college freshmen in the country?

More Tabarrok! (Not to be confused with, "Less Cowen!")

I'm an educator in the inner city, so I'd like to see more related to that:

-How easy/hard is it to get out of the inner city, given that you are likely to attend a monumentally crappy school?
-What are the long-term economic effects of being locked up without charges, as many of my students are?
-How much should poor students be willing to take out as loans to attend college?
-To what extent is the decision to carry a child to term a disaster for a 16-year-old?

And so on.

More "meta" stuff -- how to read, how to think, how to write, etc. Tyler's tricks on being a prolific, successful academic.

Will economics in the future rely more on simulation models and less on mathematical models?

Revisit main/interesting topics, even if nothing has changed. There have been many great discussions and points brought up over the years. With readers coming and going revisiting these topics such as water rights, legalizing prostitution, academic incentives, etc would allow everyone to enjoy the topics with the greatest returns and would be a refresher. A great feature on the web page would be your top 50 posts that would allow people to do this on there own too.

How to become a rich man from knowing that inflation is higher than people realize.

What is the best county music?

I'm a university student who has just realized he is ignorant, uncultured and philistine. Some advice and introductory suggestions so that I may change my predicament.

Importance of (minimum levels of) health/nutrition at early stages of life for productivity and Economic Development.

your thoughts on bringing oxygen into the economy.

Prognostications, and links, on how globally rising food prices should be, and instead will be, handled in poor countries.

Along similar lines, consider this article in the NY Sun titled Food Rationing Confronts Breadbasket of the World. Note that the breadbasket they are talking about is the US.

Every economist knows instinctively and instantly what the cause is, but it is not until you get to the third (i.e. final) page, third to last paragraph (talk about burying the lead) that the uneducated reader gets a clue what is really going on.

We are going to be seeing more and more of these illiterate stories in the media as time goes by, we really need economists in the spotlight like TC and AT to spotlight the clueless analysis and explain to the masses what is happening and why.

"Verify your comment

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below.

This test is used to prevent automated robots from posting comments."

Since I saw this when posting my last, please discuss the nature of robots that are not automated, since they must be distinguished from those that are.

Why does the U.S. have so many lawyers per capita and is that a net negative or positive?

Canada-US dollar parity and high Canadian prices.

How quickly will the system re-equilibrate (as in Canadian prices going down to US prices) and in which ways (i.e. what goods and how fast)?

What determines the speed of this change? Most obvious changes are in book prices to me - but Canada still very expensive...

Are prices always the best way to allocate scarce resources?

Are there conditions where queuing or other methods of allocating scare resources superior.

The 40 hour work week was established as the "norm" by the same federal legislation that established the first minimum wage. So why do so may economist that argue strongly against the minimum wage never attack the
40 hour work week? Essentially every argument against or for the minimum wage also applies to the 40 hour work week.

how about 10 best books under 150 pages?

Milton Friedman, Stephen Colbert, Milton Friedman

Tax incidence and the "terror tax" on oil -- when it costs more to get a barrel of oil from Nigeria because of the need to defend against MEND, who pays?

The organic food movement -- causes and implications.

Heuristics you use, during your travels or otherwise, to measure overall quality of life or real wealth in a country and happiness of those who live there (as an alternative to GDP or the UN metrics).

Why do people do work or exchange things for free? (Examples: FreeCycle, couchsurfing, open source programming, Wikipedia, In Rainbows). How would an economist explain what seems to be a growing number of examples of "free culture"? Can we expect free software, free journals, and so on to be sustained, or will this all disappear in a few decades?

I would really like to know your opinion on the new energy proposal put forward by President Calderon in Mexico, it seems to me it is on a level similar to the tax reform: it will end up being worse than the old system, and will be accepted because of the political situation the country is in right now.

You observed in an EconTalk podcast that much of what drives decisions could be described as an "economics of affiliation", or words to that effect.

While the concept is not new, I thought your use of 'affiliation' to describe it was striking, giving the idea much greater depth.

Could you please you write about the "economics of affiliation", perhaps looking at: i) commercial affiliation, say where we pay significantly above production costs for a brand names ii) how those brand names market themselves, iii) sporting, political or community group affiliations, i.e. people come to associate themselves with movements or teams they may only play an indirect role in yet car about very deeply.

Recommendations for "lesser known" baroque music.

cost/benefit of advertising

How about Tyler Cowen tackles the health care system.

It's one of the tougher "markets" to get one's head around. I look to school choice for education (augmented by vouchers), but vouchers simply won't work in health care. The poorest are also the least healthy and would demand considerably higher vouchers than would be tolerated. Either a massive amount of poor people will die or be removed from the work force due to debilitating conditions and diseases or the vouchers will be very large.

The single payer system has its share of problems and I would be interested in what market design you think would be appropriate.

Under what circumstances is a degree from Harvard (or Williams, or another school commonly regarded as "top tier") worth the money?
Does it remarkably increase your chances of getting a job in investment banking?
Will it pay off if you know what you want freshman year and begin networking aggressively to find others to help you get there?
If you're a budding scientist, does the access to high-powered labs provide a sufficient return on investment?
If you just want a sound liberal arts education, are you better off reading books, visiting museums and art galleries, working on projects you enjoy, making interesting friends, and investing your tuition money in tax-sheltered retirement funds?
What if you don't fit into any of the above categories and just want your expensive degree to be a golden passport to success? Is it likely to be one?

1. What are the arguments for and against a gold standard (or equivalent)?
2. Why do even rich people in New York have to beg and plead to get their kids into good private schools? If there is a "shortage" of good private schools, what is holding back supply?

We usually measure income based on education. But how does education today compare to education decades ago? I understand students have become better test takers. But it seems like college curricula are now dumbed down to teach remedial high school material. In this case it is not surprising wages have stagnated.

Two things:

1. What is Austrian economics exactly and what is their methodology.

2. How does money work exactly. I kind of understand it but not really. Are there any special economic insights.

Could you discuss “Hitting or Missing the Retirement Target: Comparing Contribution and Asset Allocation Schemes of Simulated Portfolios,† by Harold J. Schleef and Robert M. Eisinger?

They conclude that the standard shift of retirement funds from stocks to bonds as one nears retirement does not raise the expected value of ones portfolio.

Is that news? I thought the shift was to reduce volatility toward the end of ones career. How could it possibly increase expected value? They advise a fixed allocation between stocks and bonds based on their research, so it is not just academic research.

NY Times review:

(I am relying on the Times here to save $9.95 on the paper, but the Times couldn't be wrong...)

Are remittances overrated? Is there a dark side to them? Say, a noticeable reduction in labor supply via an income effect? Or: do remittances generate some of the same perverse incentives that, say, natural resources at times generate?

How much does undergraduate economics equip you to understand current economic events? Does it permit you to disagree blithely with a) your relatives, b) editorials, c) movie stars? Or are the models too simple to rely on?

Is it meaningful to say "people are starving because we are burning their corn in our cars"? Is it any different than people starving because we are using our money to persuade people to work in iPod factories instead of on farms?

As a hypothetical, what would happen if rich people didn't waste their money on yachts and houses with 26 toilets, but spent it only on essentials? Would they bid all the food away from poor people, having nothing else to spend their money on? I don't know if it makes sense to imagine a world where people are wealthy without producing anything besides food.

What policy changes, have the best chance of significantly weakening the relationship between parents human capital and their children's human capital?

Do you think that Six Feet Under has a conservative message?

How do homeless people decide who gets to stand on a particular corner and beg for money? Is it a first come first serve thing? Is there competition over lucrative corners? Is there a homeless people hierarchy, or are they generally too mentally ill to concern themselves with such things?

Why do we need a representative government anymore? It seems like people have enough free time, resources and access to information at this point in history that we could each vote on the issues that we care about and abstain from voting on others if we don't care. For example, I envision a secure internet website where any citizen can just log in and vote on the issues that concern them. If they don't care, they don't vote, but every issue needs a certain number of votes (a quorum, if you will) to pass. People get email reminders when it's time to vote and voting remains open for, oh, a week or so.

It seems that the representative government was instituted out of necessity - obviously, colonial farmers weren't going to ride to D.C. or mail in a vote every week - but now this is no longer an issue and citizen input can be acquired cheaply and efficiently. Why keep it around when there is an option out there that can truly be called "self-governance"?

I hope I'm not too late to add a request. It's not clear to me where to put it, if not here.

The most common argument against a balanced budget amendment is that it would tie the federal government's hands when it comes to fiscal policy. But is that really such a bad thing? Our political system leads to abuses of the ability to have unbalanced budgets; there are real doubts about the effectiveness of fiscal policy; economists are uncertain at best about the long-term consequences of running an enormous national debt; and the debt (on top of social security) puts a burden on future generations. Why not require a balanced budget or place enormous political hurdles in the way of government borrowing--perhaps requiring a congressional super-majority?

Short of going back to college for an MBA or masters degree in economics or operations research, where should a professional go to study these sorts of things? I help develop pricing strategies for a large corporation, and I'd like to find a seminar along those lines.

Hi Tyler,

Should the "Nobel Prize" in economics no longer be offered?

I recently read the article "The pseudo-science hurting markets" by Nassim Taleb.

Please tell me this guy is on another planet or at least scaremongering because he compares economics with astrology!

I'd really like to hear your thoughts on the article.



Can the same people that bring us the IRS be trusted to build our bridges to tomorrow? Should we build said bridges out of steel and concrete or hopes and dreams.

What are your thoughts on public transport. I loved riding trains in Europe, don't understand why we don't have them here. We subsidize roads, do we subsidize tracks? Airlines used to be convenient but now I spend so much time parking, going through security and getting delayed that shorter trips are far faster in a car. Is the population density not great enough in most of the country?

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