Request for requests

I will try to do my best in responding to your requests for topic coverage, please leave those requests in the comments section…



You've made passing references to yoga, and I'd like you to go more in depth.

I'm starting yoga class this summer because if you type "yoga" and a problem into google scholar, there is usually a controlled study showing yoga helps greatly.

Not a request as such, but a question: when you recently titled a post "Good News from Africa" were you consciously referring to a great album of the same name by Dollar Brand and Johnny Dyani?

Structural econometrics. I don't recall this being covered. I'd like to know your thoughts about counterfactuals.

can governments, if inadvertently, subsidize food quality in non-tyler cowen areas? In other words, could the “best-ribs are in the middle of nowhere” hypothesis be violated if, for example, the city of Memphis subsidizes (directly and/or indirectly) various areas and businesses around an urban rib joint?

I’ve had a lot of ribs in Memphis and Rendezvous are still some of the best.

Two requested topics:

1. Euro value: Why is the Euro still so relatively high compared to the dollar? It's currently EUR1.25: USD1. Down some in the last few weeks, but it doesn't seem like the volatility in the last year reflects the potential chaos ahead.
2. Market-clearing prices for t-shirts: Last week I saw Roger Water's The Wall in concert. The official (short-sleeve) t-shirts were priced at $40. What is the logic for setting such an exorbitant price? I would have bought two at $15 or $20; instead I bought none.

The reason for the high t-shirt price is coverend under a theory in Industrial Organization called non-linear pricing, namely two-part tariff. It also explains why popcorn is more expensive at the movies. The low demand customer, in this case you, pays only for the concert, while the high demand customer pays for the concert plus the t-shirt. Thus Rogers Water's extracts all the surplus possible from both low demand and high demand customers. You can read more about it in any standard IO book.

Good points, although this might explain some of it too:

Mr. Burns: (chuckles) And to think, Smithers, you laughed when I bought TicketMaster. "Nobody's going to pay a 100% service charge," you said.
Smithers: It's a policy that ensures a healthy mix of the rich and the ignorant, sir.

Has the overall quality level of comments on MR declined over the past 1-2 years? Lately I have been feeling this to be so, but I may just be looking at the past with rose-tinted glasses.

If you do believe the quality of comments to have declined, any speculations as to why?

Your own comment supports the theory.

There are lots of good questions here including that one.

Offending his own readers aside, raising "comments" as an issue is somewhat timely given this posting:

Seems unnecessary. Surely I'm not the only one already getting huge weekly checks from Big Oil and the Koch brothers.

Comments area seems more spaced out? This makes people less likely to compare quality of comments directly? In fact, makes actual intra-comment dialogue less likely to happen. Large, spacey comments areas make me feel like you're supposed to respond with something closer to a blog post; not a comment, as in a forum, which would presumably be a better source of good comments because you'd be forced to deal with criticism. I don't go back to comments pages on blogs as often as I do on sites that permit deeply-threaded conversations, of which more comments are seen at once, and are more easily viewed.

How will liability for auto accidents be handled in an world of self-driving cars? Surely they will be less frequent, but the number of accidents will surely be greater than zero. Who will bear the burden of insuring the operation of these vehicles? Will the cost of auto liability shift from millions of drivers to a few large manufacturing firms?

Not Tyler, but here are my guesses:

There will be liability insurance same as now, with the registered owner liable for fault. Add the fact that the accident is on video and you get alot fewer frivolous cases, so premiums should plummet.

The question you seem to be getting at is whether the manufacturer/software company will be liable. I think only rarely, if for no other reason than that the cars will be programmed to fastidiously adhere to traffic laws. Lack of proper maintenance or manually overriding the car make it the owner/driver's fault. But Google will likely have an insurance policy for their liability with regard to the software.

Overall, the reduction in accidents (and resulting reduction in insurance premia) will be a positive real boost to the economy, diverting resources away from wasteful consumption on medical care, replacement vehicles, lawyers, and living expenses for injured persons and into more useful enterprises.

You missed a pretty good discussion of that a few threads back. Some good comments from Matt Newton as well.

1) Updates on your thoughts on solar panels as you panned their potential six months ago and some changes:
1a) The US is threatening tariffs on Chinese panels. (I am with Matt let the Chinese sell cheap panels!)
1b) The energy markets for natural gas and coal are WAY down (although mostly due to a mild winter)
1c) Here in Cali where solar panels are getting more economical during peak usage, the power companies are trying to decrease their rates/credits on panels. How can we deregulate the power companies like the phone company and airlines from the Carter/Reagan administration.

2) Please explain how India and China can rebalance their economies:
2a) India seems to need the revenge of the Romneys, where resources are used more efficiently and promote competition.
2b) China needs the revenage of the Ralph Kramdens, where real wages need an increase to grow consumption.

Thanx in advance.

There seems to be a running meme around some parts that, as far as macroeconomic policy goes, "If it was good in the 1950s, it's good for today." Indeed, even "If it HAPPENED in the 1950s and 1960s, it's good for today." Thomas Friedman has played no small part in this. The argument seems to amount only to high levels of government-sponsored R & D, with some appeals to (much) higher marginal tax rates for top income levels. Economic history is a favorite topic of mine, and on occasion you've written of the importance of it. I was wondering if you could reflect on whether or not this is a case of rose-tinted revisionism? Or is there any, or maybe even a lot, of truth to it?

Is there a market solution that will stop people from dying on Mt Everest?

Selling exclusive rights to Disney would reduce the number of deaths on Everest.

Would it? Aren't the licenses already in the hands of a small number of climbing firms? The right to climb the mountain has already been privatized to an extent. And if Disney were better able to get climbers up the mountain, they would already be in that business.

The market solution is that people die on mount everest.

How could there be a run on Greek banks? Why didn't all the money that wasn't nailed down leave in 2011? Are there depositers who are just now thinking "this situation is getting serious, I better move my euros to someplace safe"?

"How could there be a run on Greek banks? Why didn’t all the money that wasn’t nailed down leave in 2011"

It did.

'Are there depositers who are just now thinking “this situation is getting serious, I better move my euros to someplace safe”'

Sovereigns and the ECB.

How do you see the great stagnation ending for less productive members of society?

Out of curiosity (and because I suspect you are high on the personal efficiency metric) I'd love to know your ecosystem of gadgets and software: PC / Mac / Linux; Iphone / Android / BB; Word or Latex; Powerpoint / Beamer / Keynote; Firefox, Chrome, IE; R / Stata / SAS etc. ;

Any particular eureka moments when a change boosted your efficiency? Any must-have widgets, apps, plugins, tools etc?

Oh, and what sort of Laptop do you use; you seem a frequent traveler and it's always overwhelming to choose an optimal laptop.

For many homeowners with managed investment portfolios, their property tax is of the same order as the management fees on their investments. Yet, I suspect the former weighs on their minds much more so than the latter. Why is this?

One thing that strikes me is that the outward signs of what the money buys are enormously different: property taxes pay for the education of a large fraction of the population -- they might not pay for the education of a particular household's children but people must be aware that education has huge positive externalities -- they also pay for police, fire, and although I haven't done any research, I would presume things like sewage and maybe some roads and so on. These activities employ a lot of people in rather visible ways. Contrast this with investment management, which employs fewer people, in a very singular, not-so-visible way. I presume the difference is one of scale -- sum of property being taxed is much more than sum of investments being managed -- but I wouldn't expect people's gut reactions to these fees to be as sensitive to that consideration.

The management fees on investments might be viewed as simply subtracting from growth; one expects their investment portfolio to grow at a faster rate than those fees. So maybe the attitude is something like "they pay for themselves." But this is also true of real estate. The management fees pay more directly toward activities that are perceived to cause the investment to grow. While property taxes can also be viewed as paying for things that help property values grow, maybe this fact is less felt at the gut level.

Anyway, this is what I'm requesting that you explore.

Economics of Playing Sports

To race sailboats or horses, you need to own or borrow a boat or horse, and then pay for instruction. So you would expect a relatively wealthy participant group. And to a lesser extent, competitive swimming requires regular access to a swimming pool. Again, the consistently championship-winning swim teams come from relatively well off areas.

But what about ballet, gymnastics, track & field, and other sports that on the surface don't require a huge investment? I heard a story on NPR last week about the huge amount spent for kids' top-level dancing schools and competitions. In one case it was over $50,000 per year for all the shoes, competitions, etc.

A couple suggestions:

(a) The "fiscal cliff." Whether it should be avoided, and how it should be avoided assuming that politics requires it be so. [I did a search for "fiscal cliff" with no results; apologies if it has been covered using more generic language].

(b) Name the 51st through 55th U.S. states, including Gingrich Moon Colony or N/A as necessary.

Ditto to Frank's question about less productive members of society.

Could you discuss issue of citizenship rights in light of the FB guy leaving? I see part of the law on this will be ex post facto.

Also any way to convert these into citizenship contracts/rights that could be bought/sold/traded, etc.? Thanks!

In the US legal system taxes are an explicit exemption to the ban on Ex Post Facto law.

oopsies; appreciate the heads up; ty

In the US legal system, we have implicit exemptions to pretty much the whole Constitution.

What do you consider the most important advance in manufactured food as a person who seeks the best is eating pleasure?

Off the top of my head, the criteria for manufactured food would be something like:
- never touched by human hand
- significantly cheaper than traditional food of same type
- high volume and very standard found in virtually everywhere one can reach by plane

Which of the manufactured foods developed and now in wide distribution do you eat
- daily
- weekly
- monthly
- seasonally
- never

I wonder how it can be a good thing to promote eliminating labor in agriculture and driving down wages by technology and engineering the food system to drive labor cost toward zero so food cost is a minor component of living costs. The opposition or criticism of "local food", "sustainable food", "green", etc is the cost of food from such methods is far too high because of the excessive labor required. The automation of manufacturing of electronics or cars has greatly improved their quality, but has the same occurred for food?

Have economists blinded themselves to the drastic decline in quality of the tomato, just to name one item, as a consequence of the full embrace of Earl Butz fully embracing manufacturing for US food production as US national policy. I think back to growing up in Indiana and being taught crop rotation as a core civil value along with voting and paying taxes and not littering, and remember the seasonal cycle of foods the culture still connected to farms produced in the decade by for Nixon set Earl Butz loose. Earl Butz is an icon in the power of a government central planner transforming a nation's economy, perhaps the last of the great New Deal era central planners that really advanced US leadership economically. (Another would be Eisenhower for transportation logistics, and his support for those who ran what became DARPA, NASA, nuclear power.)

Note that Earl Butz was looking to get the US government less involved in agriculture by making it operate more like the auto and steel and appliance industries.


Your take on this question:

would be very appreciated. developed countries.

I'd like to know, too.


+1 on this.

On top of that, how will the developed nations increase birth rates? Japan, Europe, China, US,

In "Create your Own Economy" you talk about the ways in which neurodiverse thought patterns are spreading through the rest of the economy. This question may seem a bit odd.

There are a few famous neurodiverse people within the economics profession, but it is a profession which relies a lot on networking and presentation. What challenges or advantages do these people seem to face, and what advice can you give younger people who are early in their careers and may be neurodiverse themselves?

What I have in mind are things like networking, mentoring, how to make interviews go more smoothly, basically actions geared toward finding a niche.

Have you seen much change in the past few decades?

what foods do you think have the greatest and least dispersion of views on how good they taste?

Spain vs. Italy. Which is riskier? Higher levels of mortgage debt vs. higher levels of govt debt. Where is the bubble larger?

I’ve read your blog for several years, Tyler, and as an English professor I’m curious about a non-standard choice of yours regarding punctuation: namely, your use of comma splices:

Here are some examples from some recent posts. In each example, standard punctuation would call for a semi-colon or period rather than the comma:
“Jacob Grier has an excellent post on this topic (which I do not cover), here is just one part of a longer discussion” from
“I found it consistently good and enjoyable, here is one excerpt” from
And then there is this very post: “I will try to do my best in responding to your requests for topic coverage, please leave those requests in the comments section…”

As best as I can recall, comma splices are not present in your books—the editors no doubt want to switch it to standard usage.

Now, please do NOT take me as saying you are “wrong” or “incorrect” or whatever. You are well read and a good writer. I must assume this is a stylistic choice of a self-aware writer. My question is: why have you chosen this nonstandard punctuation? Is it signaling—if so, signaling what?

Recent things you have changed your mind on

+1 on this. Economists are always so cocksure even though their work is based on very gross estimates subject to false precision.

Yoga is interesting.

1) What's the most important economics question you ever asked?
2) How do economics professors negotiate their salaries? Do econ professors share notes on this?
3) Predictions for US economic policies if Obama is re-elected?
4) Where do you see the next boom/bubble/bust occurring?
5) Possible remedies for the continuing rise in Income inequality?
6) If you had to move overseas, which country would you most likely pick, and why?

Reading recommendations about the Honduras charter city.

What books/papers would you recommend reading to put the idea/history of this particular charter city into context, for someone who has no academic background in economics or public policy?

I recently graduated with a degree in eduction, so I'd also be interested in how the educational system would be structured. I'd love to teach there for a few years if the project gets off the ground.

What is the optimal time-frame policy makers should consider? Five years? Ten years? Fifty years? A thousand? How do you arrive at such a conclusion? Is there any hope that policy makers will consider the optimal time-frame?

It seems there are a lot of articles about drug legalization lately. What do you think some unintended economic consequences (good or bad) of looser drug enforcement laws might be?

I would also like to hear more on the drug legalization issue and unintended consequences, not just the economics ones.

Agree. What does a world a with legal, regulated, corporate(?) cocaine/meth/heroin production look like?

Thoughts on this article (in Russian).

Russian scientists claim that the earth passing through fields of cosmic dust explain astrological-climate correlations and predict cold decades ahead.

Today economists generally universally espouse the benefits of free trade for both developed and developing nations. Yet Japan became the most dynamic non-Western country in the twentieth century by protecting its domestic markets, including its automobile industry, from Western competitors. If you were an advisor on economic policy to the Japanese government, say, in 1920, 1945 and 1975 would you recommend a policy of protected markets or a policy of free trade? Please answer this question because I have been contemplating this question for years!

I second this request.

What kind of discount rate should be applied to the life time increase in earning from obtaining a college degree?

I've asked before, but I'll ask again, Why isn't more government policy automated? This could range from monetary policy to tax policy to redistricting. I know, first they would need to agree on a model. But that's true of any law. So why not?

Along the same lines, why are you so hot to have more engineers in government? They wouldn't be my first choice for a democratic government, based on experience. On what are you basing your opinion?

Estonia's bureaucracy is relatively young and their bureaucratic procedures are relatively more automated. Maybe it's just conservatism - government has a stronger duty toward backwards-compatibility, and changing any process, be it toward automation or otherwise, would break too many previously-established social bargains.

At that, automation-friendly legislative programs are really, really bad at being simultaneously respectful of traditional privacy/overreach restrictions that are designed for more fallible human discretion. The US doesn't even have a secure national ID system, and a bureaucracy's gauge of whether a person is whoever he claims to be is depending on guesswork and self-reporting.

Do google, facebook, advertisers, and carriers use our smartphones more that we do?

Why can't I delete google maps from my phone and why is it always on?

In light of the GFC and ensuing discussion in the blogosphere - Sumnerism, etc. - do you still support the adapted neo-Austrian ratex-influenced account laid out in Risk and Business cycles? If not, how would you modify it?

Many of your blog readers at present would have no idea what is in Risk and Business Cycles, at that, so a brief exposition along the lines of the posts you do for Nobel winners and book reviews would be nice too.

What are your thoughts on for-profit versus non-profit journals? Will associations have success breaking free from traditional publishers? Can open access (or online-only) journals compete in terms of prestige?

(Apologies if you've weighed in and I cannot recall.)

Pretend you have access to one single alternate universe that is identical to our own at t0. Do you try to keep both universes the same, or as different as possible?

I agree - I tried to go between universes a bit ago and now we're on the 5th season trying to fix it. :). (Fringe)

Your thoughts on Bourdieuvian explanations of aesthetic/cultural production and consumption.

Compare the future of regions in the US.
Anything on brazil and china.
List worst case scenarios for economic downturns and wars.

For years you have been saying that poor growth in Africa showed that aid did not work.

Now that estimates of African growth are being raised, does this demonstrate that aid worked after all?

Are symphony orchestras dying, already dead, or doing just fine? (And is the musician's union to blame?)

What are the biggest threats/opportunities for classical music over next 100 years?

Being from Detroit, I like this one. The DSO union went on strike last year, which I saw as suicidal.

1) The absence of debt in macroeconomic models and macroeconomics
2) More on shadow banking, private money (Singh, Stella, Gorton), and what their ideas -- if true -- would mean for policy today

I would like to see a post assessing our advancement in fiscal and monetary responses to financial crises, particularly whether there is a consensus among mainstream economists that we have improved in certain facets or whether we're in a long-term intractable debate where experience gives each side ammunition to marshall for its argument but does not provide evidence definitive enough of the correct approach to convince both sides. To the extent there are sustained disagreements, is it that the problems presented are sufficiently different that the past is not enough of a guide or is it that the inability to sustain an approach and isolate variables will lead to no results being conclusive of a particular approach? If the latter, can or should the goal of creating better "experiments" be part of our long-term public policy goals?

You've touched on discount apps for foodies like Groupon, but there are discount apps with other models like ScoutMob and Womply that I thought might appeal to your foodie readers if you haven't checked them out.

Womply rewards repeat visitors (when it works), while ScoutMob doesn't require you to buy anything in advance.

When municipal governments are facing bankruptcy, why don't they offer lifetime property tax buyouts? They could offer a price equal to 30 or 40 years of property tax payments--depending on local demographics--at a discount rate that would be attractive for both the resident and the local government. Would adverse selection make it a loser for the government? Would people under estimate their chance of early death or need to move?

Please cover Chinese municipal debt levels and/or the rebalancing of the Chinese economy toward consumption.

America - Meritocracy or Plutocracy?
Does hard work still lead to success, or is the game rigged from the start?
Extra credit if you can explain our Gini index since 1980.

or... I liked the suggestion about what gadgets/systems you use.

Any explanation of why transferring real property is so complicated, archaic, and expensive in the U.S.; whether it is transferred more efficiently anywhere else; whether it's inevitable that we will have a more reasonable system someday; and when you predict that day might come.

Have you read DeSoto's book? He has some interesting observations, such as that in Haiti it takes 14 years to transfer real property.

Transferring property in the US is very simple, unless you are trying to avoid the transaction fee and the responsibility for owning the property, which is what resulted in the out of control private sector property record system that has made tracing property ownership so complicated, with no public record of property owner.

A related event was California's freezing of assets value at the time of sale that led commercial property to be placed in a corporate trust which is sold instead of the property to prevent its value being marked to market, so no public record of property owner can exist.

Note the recording of deeds places no limits on the kinds of transfers and encumbrances allowed which means original documents are required to figure out exact property rights: you can sell the property right to graze cattle but not sheep and also sell the right to hike through the property and the right to run a power line and an access/fire/logging road, transferring use rights to multiple parties for the same parcel of land..

Oh dear God I've fallen into some alternate universe where I agree with mulp. Help!

When are they going to nerf irelia?

Engineers, nurses, and low-skilled workers face intense immigration competition, while better paid doctors, lawyers, and others don't. Is it the role of government to choose winners and losers in the labor market?

What are the long term effects on an economy of targeted inflation given that it's not a closed system (much labor can leave the country) and some workers are unable to improve their skill set such that their earning capability cannot keep up with inflation.

Is it inevitable that there is an ever growing underclass? Or is there some stasis point where global labor eventually plateaus.

The rise of architectural and other historical preservation coinciding with the age of stagnation and reduced innovation. I suspect it goes beyond bad land use policies and perhaps reflects a shift in the collective psyche over the costs and benefits of creative destruction and rapid technological progress and upheaval? Most styles today, architecture included, seem much more conservative and rooted in the past, Lady Ga Ga excluded.

Respond to Nick Hanauer’s TED talk on rich capitalists as job creators.

Noam Chomsky. A glaring omission from the marginalrevolution oeuvre

Why is retail banking in America so anitiquated? (At least compared to northern Europe.) I haven't seen an actual check in Norway since the late 80s, yet it still seems to be an indispensible part of everyday life in the US. I don't mean to be the snotty European here, but this just baffles me.

Gary Johnson: Does he have a fighting chance at even getting in on the presidential debates?

Will Romney pick Gary Johnson as his vice presidential running mate?
If so, will Johnson have to fight a pistol duel with Tim Geithner?
If so, who will you root for at the duel?

How should online publishing differ for "idea" fields like economics, psychology, etc, compared with a field like medicine?

How is it possible that huge proportions of social science studies (including economics) use college students as subjects? "It's a well-recognized problem'" the answer I usually hear, doesn't cover it. Why pay any attention at all to clearly flawed data? Why even consider performing such studies?

Value of an Economist

In the midst of all this turmoil, every major decision has highly credentialed people on both sides. So what is the value of an economist? What was the value of a doctor, when going to one - for certain maladies - had higher mortality rates than just waiting it out? Is that an unfair comparison, and why? Or is it apt, and we just need to suffer through the development of the craft until it does more good than harm?

Also: what about the idea of the government providing a minimum yearly income to every citizen (or legal inhabitant)?

Adam Smith has been called the embodiment of the "absent-minded professor" stereotype. Do you think a child version of Adam Smith would be diagnosed with some sort of mental disorder in modern America? And would it have been in his best interest to be diagnosed?

Should candidates' policy disputes concern aggregate statistics like GDP, unemployment rates and inflation or around philisophical positions, like: liberty and freedom or coercion and subsidies? freemarkets and trade or mercantilism? Democracy or Constitutional Democracy, etc?

Your thoughts on adequate undergraduate preparation for a PhD program in Economics.

Growth in central government since WW I ? Why do people have such different views on the costs and benefits?

Are restaurants an efficient markets? Are information costs too high? Is maintaing consistent quality too difficult for most firms? Do customer preferences change too rapidly?

Are colleges very good at price discrimination i.e. do they capture most of the consumer surplus? Does this explain the rising cost of college? Who in the typical college places the greatest demand on revenues?

Should student loans be exempt from bankruptcy rules? What would be the impact of colleges being forced to share in the bankruptcy losses?

This is a total popcorn topic, but after seeing The Avengers my husband and I had a long discussion about the economic policies of alien civilizations in various movies. In The Avengers the aliens send in their minions very lightly armored and on uncovered hover-jet-ski things. Is training and supplying a soldier so cheap that they only have to outfit them offensively and think nothing of protection? Even if hardware was more expensive, this still wouldn't make sense since if the pilot is lost, the flying-chariot thing is also lost. Compare that to the Empire in Star Wars which actually grows their soldiers (well, according to the prequels) and seems to outfit them fairly well. Though they still occasionally have flying jet skis which are very susceptible to hop-ons. Really guys, put a top on those things.

Obviously, we're ignoring the entire idea that your bad guys have to be designed such that your good guys can defeat them.

Adam Smith was described as the embodiment of the "absent minded professor" stereotype. If he was a child born in the current day U.S., would he be diagnosed with some sort of psychological disorder, and would it have been in his best interest to recieve treatment?

Tyler speculates about Smith's possible autism in Create Your Own Economy.

A public choice analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

How soon can we profit from asteroid mining?

Could you comment on the Sahin et al. paper "Measuring Mismatch in the U.S. Labor Market". In your opinion, what does it imply for theories of structural unemployment in relation to the current state of the US labor market?


Do you think all arguments and conclusions of your previous books still hold today? In case of a negative answer, what do you think would be the most substantial change in a hypothetical rewrite?

What deficit reduction steps offer the most bang for our buck? So far I cannot top raising the (public?) retirement age, which simultaneously

1. reduces spending on current retirement benefits
2. reduces the amount that needs to be saved/borrowed for future benefits
3. reduces future medicare spending by keeping people physically/mentally active by working
4. supports higher levels of consumption, as salary payments are almost always higher than pension payments
5. has far less negative distortionary effects compared to any tax increases yielding similar savings

Granted, people get old, but compared to decades past those in developed nations work more with their minds and less with their bodies, implying that they can work far longer than they currently do.

I'd like you to comment on the economic theories of Victoria Grant ( whose video keeps getting linked to me in Facebook.

Is it wise to try to prevent pockets of homogeneous poverty from developing in U.S. metro areas? If that is a worthwhile goal, what would be the best way to bring it about, and what tradeoffs are involved?

What's the most important thing you've learned from having a blog?

Can you list some quantitative, potentially falsifiable predictions of yours on, say, a 2-year, 4-year or some such horizon?

Something on issues that are non-obvious a-priori but where the prediction can be easily verified or disproved at a later date.

Why are large public works projects so much more expensive today (even accounting for inflation). E.g. the original Tappan Zee Bridge cost $81 million (about $650 million today) but a replacement will cost about ten times as much with the cheapest options budgeted at $6.5 billion. Shouldn't technological progress at least partly compensate for increased regulatory costs? How did our bridges get ten times more expensive?

Hi, Tyler

I wonder you thought about using tax systems to mimic an internal devaluation. I.e, higher consumption and income taxes combined with lower taxes on production could mimic the effect of a change in the exchange rate . Of course the exchange rate would act more directly on the tradeable sector, and it is a cleaner and more efficient mechanism given lower tax compliance costs, tax evansion and deadweight costs (how to compare?). Yet, in a sufficiently open economy, with efficient (in a operational sense) tax collection systems, this could be pretty much the same. The obvious candidate would be Ireland, in the case, yet its tax system alreadys seems skewed in that direction.

By the way, I am a big fan of your blog. I am a professional economist, yet never did Phd... the way I keep sharp in the more insightful parts of economics is through you (and your links), krugman, Voxeu, Project sindicate.

Why isn't Filipino food more popular?

Disclaimer: I'm a Filipino (-American)... but surely a population of 93 million should count *something* towards effecting pinoy trends in global cuisine, one way or another?

What do you believe that you know is not true?

How has our understanding of brain science challenged the foundational assumptions of rational economic man?

This may answer your first question:

Tyler: It's 2012 you're an American young person, 18, with a high school diploma and no family/outside support besides your own earning potential and capacity to borrow. You give equal weight to money, prestige, and personal fulfillment.

What is your chosen career path in this brave new world of ours?

Disclosure: I am not this hypothetical person. I only wish I were 18 again. :)

this paper

If you had to choose one of these U.S. institutions to magically change to all private for-profit institutions, which would you choose:

All Colleges and Universities
All K-12 education
All Prisons

Please assume that they would magically change structure but still have the possibility to receive government subsidies.

The economics of being Greg Ransom please.

Here's what the Irish are watching...

Is it possible that there will be a prolinged period of mass unemployment if innovation in robotic labor develops "too fast?" (See one example of this line of thinking here:

Or that wages will be pushed down below the levels of human subsistence? (See Robin Hanson's discussion of what happens when we can run human minds on software:

What should we do about the distributional consequences?

Why do US politicians not vote in party blocs as they do in most other countries?

Because voters vote for individual politicians not parties in the US. The system determines the outcome.

I would like to see some economists address the limits to growth. You have written a book about slowing growth but you are optimistic about future growth. Why? There are hard physical limits to energy consumption. How do economists expect the economy can grow without increasing energy usage? Please read this guy's blog for the perspective on long term growth that people in science have.

I see a remarkable failure of imagination on the part of physicist and economist alike. Confining human existence to Earth only adds to this absurdity.

1) Under the boiling Earth scenario, the enormous energy production that results in a sea of waste heat could also power shielded pockets of habitable space against this environment.

2) Even our most basic modelling assumptions must be questioned over time frames of hundreds or thousands of years. [Michio Kaku] The nature of human existence, and the environmental requirements to sustain some form of intelligent life, could change dramatically. [/Michio Kaku]

3) The physicist fails to identify the incredibly high ceiling current physics places on energy use and computation.

Towards the end, the physicist finally seems to recognize the various ways in which economic growth can continue, such as through quality-of-life related gains in utility.

For more esoteric discussion, read the post and comments below.

A man degreed in physics and economics, Robin Hanson, adds his take. Once again, the comments are worth following if you can read past the jargon.

Some speculative closing thoughts....

Competitive pressure may weed out hyperhedonic entities for survival, and ultimately lower their discounted lifetime utility in a manner that forces them to optimize towards (or otherwise select for) a more survival-enhancing utility function. Low discount-rate entities may be selected for, through their relatively greater propensity to minimize existential risk (again, such that discounted lifetime utility is maximized). Growth can continue, utility can rise, but the motivational mechanism(s) used to optimize against existential threats remain(s) intact.

I would like to see some economists address the limits to growth. You have written a book about slowing growth but you are optimistic about future growth. Why? There are hard physical limits to energy consumption. How do economists expect the economy can grow without increasing energy usage? Please read this guy's blog for the perspective on long term growth that people in science have.

The comment system didn't take my link. Google this: "do the math economist meets physicist"

Intrade has it at only 42% that a country will leave the Euro this year. How are we to interpret this?

I'd be interested in any insight you may have about the relationship (or lack thereof) between retail availability of guns in the southern U.S. and gang/cartel violence in Mexico. I have strong feelings about it, which makes me wonder if I'm missing something.

I'd like to understand why Greece should leave the Euro. Greece doesn't export anything much (so wouldn't benefit short term from a devaluation), yet everyone presents the problem of Greece as "Greece default = Greece leaves the Euro". What would prevent Greece from defaulting and yet stay in the Euro?

You often blog about other people's ideas of how the financial system should be reformed. I would be even more interested in your own views on that topic.

I would like to read something about Colombia in this blog. It's a pretty interesting country, as Acemoglu and Robinson have pointed out repeatedly.

Which Damien Hirst's art piece will stand the test of time? I bet the sharks will rot.

When we should have, I don't know, 3% deflation, but have, I don't know, 3% inflation, do we really have 6% inflation?

Hi Tyler Cowen. Long-time lurker here. My request: I've read some material on the macroeconomics of potentially significant future life extension, but almost nothing on the microeconomics of it.

How could life extension change personal finance decisions, for instance, and should even the potential for significant life extension change personal finance decisions made today? Alternatively, more on the macroeconomics of life extension is also always welcome. Thanks so much!

Update regarding the evidence for fiscal policy, as put forth by DeKrugman.

If 'the great stagnation' continues - could you end up with two middle classes? Ignore financiers and CEOs; one class of fairly highly-paid professionals making say 100-300k per year (ranging from engineers up through attorneys and doctors); a second group of much-lower paid service workers and manufacturing workers making 15k-45k per year. Virtually no one would make in between. The two groups could end up having very little in common regarding where they live, eat, and go to school.

Sneakily influential blogs

I'd like to hear your thoughts on how our economic system could be modified to take into account things that are now regarded as externalities.

Have there been historical examples of an economic system increasing the types of things considered relevant? If so, what can we learn from them? If there haven't been examples of that, why do you think that is?

Do you think we can get from our present system to one where the cost of pollution is taken into account when making business decisions? What would it take to get there?

Do you think advances in sensors, open data, and crowdsourcing that make measurements of pollution more easily available will affect the way pollution is treated economically? Does the ability to measure something that was previously difficult or impossible to measure have economic effects?

If you've written about these things before, please point me to the relevant posts.

What are your views on affirmative action and how have they changed since Obama got elected president ?

Michael Sandel's new book "What Money Can't Buy" takes on the roll of markets in our society. I would be interested in your views on the book if you've read it. It contains lots of "Markets in Everything" examples that could have come straight from the pages of Marginal Revolution.

I'd like more thinking on how to implement reasonably uncontroversial policy improvements.

For example, Alex posted yesterday on the idiocy of most occupational licenses. Granted. But how do we fix that in a world were license holders who benefit will make campaign contributions and vote on keeping licenses but the general public does not lose enough from them to expend votes explicitly on politicians who promise to abolish licenses?

There are countless issues where we know that big improvements are possible — making health care providers publish prices, increasing public sector productivity, increasing tax code efficiency — but knowing that improvement is possible really matters not, unless someone has some ideas for starting the reforms.

I saw in a blog that inflation rates in Greece and Spain are positive. Unless this is the result of a rising VAT it seems counter-intuitive. Any explanations?

The economics of Indian buffets, or of buffets in general.

When will asteroid mining pay off?

Do you think there should be more delineation between being "pro-market", "pro-business", "pro-investment", "anti-tax", "anti-government"? These are often lumped together and used interchangeable, although they are not. Many pro-business policies are anti-market (cronyism, professional licensing). Investment policies can clash with market ideals (tax incentives distort the market, health care costs that might be reduced by moving to single payer are a major factor cited against expanded hiring, end of life care zeroing out savings is a major disincentive to investing). Higher taxation to combat social evils is a pro-market solution (compared to banning). Patent monopolies are are anti-market, larger government, despite being pro-business and pro-investment.

How aptly do you think the following partitions conservative and liberal stances on private charity versus governmental programs: Conservatives feel people are best helped or judged worthy of being helped by face to face interactions. They will help everyone they see deserving of help, and this direct approach will avoid helping untrustworthy and bad others (which the world is apparently full of). Liberals feel people that can help cannot be trusted to help everyone who needs help, and therefore the government should step in. Prejudice, (whether racist, nepotist, classist, sexist, or other,) and even simple error, makes personal judgement faulty -- even though bad people will take advantage of a universal program, this is outweighed by stopping good people from falling through the cracks.

What are your thoughts on China's alleged rigging of currency exchange rates?

If you think the yuan/dollar rate is out of line, do you have any estimates of how far out of line, or how you would calculate it? The Treasury Dept. has done a lot of work in this area, but I wondered if you have any different thoughts.

I would love to get your thoughts on pizza.

Does the insurance industry create market failures? The most obvious example seems to be in the healthcare area: insurers pool consumer money and pay large amounts do medical suppliers. Anyone outside the insurance system can't afford to participate, because the insurers basically created an oligopoly of consumers. In auto insurance, does mandatory insurance encourage riskier driving? Everyone knows everyone else is supposed to be insured, so they drive in a way that presupposes that their risks will be covered. Adding my thoughts on health insurance, would requiring everyone to carry insurance encourage riskier health behavior since everyone would know that their medical costs would be paid for?

The answer seems to be : it depends? I mean, if you look at life and annuity, such insurance doesn't (very much) cause people to live forever or die prematurely however incentivized insurance pushes them that way.

Generally people don't have more fires or car crashes because they don't want to die, have their family die, or lose treasured property, not to mention lose time and hassle with claims processes and paying deductibles. Most insurance works vaguely on this principle -- If I give you 5 bucks, and offer to pay any subsequent medical costs, will you go inject yourself with HIV needles? I really doubt it, even if I bankroll all the monetary concerns and then some, I'm sure you'd rather not have those experiences.

Arguably even the most screwed up US insurance industry, health care, is not the fault of the insurers' oligopsony. You can easily point fingers at immigration policy, licensing standards, FDA regulations, and the drug patent system.

How would the markets and regulatory environment surrounding Everest change if it were located elsewhere in the world? If it were in the Alps? In the Rockies? My gut tells me things would be rather different if it were.

I was surprised to read Prof. Krugman's comment "... America remains a relatively closed economy."

Do you have any comments on this topic?

I'd like to see a chess match between Ken Rogoff and Tyler Cowen, with time odds or Knight odds for the latter. Rogoff is a grandmaster and Tyler won the NJ Junior State championship (or he was a runner up, forget which), which means Tyler is probably at Expert level, about three notches below GM, so perhaps 10:1 time odds or knight odds would level the playing field.

Grudge match! Keynes vs Austrian schools? or soft vs hard money? or, if they think alike, like great minds that they are, then Rogoff ("this time is different") vs Tyler {"The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All the Low-Hanging Fruit")!

Is it all doom and gloom about aging demographics? I view it as a positive that less people are dying. Shouldn't society be able to figure out ways to adapt (working longer, new growth industries servicing aging populations, etc.)? Most commentary just seems to assume the worst. Remember, Japan has the most advanced toilets in the world! And respectable per capita income growth if not absolute GDP growth over the last decade.


Have you done a book review of Paul Krugman's "End this Depression Now"?


What do you think people have most overconfidence in their ability to predict relative to their actual aptitude in predicting it?

What do you think people have most overconfidence in their ability to predict relative to their actual aptitude in predicting it?

Neuroplasticity and mindfulness.

You never gave your thoughts on Michael Sandel's book, and after reading Boston Review's symposium on his argument, I'd be curious to hear your opinion.

The effects of monetary policy on inequality, e.g. the Fed striving to increase consumption via the wealth-effect.

I'm wondering if there is any research on whether partisan political campaigning can prevent or delay an economic recovery.

My theory is that "confidence" in the economy may have weakened as a direct consequence of the Republican primary season and heightened election-year politics in general.

Republicans are very eager this year to tell us that the economy is bad under President Obama. Does that rhetoric actually cause the economy to be worse?

Is economic growth harder to come by in election years in general? Maybe due to uncertainty?

Thanks for your great work,

What effect will Citizens United and the increasing amount of money spent in American politics have on the size and efficacy of government spending and government regulation?

On a related note, is oligarchy inevitable in the United States? In each individual country? Transnationally? Is there a hopeful, positive case to be made for the political economy of increasingly concentrated wealth?

What happens after Africa develops and there are no longer large parts of the world that can undertake China-esque catch-up growth?

If sustainable carbon emissions are zero sum, how will the world allocate them? What will happen if they can't be capped at the sustainable level?

Economics seems to devote fairly large attention to monopolies and oligopolies. But lately I have been trying to come up with an example of a private monopoly that is acting in a non-competitive way. It's easy to point to monopolies created by government. It is also easy to think of private monopolies. Apple had a huge market share of portable music players, but still it kept innovating.

Do you have any good examples? What is the academic consensus and the most relevant research?

Democracy is often thought of as the top of the ladder when it comes to forms of governance. But what are the economic facts supporting this and is there any difference depending on the characteristics of the voters (percent voting, education level of voters and such)? What are those numbers adjusted for freedoms and other factors that are usually found in democracies but are not part of the democracy concept itself?

Chris Blattman recently bet that the future of development economics is about industrial development and industrial policy. What's your view on that, and what readings would you recommend on this topic?

I have not read An Economist Gets Lunch, so maybe this question gets answered there.
What criteria would you use to rank cuisines. For instance, if you asked me to rank Italian, Japanese, French, Chinese cuisines, I would say: Italian, Japanese, French, Chinese. Having read this blog for several years, I predict that you would rank them in the inverse order. Is that true? What are the key factors that influence your ranking of a set of cuisines.

A couple of questions around the general sphere of competitive government.

Some interesting things have happened recently in the area of competitive governance. Eduardo Saverin's public departure (with the FB share price drop, I'm not sure those who blasted him are taking back their words). Honduras approving the charter city, but no country coming up to take on the initial patron role. Rather public discussion of Apple and Google's Double Irish Dutch Sandwich tax schemes.

So, here go the questions.

What is the future of the charter city/competitive government?
What might be the first country to take on the patron role for Honduras's RED and when?
What event might turn to be the tipping point in favour or against charter cities?
Will there be a backlash against tax havens and movements to further isolate them due to the world's governments desperately needing revenue? Points in favour - the lack of revenue. points against - the elite themselves might have a whole lot of money stacked in these places.

I'd be interested to see a ranked list of the greatest African musicians or albums or songs.

More on creative destruction in the context of culture and the arts

I would be interested in your views on the economics of taxing high status or positional goods and to what extent such taxation can meet the requirements of government spending.

Why is inequality so low?

Yes, that's not a typo.

The best answer I've seen is Robert Frank's "very productive people are paid partially in status," but it feels somewhat unsatisfactory.

Do you think social stock exchanges will work?

Have you ever read anything by Erik Maria Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn? If so, what is your opinion of his work?

Did not read all the prior posts - but I am wondering how economic theory might explain the rapid growth in administrative costs in colleges - I was struck by Mark Perry's post on Ohio State...

Just calling this "administrative bloat" seems nonsensical...

I have to believe that the addition of admin costs - and staff - was rational - some need drove the university to add the associate dean - XXXXX administrator - Student coordinator. There were I would hope some real benefits expected from adding on this cost - and the benefits at least on paper out weighed the costs.

But something is at work here - is it the fact that Universities have the ability to raise their prices in some artificial/distorted supply/demand system?

Have you read Gary Taubes' book, Good Calories, Bad Calories? I'd love to hear your take on it.

You could write about:
Most environmentaly minded people think that, by driving less they reduce emissions of CO2 by exactly the amount contained in the galons of gasoline not burned. However, in a "general equilibrium", when the chain of sustitutions are taken into account, that is far from the true. My intuition is that the unilateral effect on emissions of not driving is pretty small.

What was Lucas' reason for having Luke and Leia be twins? For such a big change, it adds little to the story.

In TESB, Obi-wan hints at it, but it isn't important. And while it could explain the telepathy between Luke and Leia, there is no reason that even needs to be explained. We're never given any rules about that power (which we hadn't seen before then).

In ROTJ, Obiwan tells Luke, but it didn't drive any plot. Luke tells Leia - and again no plot change. Then Vader finds out and it causes Luke to give in to anger, but that could've happened without it. Then Leia tells Han and it resolves the love triangle that really had already been resolved.

Otherwise it almost never shows up and it certainly never matters. it does however make Luke's feelings for Leia creepy and leads to a conversation where Leia acts as though she remembers her Mom even though Mom died in childbirth. So it paints Lucas into a box he chooses to ignore.

My guess is that he's just a bad writer.

why so much fuss around facebook share price. now it is only 15% less than initial offer price. this is not the end of the world for any serious investor. so, why all the coverage on internet?

Care to comment on your commenters? In general? On average? Any recurring individuals who are particularly insightful, annoying, creative? Any of them that you have learned from? Any that consistently amuse you? Any with a sufficiently bad track record that they should be skipped without bothering to read? Or do you generally ignore them all?

Nonracial explanation for trends that correlate to race.

Will virtual goods ever achieve a level of status marker similar to real-world goods? Will having a thousand books on your Kindle feel as impressive as a thousand-book library? Would we ever trade our large suburban homes for small urban flats with large castles in virtual space?

You called Roissy "evil" a few times, without explaining why. I think it's a reasonable, but not inescapble view, and would be interested in you spelling out your reasoning why.

If I recall correctly, Tyler, you don't own or use a microwave oven. I would like to know:

- Why.

- Whether you have an opinion (or, better yet, and more likely - hard evidence from some obscure study!) on the theory that microwaves are harmful. I don't think anyone believes that microwaves turn food nuclear, or produce ionizing radiation (I think I'm using this term correctly), but I have heard people argue that cooking food in a microwave alters the nutritional content and/or the molecular structure in a way that conventional heat does not. The result, according to these theories, is that microwaved food is at best "neutered" in some way and at worst harmful to our health. I have searched for solid evidence on this, but haven't found any.

If you should choose to take on this question, your answer will probably have ramifications within my household. You can probably guess the position I hold and which one my wife tends to believe. I hereby expressly indemnify you from any and all responsibility related to the marital fallout issuing from your answer. For the record, our marriage is strong; I suspect the two likely outcomes are that we: 1. replace our 15-year-old microwave, or 2. throw it out and clear up some counter space.


"Persico also liked to use a microwave to cook for himself and his friends. “Carmine made the best spaghetti and white clam sauce I ever had,” says Conza, who was Persico’s cellmate for about a year. “He was an unbelievable microwave chef.” Inmates buy the basics from the commissary, then add vegetables stolen from the kitchen—an onion costs five stamps."

Obama claims that federal spending under his administration has risen the slowest in 60 years. Your thoughts?

Online poker should/should not be legalized/regulated because...

What are your favorite science fiction books, and what, if any, were the main economic insights you took from those books?

Thanks for doing this, as always! I have another two questions I hope you'll address:

First, could you talk about your reading habits and methods? You seem busier than anyone I know of but also read more than anyone I know of.

Second, and I know this is vague, but could you give us your take on normative economics? It seems to me that a lot of discussions get sidetracked because the authors slip from technical disagreements to debates about whether a certain outcome is “good” or “bad.” If you're a moral anti-realist--which I think is an increasingly strong position--then morals are a matter of preference, are subsumed by utility, and can lead to intractable disputes. Even if you reject all that and claim that there are universal morals, it still seems as though any normative proposition should be prefaced by some definition of what is "good,” or else be accompanied by a breakdown of the various winners and losers. Sorry to interject my opinions, but I wanted to give some context because my question was broad.

Thanks again!

One more: is it valid to compare today's high tuition and quality of student life to airlines during the CAB regime?

The U.S. Government now restricts the purchase of U.S. Savings Bonds, series "I" to $5,000/year. They pay 0% interest.

What does the government have to gain by this?

Tyler - Could you do a comment on youth unemployment and its structural nature.

See link:

Why are names translated from a foreign language that doesn't use the same alphabet as us (In particular I'm referring to Chinese which doesn't even use an alphabet per se) not spelled phonetically when written in English?

What is the net cost or benefit to municipal, curbside recycling? Should we be stacking sorted piles of glass, aluminum, paper and plastic in large bins set out beside the garbage? Am i harming the environment in fulfilling this desire to "be green"? Thanks.

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