Request for requests

What is on your mind?  I am happy to entertain requests for topics and questions for future blog posts…


Is this Hillary news meaningful or just pre-election partisan hysteria?

I can answer that one. The illegal and secretive method of keeping all communication incommunicado is just partisan hysteria.

Hillary sucks. I want more anthropology!

My favorite story recently was the Orthodox Jew who decided to stick with the religion even when he lost the faith.

I figured this one out the other day. The reason it is a big story is because the mainstream media almost totally ignored and ridiculed the concerns that security had been lax in Benghazi for political reasons.

If the President of the United States says that there is not even a smidgen of corruption anywhere in his administration, that is enough for me. I request that Tyler Cowen write more on the subject of Republicans ruining the country with their racism and hatred of women. In fact, why don't we examine the structural sexism which is the sole reason that women aren't equally represented in these comments.

Please tell us more about the made up Benghazi scandal that has been proven to be a non issue every time Republicans have seriously investigated it. And on the Hillary question, I think it largely depends on what's in those emails.

>I think it largely depends on what’s in those emails.

... that she deleted forever. Great point there.

Easy on the sarcasm Other Jim. There are two parties to every email. So unless every shady email she sent or a received was to/from another person with their own private server who also deleted all of them (which, though possible, would be House of Cards-esque), those emails are out there somewhere, and I'm sure some people in Anonymous could figure out how to track them down.

Or maybe Hillary Clinton was smart enough to send any politically sensitive emails to the other person's third party email service? Which would be the logical approach. And since there is no simple way to even figure out who those people are, what email account they were using or what email provider it would be a part of, there is no way to subpoena any records.

Hilary Clinton also gave an e-mail account on her own server to some of her closest aides.

That the Democrats and the Left in general seem to be willing to defend what is clearly a massive effort to avoid the clear letter of the law is beyond contemptable. Either the laws apply to everyone. Or they don't.

Yes there is no simple way to find them, which is why we'd have to depend on a group like Anonymous, like I said.

And I'm not defending her. I'm just saying if there's nothing actually bad in the emails, then it's not meaningful. What she did was still wrong, but if there's nothing more there than a bunch of non-controversial emails, then I just don't care and I don't see why anyone else would. You all seem to think there is a 99.99% chance she did this to hide scandalous things, and if you're right I'm your side. I just think (1) the likelihood is more like 20% because despite her reputation I'm more skeptical than you that she's Frank Underwood (though not totally convinced she's not) and (2) someone will be able to find those emails to the recepient so that we can see for ourselves.

Are we in an age of indifference? I'm under 30 years old but it just feels like we jump from story to story more frequently than I would've expected in the past. As examples, it seems like there is exponential decay in interest on stories like Ferguson, US spying, etc. There's a lot of noise initially and then it seems to fall pretty quickly.

Is this any different from times in the past? I'm sure news stories have historically followed similar decay over time patterns but it seems like half lives are pretty short in this day and age.

If so, why is this the case?

Back in the day you got your news at most twice a day: Once in the morning, when reading the newspaper. And in the evening, when watching the news on TV.

This is not a difficult issue. Much of the mainstream media is run by the Hard Left who have an obvious and clear bias against most Americans. They see the news as a form of campaigning for social justice. So they pick up stories of no particular interest to their audiences, they run them in a way designed to bash those audiences, and when the stories don't catch on, they drop them in order to find another issue to campaign on.

Was there any news of note in Fergusson? A thug bashed a policeman and got shot. Not a news story or of any interest to most people. But they wanted to make it a "teachable moment". As with their over-hyping of the Zimmerman story. In both cases it was obvious from the start that there was no story but they wanted race riots and so they incited race riots.

Was there any news of value in the US spying on suspected terrorists and the German Chancellor? Of course not. At least not to most Americans. That is what they think the NSA is for. But the Left can't let it go because it feeds into their generally paranoid view of America. America remains largely indifferent.

It is not an age of indifference. It is an age where the network news wants to be out of work as their rating slide. Calling your viewers racists is not likely to be a successful marketing strategy.

So back to @Jeff here, but I've heard that Rosa Parks wasn't the first person who refused to go to the back of the bus. The NAACP (or whatever) declined to make a big deal out of the first person because she was a teenage unwed mother who they thought would be unsympathetic.

That relates directly to this. Why was this the cause celebre when there was, contemporaneously, a 12 yo boy and a father of 4 selling loose cigarettes? Why has the 'Hard Left' media made such a huge tactical blunder as to make the most issue out of someone who was indisputably a criminal and thug?

I say this with the full acknowledgement that there's a problem here.

The Gay Marriage campaign has also wised up and used the most boring, conventional, the most middle class Gay couples they could find. As a recent article on the Dutch campaign showed. Gays used to like the leather clad image but that does not sell in Peoria.

As for the media, I think they live in a world that dislikes White people and not Black people. So you may think someone is a thug, I may think he is, he may actually be a thug. But they live in a world where he is a sympathetic victim and the real bad guys are any near-by White people. They are so out of touch with their audiences they do not see how it will play. Their gut instinct is that every place, every day, is Selma. They have no other prism through which to view the world.

Remember when they could run the same story for weeks on end, like Abu Ghraib or the firing of US attorneys?

Well, it could be that we have become more scatter brained.

Or it could be that the media prefers this to protect the Democrats. For example, had the IRS did what they did under Lois Lerner, that would have been brutal front page news for months and months until those emails appeared. Leakers would have abounded.

(I actually don't know which, maybe its both.)

Well, in 2017 if we have a GOP president, we can test this theory. I suspect we will see Journolist laser-like focus on stories reappear, for national politics in DC.

Though...if it is just twitter cycles now, that maybe worse.

"Well, in 2017 if we have a GOP president, we can test this theory. I suspect we will see Journolist laser-like focus on stories reappear, for national politics in DC."

Principals over principles.

+1 Good Question

I've been pondering on this question a while with regards to financial markets: Is there a Black-Swan-Event Bubble? Since 2009 nearly every litte wee-piece of news was (more or less at least by some) presented as the prequel to the coming econ-armageddon.

PIIGS, Grexit I + II, Iceland, Trukey, Brazil, Argentina, The Oil Price, Russia vs. Ukraine, the almost-kinda-Intifada, the Post-Arab-Spring Events, Ebola, Euro-Crisises I + II + [insert numbers here] . And of course that old chestnut, with China being just on the brink on collapse. Have we just gotten numb by all those attention grabbing news? Is it the psychological effect of the 2009 crash wiping out a whole decade of stock earnings for some? Is it a justified fear or are we living in markets where the majority is always expecting the worse to happen, thus creating a market opportunity for the optimists?

1) Tyler's low hanging fruit that he thinks could be easily implemented
2) the value of writers/pundits/academics having a accounts so we can see where they get information from, judge their credibility and get inspiration for new books to read

1) seconded

i don't know about others, but some academics have that information on sites like mendeley more than good reads. A lot of academic reading is papers rather than books.

2) seconded

Also wouldn't mind a post on your feelings on Arnold Kling's new four factors

Would love to hear your take on what would happen to the cigar market should the US end the Cuban Embargo. Price, availability, quality, etc

I think we will quickly find that Cuban tobacco is still great due to the unique climate but that Domenican and Central American aging and manufacturing processes are far superior now.

If a parent were to pick a sport for their child to play competitively, what would you suggest?
(factoring in cost, commitment, personal development, opportunities provided in life)

Bouldering! Most climbing gyms have youth teams, the only gear is a pair of shoes that costs <$100 and lasts for a year or two, you can climb 3-5 times a week and make great progress, and I think learning to attack problems despite/because of repeated failures is a nice skill to develop.

Expose them to a variety of things in low-risk low-commitment situations and let them choose based on your advice and allow them to change relatively freely.

Actually this guy's response is better, but make sure bouldering is one of the variety of things!

You can do that for one kid, and then for the rest you need to guide them into whatever big-sib did.

May as well guide the oldest one into something reasonable.

There's a certain genetics advantage there :)

Lacrosse, for the status-signaling value. Plus, it's cheaper than hockey. No rink fees, and less equipment to buy.


Damn, Lee, saw your after the post...apologies


Microeconomic question: I'm very interested in understanding the decreasing lifespans of companies. I hear things like "The average public company now lasts only 15 years," and "Since 2000, 40% of companies on the S&P 500 no longer exist," etc. Is there some good data and analysis here? I'd love to know how many companies in the S&P go out of business or are bought in a given year, or in the last 10 years, or 15. But I can't find any data and don't have the tools to sort it out.



Good question.

"Dow calculated his first average purely of industrial stocks on May 26, 1896, creating what is now known as the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Of the original 12 industrials, only General Electric currently remains part of that index."

I'd like to know how you think antitrust law and enforcement are working in America.

I second that. How many domestic car companies does the U.S. have? Vs Japan... Germany... Sweden...

Could inadequate anti-trust could be the biggest economic failure of our gov't in the past 70 years?

Why hasn't the euro failed?

Yet. Because Germans are running it.

Why is the (global) state of subtitling and closed captioning so bad?

a/ Subtitling and closed captioning are extremely efficient ways of learning new languages, for example for immigrants wanting to learn the language of their new country.

b/ Furthermore video is now offered on phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, televisions... but very frequently these videos cannot be played with sound on (a phone on public transport, a laptop in public places, televisions in busy places like bars or shops,...).

c/ And most importantly of all, it is crucial for the deaf and hard of hearing.

So why is it so disappointingly bad? Is it just the price (lots of manual work still, despite assistive speech-to-text technologies)? Or don't producers care?

It's interesting to look at the fan-sub community, where they can be a labour of love. They are often considered far superior translations to the official ones.

If voting with your feet was your preferred method, what would be the best country to immigrate to from the United States for:
A) Progressives
B) Social Conservatives
C) Libertarians

As a follow up, a common expression in the US among adults as I was growing up was "its a free country". That expressed both disdain of the expressed course of action and a willingness to let the fool do what he wanted. Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn are literary representatives of that, what should I call it, frontier freedom? Are there countries that even if the official line is restrictive, the feeling of liberty might be much greater? Am I nuts to feel that in many ways the US is less free than it was a couple of generations ago?

For Progressives the answer is probably Canada - not moving too far and you get to speak English. If you want to move further and don't mind learning a new language - consider Denmark.

Social conservatives should move to Saudi Arabia or Iran where "moral" behavior is enforced by the law. (Iran hangs homosexuals.)

Libertarians should move to Somalia so they can enjoy the full benefits of having no government.

Ah, Somalia. You know, I'm quite certain I've never heard an American libertarian admire Somalia (or a conservative admire Iran, for that matter). But any number of American progressives have openly expressed admiration for Fidel's Cuba and Hugo's Venezuela. Funny that.

And Canada? I think you're about a decade out of date. It's the libertarians who'd now be more likely to head north than the progressives. After 6 years of Obama and almost 10 of Stephen Harper (of the Conservative Party), libertarians rank Canada higher than the U.S. in terms of economic freedom.

" It’s the libertarians who’d now be more likely to head north"

Which is pretty funny since the Conservatives under Harper are to the left of Obama and the Democrats.

No, they aren't.

Progressives should try North Korea instead.

More pointless chest beating, you guys. I'm not sure you've convinced quite everyone you're all idiots yet.

Somalia under anarchy can be compared to Somalia under socialism quite favorably.

A) One of the African countries. Many are almost 100% Diverse!
B) No country beats the heartland of America as far as social conservatism for White people.(White social conservatives would rather live in an atheistic country than a Muslim or African country and wouldn't be welcome in Korea, Japan or Israel) Runners up might be the Eastern European countries.
C) Hong Kong and Singapore are probably the closest to libertarianism, but they are still far away from the libertarian paradise, they still have government programs for their working class populations and aren't very Diverse.

Would you say that the "pesarattu" (from Andhra Pradesh in India) , which you have often spoken of positively , is the tastiest food invented by man?

I would like some articles discussing how socialized medicine in Europe and Canada produces vastly superior outcomes at much less cost than crony capitalist America's health care system.

There is already a very well researched and surprisingly unbiased series of blog posts (by who I can't recall) that have been posted here multiple times during and after the passing of ACA. Their conclusion was that healthcare costs are incredibly complicated to detangle, but the simplest take away possible is that it is not so much the system that matters (single payer, NHS, private insurers, hybrid, etc.) but rather the underlying demand economics. Quite simply Americans consume way more healthcare than Europeans. It probably wouldn't matter if we swapped systems, we'd maintain similar outcomes.

Medical care and car repairs follow Say's law.

Here you go:

Europeans enjoy healthier lifestyles and consequently incur less mitigation of chronic conditions. They don't mind waiting a long time for treatments, they treat the poorer segment of society rather than leaving them to rot, and they import almost all medical innovation from the United States.

They are poorer.

The us has been able to afford spending twice as much per capita, so they did.

As for outcomes, the area I live in has no first hour lifesaving emergency care. Neither does it have endemic levels of gun violence that require that level of care, and the numbers of individuals who would require it is so small it becomes statistically insignificant.

I would also compare the social groups as a proportion to the population and health outcomes.

Canadian health spending is increasing at about the same rate as the us, starting from a smaller base.

I would like to know why America, which has public schools just like Europe does, spends more per student but gets worse results.

We constantly have people claiming a simple copying of Europe will bring their cost levels and results, and yet, in an area where we indeed copied from Europe, we have higher costs and worse results.

I would check immigration rates (immigrants from poor countries start at a lower point academically and have fewer resources at home) and homogeneity (Schools in Europe seem to be a little more willing to split their ethnically homogeneous groups by ability than we are)

I'd also be interested in seeing how parents attitudes toward school differ.

Some political economics - info on how economic and trade unions like the EU impact political and ideological choices and perceptions of the world.

The observation that lots/most of low hanging fruit of the current/near-ending paradigm has been gobbled up is interesting, but MORE interesting would be observations about what seemingly low hanging fruit has NOT been gobbled up.

Perhaps, one might thinking of this as Markets [Not Yet?] In Everything.

It seems to me that a good pro-markets economist would be enthusiastic to point out seeming market inefficiencies as often as possible -- especially inefficiencies with solutions that have the opportunity to create wealth. Speculation of this sort may be harder and potentially invite more opinionated disagreement, but it also has greater potential margins for improving markets.

1.) The derivatives markets are about ten times the size of the risks even available in theory to be hedged. What fractions of the derivatives market are dedicated to: (a) legitimate hedging of risks; (b) leveraged speculation; (c) tax arbitrage (including both converting income to capital gains and moving income from one jurisdiction to another) (d) regulatory arbitrage (including things like the misreporting of Greek national finances using derivatives).

2.) There are assertions that we have a global savings glut. Who in the world is generating/accumulating these savings? Where are the savings domiciled? Where does the ultimate ownership of the savings reside?

+1 for number (2)

As for number (1), from my limited experience in finance (I've only directly traded 2 derivatives) I think most of it is netted out course correction. A plane flying from LA to NYC makes 10 times the number of turns it needs to. But most of the turns are at the beginning or the end of otherwise uneventful flights.

Do you have some sort of organization system for everything you know / learn / want to write about? I use Devonthink Pro like Steven Berlin Johnson does and even then I often feel like I miss things I should find.

Separately, I'm struck by the distinction between people's online political identities and offline practices and interests, though this is admittedly a vague observation.

John Oliver had a great bit on infrastructure

What should be done about raising revenue to fund these repairs? Also, why don't the very wealthy invest more in infrastructure? Why do we not see the Bloomberg Bridge replacing Tappan Zee Bridge? To me it seems this would be a great way for the wealthy such as Bloomberg to be immortalized in a manner that is both highly visible and will improve the lives of many people who have to deal with such bridges.

What would be the optimal rate to set out to completely repair our national, state and local government infrastructure, such that enough firms would invest in the additional resources required to bid on the work -- 25 years to completion or some other period? What would the current value price cost of the repairs be annually? What would the effect on the economy, income and employment be? Net of the marginal additional growth that ensued, what amount would be required to be raised by additional taxation? At the end of the period, what would be the amount required in current value costs to maintain the infrastructure from that point on?

The real question now is should we spend a bunch of resources shoring up infrastructure to support individually owned gasoline powered vehicles.

Fire government workers and end Davis-Bacon. Take a look at a government budget anywhere in America, and you're likely to see the same trend over the past 50 years: a massive shift from capital to labor. Government already has enough money to fund all the infrastructure development, it has been diverted by rent seekers, especially public unions. Shorter answer: Scott Walker 2016.

The numbers are blown way out of proportion by our insane cost structure.

The East Side Access project currently being undertaken by NYC's MTA is predicted to cost 5 times as much per km as the most expensive non-US rail project -- London's Crossrail. The London project is considerably more technically difficult, and it isn't like London is a low cost city or some sort of non-unionized libertarian dream. It's also been currently predicated to be completed 10 years from when it was slated to open.

If it was just NYC that would be one thing, but Boston's Big Dig, the San Francisco - Oakland Bridge, and Seattle's sea wall project all also had serious serious cost overruns and costs that were well beyond anything similar paid by other first world nations.

As in healthcare and education, the US seems to have a cost problem in infrastructure.

Why would you spend a billion dollars to get your name immortalized on a bridge, when you can become a 'public servant' and get the same result.

1) The demographics of Africa. (eg. the UN 2050 projections or a post about Nigeria)

2) The future for jews in Europe

While the medium UN projections are a good start for any post about African demography at this point I would also suggest taking a look at the projections made by IIASA. (Hint : level of female education is the key)

For 2. I suggest taking a look at Pew Research. They did an article about this last month.

Work the Lee-Rubio tax proposal. I don't mean praise it or criticize it, work it. Work it so it's weaknesses are exposed, it's strengths revealed. We have a level of inequality that makes the financial system and the economy unstable, we have an economy that is focused on speculation and short term gain, we have economists promoting their own interests rather than the national interest. Work it.

If the united states had a multiparty system, what might those parties be?

The Republican party would continue to exist as a union between two center right parties, one more social conservative, the other economic/natl defense, while the Democrats break up into separate parties along racial/ethnic/religious lines.

Does Goodhart's law apply to TIPS spreads?

Americans have elected many politicians who they would judge unacceptable as bosses, babysitters, chaperones or someone to trust with money.
For examplee, in Florida a congressman was elected despite owning a company which registered a list of web XXX sex sites and he claimed not to know. He later resigned after drug charges.
Why the disconnect?

What is the optimal tax structure for the U.S.?

Tease out the nuances of disability and employment at multiple levels:

- Why is it that SSI prefers to give a monthly check to people with disabilities rather than use that money to get appropriate candidates suitable job training / internships and subsequently job placements? Granted there are some people who truly cannot work due to the severity of their disability, but there are many more who need more of a mental shift and a hand up. Wouldn't it be more cost-effective (in the long run) to look at ways to use SSI funds to get people into careers rather than staying at home?
- What do we do in situations like Goodwill where people with disabilities are paid less than the minimum wage in order to ensure they remain eligible for Medicaid? Seems perverse. Isn't this a bit of a variation of Wal-Mart asking the government to pay for foodstamps for its employees (i.e. X employer expects the government to cover health expenses for its staff with disabilities -- via Medicaid -- rather than providing health insurance and a decent salary)
- How can we improve job opportunities and networking for people with disabilities? Both those with congential disabilities and those such as veterans who were disabled in Iraq?
- How come the nonprofit sector rarely includes "disability" as a criterion for diversity? Related to this, recent marketing campaigns for hiring persons with disabilities are geared largely to: private sector (e.g. Pepsi) and the federal government. Why not the nonprofit sector?
- How do we balance between the huge drawbacks of "affirmative action" and providing a chance that wouldn't exist otherwise for job candidates with disabilities?
- There have to be economic benefits from changing the status quo re: employment (or non-employment) of persons with dsiabilities. What are they? How do we make that happen?

No one speaks English and everything's broken.

I'd like to see a study that ranks countries by comparing communities that straddle the border. It could look at property values, cross-border migration rates, job growth rates, or other factors. I think it would be an interesting way to determine how different governments (and cultures) impact otherwise virtually identical areas.

You can do that by State too.

You have the opportunity to pass one act of legislation into law without resistance. What would you do?

Why is polygamy not practiced more widely in the US and Europe? It seems that with increasing wealth inequality, there should also be a trend to more inequality in marriage. In any case, there are probably rich and powerful men who like it and at least some women who like it as well, so why is it not happening? Or do I just not know about it, since it is not done in public?

I hate to jump to crazy conclusions on you, big fella, but the fact that it's illegal probably has a tremendous amount to do with it. Just a seriously tremendous amount.

Should programming and safe scientific computing be an integral part in the economics curriculum?

How much does the breakdown of the family and the increased absence of father's correlate with (cause?) the stagnation since the 70's?

How can slow readers maximize their reading?

Ha! You're asking the wrong person.

Sound it out?

Economics tries to put a price on most everything, even things that are nearly impossible to quantify such as happiness. Where in your opinion does the economic approach currently fail the worst at measurement and quantification?

So a lot of progressives are making of a big deal of the fact that Minnesota has done much better than Wisconsin economically since Scott Walker's been governor. They attribute Minnesota's economy the fact that Minnesota has increased taxes and paid government employees better and cut the deficit. I'm a little skeptical of those reasons and wonder if you have any insight.

Check back in a few weeks on Minnesota:

Inequality seems to be the big discussion topic of the day. In hearing these debates and in discussing it with others, the biggest takeaway for me is the narrative by those who seem to be supporting more redistributive policies, that there is a finite supply of wealth in the American economy. That if someone has more of the wealth, they are taking it from others--they are shifting a "finite pool of prosperity/wealth/economic growth" and so it needs to be reallocated. Of course this line of reasoning is completely false. Rich people having a lot of money does not mean poorer people have less. The debate about inequality is important and worth having, the reasons for this real trend are worth studying. I am also very concerned about this. But it seems to me there should first be a clear distinction made--there is no fixed amount of wealth in the economy, someone's financial success is not taking away from the pool of money you could possibly be earning.

How many people can own Iowa cropland or mansions on the Rhode Island shore. You can give everyone a free copy of a U2 album but there are still a lot of goods that are still subject to scarcity. If all the billionaires in the country bought all the coastline and you could never go to a beach again you would be poorer regardless of how many ebooks or cans of corn came your way.

Roland, point well taken. But the general idea is that the issue of inequality needs studying to find out what if anything are the root causes--the structural causes of this inequality. There may be things keeping the middle class entrepreneur from becoming the next billionaire able to own that beachfront property. But to your point more directly--yes you are right there is a finite amount of beach front property. And that is an example of a finite amount of wealth. But in America if you do well and succeed you can become the next person to put a down payment on that property. You can find your own beachfront property somewhere. You can buy that person out. Just because there are a few hundred billionaires already doesn't prevent you from becoming one. There is no limit to how many billions of dollars are in the economy. There are no finite amount of billionaires. Of course their success may be tied to disrupting competitors or ending other businesses through creative destruction, but in general, the success of someone else in the private marketplace should not be seen as a hostile act against you. The debate about inequality seems to distract away from this point. Instead it focuses on how others have more and most have less, and how we need to artificially alter that distribution to make things more fair--as if it is a pie that needs dividing.

My thought experiment on inequality is this: if we did not have any data on inequality, would anyone care about it?

Say no income tax, and no survey data.

Was Dylan's “Shadows in the Night” better or worse than expected?

As bad as expected.

Do you believe we have free will?

Stephen Hawking doesn't think so, neither did Einstein. Yet this seems anathema to people, especially Americans.

"‘Though we feel we can choose what we do, our understanding of the molecular basis of biology shows that biological processes are governed by the laws of physics and chemistry and therefore are as determined as the orbits of the planets"
pp.31-32 of The Grand Design by Hawking.

If you believe we don't have free will, is it important this idea becomes more widespread?

"If you believe we don’t have free will, is it important this idea becomes more widespread?"

What's the difference? It will happen anyways.

Fair question, as non-determinists (like Stephen Hawking) could throw up their arms and say "what's the difference?" to ​every problem they encounter since they believe they have no capacity to change the course of the future.

But I think just because you don't have control over what is happening, it does not mean you aren't interested in it. So I'm curious what Tyler thinks about the spread of non-deteriminism even though I don't think any answer will give us agency to change anything.

More on extreme early retirement.

Is there any value in a Master's of Applied Economics (which is what my local university offers)? I would like to eventually get a Ph.D. in Economics, but my employer will pay for my Masters if I do it locally.

As poached species as rhino become more rare, via supply/demand, are they easier or harder to protect?

Does FEMA solve or exacerbate moral hazard? How much $$ do folks without beach houses subsidize those who do?

Why isn't there a sophisticated equivalent for employers & job seekers? Is a job contract more serious business than a marriage one?

What would be the optimal path forward considering global warming 're state subsidies of property insurance?

You've probably discussed this elsewhere but I'm curious how much media you consume, and how you allocate your time.

How much time reading books per day? Reading speed? Books finished per week? Do you typically finish books you start, or do you skim, sample, and discard? Other habits?

Similar questions could apply to web, movies/TV, music, magazines, journal articles ...

(I also agree you need a goodreads account.)

I once did a piece for Atlantic called "My media diet," or something like that. MR is my Goodreads!

What do you think about the hypothesis that the increase in income and/or wealth inequality in recent decades is largely due to going off the gold standard?

+1 if this was intended to be a joke

What's your view of initiatives like the Common Core (+ associated testing)?

What is the probability of a "soft landing" from the inevitable reduction in leverage levels (combined government, corporate, and individual debt) globally?

Nothing inevitable about reduction in leverage levels. Society is becoming more capital intense. Debt is a simple way for capital to be employed which involves less oversight and administration than equity.

The market in Houston looks perfect for opening a new comedy club inside the Loop. But I'm not an economist, so I'm curious how an economist might look at this proposition.

To me, it is as obvious as putting a gas station on a stretch of highway where cars frequently run out of gas. The analogy here is that many major standup comics on tour will play Austin, San Antonio and Dallas, but skip Houston, the largest city in the state, because there exists no comedy club in Houston where they would perform.

However, I realize many economists believe that there are no $20 bills lying on the sidewalk. But imagine a situation where $20 bills look different to different observers, like that gold and white dress. After all, someone who invests in a comedy club is probably not the same sort who focuses on investing in technology companies. To the VC tech investor, the $20 bill looks like toad. To the VC energy investor, the $20 bill looks like a turtle. Only to someone with the eyes of a comedy club investor, a rare breed, does the $20 bill look like a $20 bill.

-your thoughts on prison abolition
-your political philosophy on stuff like inequality, distribution of wealth, etc.
-why are conservative/libertarian folks so concerned w/ whether or not transgender identities are "real" or "valid" but not w/ the horrific rates of violence against trans women, esp. trans women of color, of employment discrimination against trans women, of homelessness among trans youth, etc?
-your thoughts on sam harris's views on islam

Judicial reform in China

when will new tech bubble burst? Why do people invest in things like yik-yak which will never make money? Is the fact that the bubble is so transparent and everyone aware of it make it somehow more immune than previous bubbles?

If there's a bubble how are you going to spend all the millions of dollars you are going to make in short sales and put options?

I have to exercise a good deal of self-restraint in order to consume more high-brow culture (e.g., contemporary literature, history, the Western canon) and less TV, sports, blogs, news, and other similar products that are less effortful. Is this a worthwhile use of my (perhaps limited) stock of self-control? What should I learn from the fact that I periodically ban myself from consuming whole categories of the lesser entertainment?

Also: where (and how) does one stock up on self-control? (I'm asking for a friend. Really.)

Practice... and surround yourself with the kind of people that already have it. Join a group that already has a trait you want to emulate. You'd be surprised how easy it can be to pass up that piece of cake (or go to the gym) if you have a group of people whose opinion you value disapproves of shirking from their norms.

Humans already stare at their pocket computers a lot, what changes do you anticipate with virtual reality?

What do you believe that you know is wrong, and why do you continue believing it.

+1. That is a solid question to ask anyone.

Intelligent theists, please step to the microphone.

Quantum woo.

What would you do if you were the finance minister of the Ukraine right now?
What advice would you give the government? The military? What would you tell international lenders? The central bank?
What crises are most urgent (financially/ ecomicall)? Which can realistically be ameliorated by your department's governance and policies? Which can't? How does that affect you planning, priorities and policy-making?

How about a post on Mercantilism ?

Why is State Art obscene? For a springboard here is Gilles Saint Paul's theory:

But it would be interesting to have your take.

Last year saw a lot of minimum wage legislation passed on the local/state level. I'm curious to see some early academic studies of the outcomes.

How about Scott Sumner's post on inequality, IP abuse, and the principles of the Democratic party? It seems up your alley, or maybe Alex's.

When thinking about the future, should we really expect and plan for a world where modern civilization endures indefinitely (say, at least 10,000 more years)? Is that at all realistic? Where is the sweet spot of truth between environmentalists who see catastrophe always right over the horizon and utopians/transhumanists who imagine we’ll hyper-bootstrap our way out of all resource constraints?

Does the principle of comparative advantage mean that we should not be worried about being replaced by artificial super-intelligence?

Did the principle of comparative advantage mean that horses should not have been worried about being replaced by cars?

Just means horses have not been replaced for everything. They jump better than cars, and taste better!

1) Surely economists should be able to bid on winning the Nobel prize?
2) When will average be over for the Fed, and what would that look like?
3) If you had to take Econ 101 over again, who would you want teaching it?
4) Compared to your original plans and expectations, what for you (& AT) has been the most unexpected outcome of starting MR?

What is your daily routine like?


I hear it's destiny.

also, when was the last time you cried? how often do you cry? thoughts on crying?

Media consumption - old vs new. Most of the media I consume is from the present. With the exception of being forced to read classic novels in school, I rarely go back and read works from the 1800s or 1930s even though the interesting stuff from then is likely still worth a read today, especially if the topic is still relevant. In previous posts, you mention that you cannot pass up a new book shelf without checking it out. Why then don't you feel compelled to explore the past more? It seems like any random decade would have plenty of interesting material that most of us have never heard of, and not because it isn't good, but because we simply ignore older stuff. Would you be willing to forgo new media consumption for a month in order to explore a random past decade?

The minimum wage. I'd support dramatically raising it, to something like 12.00$ an hour.

Whither Illinois? You write about Greece a lot, but my home state seems on a similar trajectory. "Ill-exit" from the dollar isn't an option, but somehow we have to solve the same problems Greece has to solve, i.e. dig ourselves out of a huge debt/pension obligation hole without killing the economy with punitive corporate and individual taxes. I haven't a clue how I'd fix the problem if I were in charge, maybe someone back East has the solution but hasn't bothered to tell us.

Maybe the rest of the states will just bail us out. Thanks in advance, guys.

I think you mentioned somewhere that you had a strong interest in jazz guitar in highschool, yet you didn't mention whether you played guitar or any other instrument. Did you?

Also, what do you think are the odds of the political axis dividing the two major political parties in the US rotating about 90 degrees within the next 20 years, inducing a coalition realignment such that one party is socially conservative and economically conservative (protectionist and pro-regulation) while the other party is the opposite? Would such a reshuffling require a new major party to replace one of the current ones?

I feel as though I am constantly reading articles regarding the stagnant wages of American (and in particular middle class/poor) workers. However I have also seen numerous articles regarding massive annual growth rates in healthcare spending. It is my understanding that most Americans receive their healthcare through their employer (with the employer typically picking up the majority of of the costs). This creates something of a logical disconnect for me, so my question is this:
1. Do most statistics/reports of stagnant wages not take into account employer benefits such as healthcare (or employee 410k matching etc.)? Thereby painting a picture of stagnant wages when in actuality total compensation (wages + benefits) has been growing rapidly?
2. or Do they take that into account, and non-benefit wage growth has actually been less than inflation, which taking into account an assumed high singe digit, low double digit growth in employee benefits, results in stagnant total wage/compensation number?

Cognitive differences among the races?

More on behavioral economics.

I'd be interested in learning more about Human Capital on economic scales. Limits, interactions with technology, politics and social movements.

Why Market Monetarist refuse to talk about run on shadow banking system as a root of a crisis and inability of level targeting to prevent that runs?

Welfare economics. What is it supposed to be, how do economists think about and use it, what do they get wrong, why do they get it wrong, what should they be doing instead? What's up with the general theory of second best? And input-output models, how do they work?

Today is International Women's Day - why haven't you posted anything about it yet?

What would TC do if he found a golden helmet?

In addition the interview with Peter Schilling is also worth a look. (As do the comments, check out R. Fiore)

If they were legal, do you believe prediction markets for small businesses would be useful? For instance, say there was a prediction market in Chicago for restaurants. Someone lists their business on the exchange along with any information about it they wanted to share, location, name, category, bio of the chef along with any other information they wanted to provide. No complicated rules, no SEC. Anyone who wants can log onto an app and long or short the success of the new pizza joint named Stewie's on 1834 Wacker Avenue for a few dollars or more.

Would such a market provide useful information to the potential restaurant owners?

That feeling when, in the course of a party conversation, a fellow who is a couple years younger prefaces everything he comments on as an object of obsession - "I'm, like, obsessed with the Bhagavad Gita" and "I'm, like, obsessed with urban planning" - that feeling is the feeling of wanting to join the AARP. - Julia Ioffe on Facebook Today

How does one fight against the Knausgaardian oblivion that comes with aging? The emergence of bloggers that lift the veil on social dynamics has only greatly expedited the flight to emotional perdition. I'm in my early 20s and the interior has become grey on grey.

What do you think about the importance of manufacturing as it relates to a stable middle class? Germany's "Mittelstand" and its higher percentage of manufacturing jobs has been partly credited with helping their economy in recent years.

Metaupdate on MRUniversity: successes, failures, and the future.

Also, what podcasts do you listen too?

How about advice commonly given to children/teenagers that you think is useless or potentially harmful?

What are good heuristics for determining whether a breaking news story is meaningful or not. We know that many top headlines are ultimately meaningless (the Malaysia plane mystery) and others are dramatically under sensationalized (police killing civilians). Between those extremes, what makes a story meaningful or not?

Do you think demographics gets enough attention as a driver of economic trends?

I always enjoy your comments on what you're reading, television and film, travel, and food. I also enjoy your posts on influence -- who's influential and what ideas are underrated. I also liked your recent posts on conventional beliefs that you also hold.

I've read a few posts on productivity and how to read quickly from you. How about vices? Are there vices that should not be considered vices? If it's impossible to live without some vices, which ones should one cultivate?

Aging. Not just as population dynamics, but the experience of aging. Has it changed for your generation, and if so, in what ways?

Differences that you detect in younger generation. Are there any that surprise you? What would you predict the next generation -- or two generations from now -- to believe or do?

I recall that you once linked to an article in which the author shared his (her?) biggest mistakes made while young, and I recall that you asked Nader a similar question when you interviewed him. I don't recall a post in which you shared your own mistakes.

How academics attempt to impress each other. Does it change as one's education rises?

Why hasn't Obama punished the Republicans (and the nation) for letting the Israeli PM address congress by inviting Castro (Fidel, not Raul) to speak at congress. After 6 or 7 hours, they'll not only give in, they'll beg for forgiveness ;]

Ayn Rand. Why? (as a non-American, I cannot figure out the draw and fascination her works exerts on grown men).

Thoughts on Sam Altman's fears of machine intelligence?

I'd be interested in your theory of the university. What do academic departments want when they hire? Why are PhD students paid, even in fields where their contribution to research is limited (like English)?

It's well-known that most academic research is rarely cited if ever, and probably doesn't make much contribution. Since the production of usable knowledge is so concentrated at the top among known people, why aren't non-star researchers (say those out of the top 500 in a field) expected to teach more? In fact, why is research and teaching wedded at all?

Would be interested in your thoughts.


The limits of taxation: how much tax burden can an economy bear in the short run and in the long run?

What are the most/least rent-seeking-oriented careers?

What recordings have been the most important in shaping your taste in music?

How come economists disagree over Piketty's book, which seems to be a popular book with easily obtainable data on fairly basic concepts ?
Can you imagine a professional mathematician creating a polemic among Fields medalists at, say, the Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques or the Institute for Advanced Study on the question whether Cardano's use of imaginary numbers for solving third degree equations is legitimate ?

Chris Rock: “There’s math. And then everything else is debatable.”

(at about the 5 minute mark: )

Raising kids in an Average is Over Tiger Mom world. One post for kids with three digit IQs and one post for kids with two digit IQs.

What's the best way to read a non-fiction author's works? In order, even if the works span multiple decades? The author is probably explaining things better in later books. Reverse order? That may "ruin" some of the earlier works. Most highly reviewed first? Something else? I'm thinking specifically of your Zornberg recommendation a couple days ago (start with her latest on Numbers? Or Exodus or Genesis?) but it's a more general question and I think you'd be the best person to address it! :)

To what extent have Fed policies since 2007 had the effect of strongly favoring the already rich?

Quantitative easing seems to have inflated asset prices, since as for stocks. Stocks are by definition owned primarily by the investor class.

Bank CDs are primarily the investment of the middle class -- the smaller riskless return is more appropriate when you have less capital to spare for riskier investments. But CDs have not provided a decent positive return in many years [after paying taxes on the interest, and adjusting for inflation].

So effectively Fed policy in the Obama administration has increased wealth inequality. Or am I missing something?

I really enjoy when you comment on physics... String theory, Multiverse, etc.

Why do programming bootcamps exist that can take a (strongly selected) group of know nothings and teach them enough to get $50-100K a year in salary in three months when many graduates with four year degrees can't make close to that? Given similar environment (double time lectures and project based work) how long would it take to turn out Master's degree level equivalent economists? I'm thinking specifically of the prefresher courses before Economics/Political Science grad school followed by doing what Gary King does in his replication and extension of published articles course at Harvard.

In other words, what proportion of professional jobs could replace an interview and on the job learning with a test and a short training course?

Curious to know what you think Marx was right about?

Could you elaborate on your recent comment that Putin is more dangerous than ISIL? What specifically would you say is Russia's threat to global stability?

Did you approve the comment on the dust jacket of Average Is Over that says "Tyler Cowen may very well turn out to be this decade's Thomas Friedman"? Is this a compliment?

I would like a post on the economics of water rights.

Places you'd like to visit that you haven't been yet.

Let's suppose Japan (or any other rich country with low birth rates and unemployment rates) decided to allow more immigration as a way of boosting GDP. What would be the best policy?. For the sake of the argument, suppose only law-abiding people would be able to get in and there would be no "cultural" bad social effects (for instance, the newcomers would not be more prone to criminal behavior than their native counterparts) no matter what kind of immigrant were allowed in. What would be the best quantity and the best mix of workers Japan could hope for? Would they have use for more factory workers or should they only accept more software engineers (they can get as many workers of a given level of skill they want, provided they are willing to pay enough to convince the workers to accept the job, but they can't be sure an engineer they get will create a Japanese Microsoft or a Niponic Google)? Who would win, who would lose? What would happen with Japanese unemployment rates and wages? What if the newcomers aren't as good as the unborn workers they are "replacing" (it is easier and cheaper to convince a top Japanese worker to stay in Japan than to convince a world class American or European worker to work in Japan)?

What the Kalamazoo Promise (free college tuition to all graduates of the Kalamazoo Public Schools) means for education, real estate prices, or whatever else you care to comment on. This seems like a huge experiment, and I haven't seen a lot written about it.

Economics advice on hiring a stripper for a bucks night. I imagine that bucks parties get ripped off on both price and quality because they are highly price inelastic and not discerning enough to substitute between suppliers.

As the Law of Accelerating Returns continues apace, should we be discussing the economics - or lack thereof - in a post scarcity society?

Or how about an occasional discussion of things that are becoming or will soon become free?

Not exactly free but definitely cheaper - driving.

This story talks about the dozens of cities introducing self-driving cars, which could cost as little as a dollar a day to run. Hopeful yes, but the trend is your friend.

Hi Dr. Cowen,

My wife and I are getting ready to buy a house, we would like to start investing, and I have student loans to pay off. How can I decide the most intelligent way to allocate my money? If S&P 500 Index Funds are returning higher rates than the interest rates on my debt, is it as simple as paying the minimums on the house and student loans and sinking everything else into the index fund? Thank you in advance.

Thoughts on the economics of space colonization and prospects for extra-planetary trade.

Given what you expect the world to do or not do about global warming, what do you expect the economic consequences to be?

Would people be better off if they invested in my comedy club in Houston, so that the world may laugh a bit more while the investors grow rich?

I have heard a lot of talk about how "kids these days feel more entitled", which I think is always true merely because those saying it are getting older and have a different perspective. I wonder however are/should college students feel more entitled? Many paying ever larger sums of money for a degree. At what point does it become, you cannot fail me, I paid you for this class and this degree. I wonder if degrees no longer feel earned, but bought due to the increasing cost of higher education?

1. What opinions and/or policy preferences do you currently hold that are most likely to be considered morally reprehensible in 100-300 years?

2. What's the most important intellectual development in the past 10 years (a) in economics and (b) in general? How important is that now, and how important will it be in the next 10 years? Will we spend the next 10 years fighting the same battles, about the same things we were 10 years ago, or will be fighting new battles about new things?

Will the Marginal Revolution end with one super talented person owning and doing everything with an army of robots?

As the world becomes more data-driven, is there a material risk that Intuition Is Over?

Perhaps a historical overview of East Asian (esp. Korean and Taiwanese) development.

I would love to read a post about the economics of driver-less cars.

My guess is that a first-order change will be mass-migration out of cities (I appreciate you generally think cities will only get more popular).

What are the second-order changes?

What can be done about Putin?

Human genome modification: Practical? Ethical? Probable?

Kids and Money: Children don't see how the parents get money or where they spend it. As we move to new forms of payment, Apple Pay, the understanding about money management will become even more obscure. Kids don't see you get the physical check anymore and tagging along to put it in the bank (now electronic), nor to they need to see actual cash being spent (pay by credit card, bills on autopay). Also, more teens are not getting summer jobs so they won't understand how hard it is to earn money in low paying jobs.

Instead they get stuff without understanding how the parents earned that money and what to expect when they themselves become adults. The schools are not teaching money management to kids, most parents are terrible with money (2 paychecks away from poverty).

Children have no concept of money. How do we teach them and why are there so few children's picture books about budgeting?

Caplan vs Cowen on raising kids:

If average is over, do we need to worry a lot about raising kids? Or would kids with normal return rates start stalling out?

What is difference between "Keynesian" and the "New Keynesian"? Also what is difference between "monetarism" and the "new monetarism"?

"Market Failures"

I've often heard the phrase "Market Failure", which to my mind seems like a misunderstanding of both markets, and failures. Markets do what they do, to the extent that they are allowed. Blaming a market for not doing whatever politicians, economists, SJWs or what have you wish they would do, strikes me as naive. Why not declare a "gravity failure" when an airplane crashes?

Wouldn't a great investment that goes unfunded be considered a market failure? If there's no gas station along a stretch of highway where cars frequently run out of gas, wouldn't that be considered a market failure?

Okay, The Fed buys bonds from the 22 primary dealers (and only from those dealers, btw), and then credits the commercial bank accounts of the 22 primary dealers an equal amount---thus creating the "the Fed just swaps reserves for bonds" story line.

Some people add on, "Well, this will lower interest rates."

But what about the people who sold bonds to the primary dealers? They now have $4 trillion in freshly printed (digitized) cash. Is this for nothing? (The 22 dealers did not have $4 trillion in inventory, they had tens of billions).

And if "the Fed only swapped reserves for bonds," why is there now $4.5 trillion in bonds on the Fed's balance sheet, but only $2.5 trillion in bank reserves?

Side topic. Since 2008, another (net) $500 billion of U.S. cash is circulating. Now at $1.34 trillion (outside of banks), or more than $4k per U.S. resident. Okay, some of that is suitcase money. Let's say half (btw, there are now about 67,000 attaché-briefcases full of Ben Franklins coursing the globe, if we believe the money is stuffed into briefcases).

Really? $250 billion more in cash is circulating in the US since 2008? How many times a year does a dollar make the rounds? I know, there are the M2 velocity charts by FRED, but that do they mean for physical-paper cash, and what do they mean for an underground economy?

Why do decent-to-very-good Chinese restaurants have large secondary menus available only in Chinese? Is the cost of proselytizing too high? Why are these the only ethnic restaurants that do this?

How about nominating your favourite city in the world? See

I would like to hear your comments on these two quotes:
Lawrence Summers writes:
"One of the puzzles of our economy today is that on the one hand, we have record low real interest rates, ones that are expected to be record low for 30 years if you look at the index bond market. And on the other hand, we have record high profits. If you tend to think record high profits would mean record high returns to capital, which would mean really high interest rates. And what we actually have is really low real interest rates. The way to think about that is there's a lot of rents in what we're calling profits that don't really represent a return to investment, but represent a rent"

And now Krugman:
"So what is really going on? Corporate profits have soared as a share of national income, but there is no sign of a rise in the rate of return on investment..., it’s what you would expect if rising profits reflect monopoly power rather than returns to capital... — all the big gains are going to a tiny group of individuals holding strategic positions in corporate suites or astride the crossroads of finance. Rising inequality isn’t about who has the knowledge; it’s about who has the power."

So I have some technical questions: how are corporate profits being measured? How do we measure and know what the rate of return is? How do we know profits are hiding rents?

Book Review Yanis Varoufakis' "Foundations of Economics", and his paper "What is Neoclassical Economics?"
Would like to see you attempt? But you won't.

I'd love to hear thoughts on ways to use technology to enrich our picture of economic statistics. Often we get a report of one number but these are sometimes presented out of context with everything else going on and can be misleading.

For instance, we saw a decline in unemployment to 5.5%. But that number alone doesn't present the total picture. How many people actually found new work? How many slipped into the 'Not in Labor Force' category? How has the participation rate changed? How did the overall adult population these numbers include change? How does it look broken down by age group or other demographics? How do these numbers relate to recent and longer-term trends?

Can we add additional related information on changes to income - and more than just the median. What does the distribution look like and how has it changed?

It seems there are enough computers available here in the 21st Century to be able to present all of this in a richer and more meaningful way. It could help us move away from our tendency to focus on the one statistic that supports a particular view of the way things are headed. How can we get more meaning out of our data?

Video games?

- Video games to be taken seriously as a form of visual and auditory art.

- Video games as a rising 'e-sports' industry that is rich in data.

- Video games as an 'equalizer'; something rich and poor alike can participate in, for pure artistic enjoyment, a mental exercise, or competitive play with a somewhat low barrier to entry (debatable).


how to travel intelligently

Are you concerned about the continuing baby bust in developed world? Outside of Israel I can not one developed or developing nation that is rich, functional and has an above 2.1 children per female birth rate. (OK maybe India but the richer South India has a low birth rate and I suspect the rest of India will follow?)

1) Is this is a good thing?
2) Is this one of the reasons for the current economic stagnation?
3) How would you recommend it be raised in today economy?
4) Or will robots simply do everything anyway so no need to worry.

Will we ever get cheap, delicious, mass market fast food that doesn't clog arteries, cause hypertension, or spilke blood sugar? Bonus points if it can be eaten with one hand and doesn't drip on your shirt.

Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP): good for big business and bad for individual liberties and national sovereignty, or just good for business?

Issues where the anti-poverty, anti-unemployment left can find overlap with the libertarian right, like zoning laws, occupational licensing laws, daycare regulations, CON laws, and highways that subsidize social segregation. Also, the left's abandonment of the poor in favor of rhetoric and policies (minimum wage jobs will harm unskilled workers) aimed at the affluent middle class.

Also, the left’s abandonment of the poor in favor of rhetoric and policies (minimum wage jobs will harm unskilled workers) aimed at the affluent middle class.


Why are there no successful libertarian based societies?

Perhaps many disposed to the mindset often function best as gadflys. Cranky. Not fun, because they see so much screwy crap and injustice? I only know a few self professed libertarians who are a genuine pleasure to be around.

It's a system that, if implemented, would benefit at most 10 percent of the population at the expense of the other 90 percent. Very few Americans favor a night-watchman state even if they call themselves 'libertarian.'

Strictly considering monetary outcomes would you rather graduate with a Phd in the field of your choice and earn your living and wealth or would you rather be born with a million dollars and allowed to only keep the accumulated earnings but never be able to work for additional pay?

How do I order better at Sichuan Pepper? It's definitely the most authentic Chinese food I've ever had (recommended by all my Chinese friends). I usually go with my Chinese girlfriend. I am only unbecomingly emphasizing my Chinese cred to stress that I'm looking for advanced topics. I don't understand what you mean by a well balanced Chinese meal. I can enjoy a delicious cold dish of beef tripe in red chili oil, but I have no sense of the concepts of ordering a Chinese meal as a whole.

(Of course it's in a lowish rent strip mall.)

Will we ever reach a point where there is no more large scale labor wage arbitrage. (Production moves to China for cheap labor?)

And could we figure out how long that would take?

I think it might be faster than we think because China is so big - it absorbs a lot of production, but when it finally is over the hump, it will be so rich as to add a ton of extra demand making the process run even faster. (Think running shoes - they used to make them in Japan. Then Japan became too expensive, as they become rich, so production moves to Taiwan, but they now have to supply USA+Europe+Japan, and then it moves to China buy they have to supply USA+Europe+Japan+Taiwan with shoes. Now imagine when shoe production must move to Bangladesh and Ethiopia...they need to supply China as well.)

Or will automation stop this process?

I'd love some brash predictions! Take a 10 year time horizon. In 2025:

What will be the US street price of gasoline? Would the EU still exist & would it have kicked out any of the current members?

Would Android still be the dominant cellphone OS? Would Windows still be the dominant desktop OS?What will be the US unemployment % in 2025?

Will there be any surprising, unexpected nations with a civil war? What % of US energy would come from renewables? Would the Israel-Palestine conflict have been solved? What will be the dollar-rupee ratio?

What would be the approximate price of a NYC-London plane ticket? What market share would self-driving vehicles have? How big would the largest container ship be in TEU?

Whose are your favorite book and movie characters, and why? Not necessary the ones that you find more sympathetic, but the ones that you find most interesting and/or most compelling.

Gender disparities in hetero interracial dating / marriage.

Secularization: Do you have any comments on US religious affiliation trends? Roughly speaking, between 1990 and today "non-religious" has gone from ~6% to ~20% + of the population. What are the causes? What are the implications for communities? Is this related at all to "Bowling Alone" type dynamics? How does it compare to the secularization process in other countries, particularly Europe. Namely, why did they secularize earlier. What can the economics of religion teach us about these questions, if anything?

If you were a first or second year PhD student, in which area would you be focusing your courses/research?

Assuming a mostly closed system, what are the implications a tax-financed retirement system (Social Security), vs, a funded account retirement system (401K)?

For the sake of the argument, assume we can get folks to actually save for retirement.

If we increase the retiree to worker ratio, doesn't life get harder regardless of the funding mechanism?

I work with a lot of English and European folks and they claim that all the staples of home cooking, such as milk, fresh produce, etc. are significantly cheaper in their home countries than they are in Los Angeles where we work. Why is that? EU agricultural subsidies? Price controls?

I am interested in the equity allocation among early stage companies in startups. Historically almost all the equity has been in the founding team, and everyone else has gotten a substantially reduced fraction of the total. Now with so many companies being formed, are earlier employees getting a bigger cut of the pie? How does that affect early team dynamics?

Would like to see more topics relating to current political events, such as ISIS and the Russia-Ukraine conflict, analyzed from an economic perspective of course. What incentives do the people living in ISIS face? How can those incentives be altered via actions of outside countries? What does the empirical evidence suggest in regards to the effectiveness of sanctions? Are the sanctions against Russia a good idea? Should they be strengthened? How will the set of incentives that Russia faces change if we arm the Ukrainians? And so on.

I think I just like the rationalist viewpoint applied to non-economic things. And then seeing what you think. You could solicit more broadly...internationally for input. E.g.. How should America consider investment in cross border situations.

I love the global ness of your food orientation. But be a true global. And really search for the best in whatever country. Do you not consider yourself an international? Maybe it's time you moved to Chile for a sabbatical or something.

Be big. You nearly are but be global, in social attitudes, in libertarian attitudes and in gender and stereotype attidudes.

Note: Andrew Sullivan has just resigned so you are now top of my click list. I'm not sure you are ready.

What is your opinion on Isaiah Berlin?

Ending undernutrition, specifically stunting-- the economic case has been built, so why is it still such a hard sell to get governments to invest in preventing malnutrition?

- The economics of modern-day colossal statues (Statue of Liberty, Rio's Christ, etc.)
- Is there a universal symbol for: the entrepreneur, the innovator, the scientist, the economist...
- Does the USA need an Exposition Universelle (and what kind of Eiffel would you build and where the money should come from)?
- What kind of Statue of Liberty could we build on the West Coast?

What is civil forfeiture's part in hasting the cashless, debt-driven economy? Are people more afraid to carry cash, thus making all transactions by plastic, which is fully traceable by 'authorities'?

The impact of automated writing software (e.g., Narrative Science, Automated Insights) on the future evolution of narrative structure, colloquialisms, new words and general language usage (perhaps even the impact on the rate at which languages are disappearing). The broader concept here is the trade-off, if any, between efficiency and creativity as more and more "tasks" become computerized.

A while ago I had asked you by e-mail: "I'm starting my career as a researcher (in economics) and I'd like to ask you if you have any recommendations for books, probably written by experienced researchers reflecting on their careers, insightful episodes and that may even provide practical tips." You had replied me with "There was once a series of articles in *American Economist* I think about how famous economists work, and they were later collected in a book, Krugman did one too, I thought many of them were quite good..." i tried to find these, but couldn't. Do you know more about this?

Your thoughts on the work of Michel Houellebecq would be appreciated. Is he a reactionary? A nihilist? What his novels say about the decline of Europe? Do they have any bearing on the US?

More travel advice (especially 'theory of travel')

Homeschooling: You have the ability to create any structure and use any curriculum. With that total freedom, how to create an ideal education? Is there more to say than just Great Books + Khan Academy?

Are we still not as rich as we think we are? I think we might be as rich as we think we are now.

Why is there so much good free stuff on the internet? I mean who puts up all these Youtube vids, bit-torrents, blog posts, papers, scanned books and so on. You can find just about everything on the internet that someone has laboriously typed in or ripped from DVDs or whatever. I mean wikipedia! Is it really all paid for by advertising and done by sad nerds in their basements? Seems like the internet is the biggest volunteer effort ever. Why didn't people used to do such things for free? So printing was more expensive that blogging, but that incremental cost is fairly small compared with the cost of labor. Isn't the discovery of this willingness to work for free the biggest discovery of the 21st C? Imagine you are pitching the internet as a business idea - your premise is that millions of people will work years for free to provide content??

Not a request for a future blog post as such, but can you add a button to the site that brings up a random post from the archive?

I thought economists believed that minimum wage was harmful because it reduced opportunities for unskilled people, including young people who were trying to get a start on the economic ladder. I was surprised to hear about a letter last year signed by 600 economists, including 7 Nobelists, that recommended a rise in the minimum wage. Do you think that is a prevalent view?

I forgot to leave a link to the letter signed by the economists for a higher minimum wage:

1. Following your blog day-to-day, one reads a lot of exploration of macroeconomics, as well as some anti-anti-anti-Krugman commentary on macro issues. Stepping back, do you think we know what "should" have been done with the 2009 recession? Should we be re-thinking what we thought we knew about some past recessions? (E.g., everyone seems to think we know what was up with the 1981 recession, but maybe not?)

2. One possible outcome of robot capitalism is a few very, very wealth capitalists making much of the income in our society. They can't spend it all, and they can raise their status by giving some away. Could we end up with a "Gates Foundation Economy" where a large and growing fraction of GDP comes from the spending of charitable foundations? What should we think about this?

3. Some academic research is going to completely go away due to pressure from cheap online education, which decouples research and teaching. Specifically, some research is currently funded by the tuition dollars of undergraduates, and we are losing the ability to make people pay for that, except in cases where the research is so famous that rich undergrads will pay to be taught by a famous researcher. What is gained is clear: lower tuition. Do you have an opinion or argument about what is lost? This research is pursued earnestly by smart people trying to make a contribution to their field, and yet I expect you to opine that it is of close to zero value.

Why is that 50 years after "Selma", economics departments in the American South look, in terms of median number of the descendants of American Negro Slaves on their economics faculty, exactly the way they did in 1965?


What is the cause and effect of inverted yield curves?

In 2015, we are witnessing a strengthening of the US economy and might even see some wage increases. (Wal Mart is giving one so that is good evidence.) This is despite, worsening conditions in foreign countries and we are in the midst of three crisis: ISIS/Mid East, Ukraine Civil War and depression in Southern Europe. (And Valenzuela & Argentina seem close to becoming the fourth crisis.) This appears to the opposite during the Bush years when the globe had some crisis and the US economy was falling into a financial Crisis. (Or the late 90s with the US economy goldilocks vs. the Asian flu & Russian/East Europe battle and crisis.)

Is there a negative correlation to the globe war and economy versus the US economy?

Can the French learn economics or can liberal economics make its way into the mainstream French intellectual elite ?

What books would you include on a reading list for nonacademic public policy professionals?
How would the list differ between elected officials vs their advisors?
How would the list differ between the executive, legislative and judicial branches?
How would the list differ between types of government (presidential, parliamentary, democracy, authoritarian etc)

1. Are there Latin American countries on track to reach first world living standards in the near future? Or are they destined for yet another relapse to inflation and stagnation?

2. As marijuana laws in the US liberalize, is the US government going to change its stance on drug prohibition in the UN? (e.g., can countries like Jamaica get away with legalization or will the US continue to have a disconnect between its internal state laws and its international requirements)

3. What would the impact of TPP or TTIP be on interregional trade? Are the trade barriers between the US and, say, France really that significant at this point?

4. Many countries (e.g., India) are starting to dismantle their direct subsidies for food and fuel. What are the welfare gains associated with replacing these direct subsidies with some other benefit/infrastructure spending? And relatedly, will the decline of these subsidies lead to greater political/economic stability or instability?

5. Has the age of energy abundance finally arrived? How close is solar power to replacing coal/gas as the primary source of electric power? Now that prices are getting competitive without subsidies in some markets, are we about to cross over the tipping point to mass adoption? What would that look like in terms of global trade flows?

There is a very strong association between serious crime and traumatic brain injury:

Sleep training for infants! What is the data behind Babywise vs Attachment parenting?

Maybe you've already done this, but I'd love to see a "7 books every beginning economist should read" style article. Something like an expanded econ for dummies reading list.

Given the continuing, if uneven, growth in distance degree programs, do you see distance-based, synchronous doctoral programs becoming a realistic option in the USA over the next twenty or thirty years? Synchronous streaming for distance interaction with active lectures seems to be increasing for a number of graduate engineering programs, and the approach does allow for students (at a justifiably increased cost for the tech) to actively engage with the classes and professors, so (to me) it appears like the best option for students whose circumstances don't allow them to relocate for advanced graduate study.

I'm largely curious about your views on this because while the number of distance-based MA in Economics programs have increased over the last ten years and the quality appears to have improved, there is a pretty substantial limit as to what one can expect to get out of a terminal master's degree.

How do you feel about Argentina's current monetary situation and the current government in general?

Don't you hate pants?

What is your algorithm for selecting which requests to grant? Do you attempt to maximize total utility? Your own utility? Utility for specific reader populations?

There was a story the other day about a guy who called the police to complain that his wife was stealing his cocaine.


Stupid story, but serious question: would a mechanism which helps drug dealers enforce contracts and deals lead to a net increase or decrease in drug related crime? Obviously if drug dealers can't call the police to enforce a contract they have to do it themselves, which is, erm, messier than the police option.

What are the strongest criticism of Nassim Taleb's theories (randomness, antifragility, and others)? In what ways does he get things wrong? I finished his incerto, what should I read next?

More on the economics of urban development and transportation, please!

1. What were you listening to in your early 20s
2. Econ terms that stifle understanding for laypeople ("rent seeking" "public choice")
3. Screw blogging, how about doing a diavlog with Michael Lind?
4. Or Mickey Kaus?

What are the economic forces that have shaped different academic institutions to evolve in different ways?

The University of Michigan, the Institute for Advanced Study, and Sweet Briar College are all "academic institutions", but I would imagine they have vastly different priorities and they face different incentives.

Is it sustainable for UC-Berkeley to compete with Harvard for prestige? Should Harvard double the size of its freshman class?

Why does UVA fail out a large percentage of its engineering students? Shouldn't a state school be motivated to educate them to engineering success, instead of failing them into the humanities?

This is a little inside baseball, but it strikes me that the academy is an area with lots of interesting nooks and crannies.

I would also like to see more posts of the Explain France variety.

I am hugely skeptical about the abilities of government to solve problems, but Scandinavia is a bit of a problem for my worldview. I can't really explain why Scandinavia is so successful.

They don't even have the French benefit of inheriting centuries of classic architecture!

The ethics of veganism and your take on the DC vegan scene.

Here is a link to which is a great worldwide vegan restaurant/ vegan-friendly market finder. They also have an app.

I have two macro policy questions for discussion. First, I understand that R. Schiller recently noted that lower interest rates mean that savers must save more to achieve the same level of income from savings. I note that a large demographic cohort is contemplating retirement in the near future and that interest rates and interest rate expectations are very low. I also note that recent data show an "unexpected" increase in the savings rate. I also note that Fed policy (unsuccessfully to this point) seeks to increase inflationary expectations in the future. Has zirp become ineffective or even counter-productive given the forgoing factors? has it already proven to be ineffective in Japan under similar demographic constraints?

Second, the ECB has embarked on a QE policy focused on the purchase of Sovereign (and possibly other) debt, seeking to increase inflationary expectations. A possible constraint on the program is the high quality debt is in very limited supply and some European area rates are already negative. Aside from the issue referenced above, I would be concerned about capital allocation in such circumstances if I were them. Why don't they just buy gold? I believe gold purchases would be more popular, at least in Northern Europe than the purchase of, for example, Spanish or Italian debt. Increases in the price of gold are often held to be evidence of inflationary expectations which, in part, is what the ECB is attempting to achieve.

What are your conventional/unconventional views about the indebtedness of the world?
What are your conventional/unconventional views about the worldwide monetary system? Will there be a new Bretton Woods?
What are your conventional/unconventional views about Chinas economic situation? How would the CCP handle a prolonged stagnation or downturn bearing that most of it's legitimacy right now is based on the economic success of the last 30 years?

Interested in your thoughts on the spread of antitrust law/policy across the world and how to co-ordinate it globally.

What are the chances that low inflation around the world is being caused by cheap money, and that raising interest rates would stimulate inflation, rather than being a reaction to rising inflation?

What data should we collect to better understand the economy and our health/wellbeing? How can we assure that the information is unbiased and not subject to regulatory capture?

Re: What ISIS really wants

This excellent article in The Atlantic
seems to suggest the US take the offensive and hold a war in the Syrian city of Dabiq: "If the [Islamic] state musters at Dabiq in full force, only to be routed, it might never recover."

What are your thoughts?

Hi Prof Tyler..... Liked your note on Prichett Summers Reversion to the Mean Growth paper. Any idea why paper not getting so much traction? Really important, or am I missing something? Regards..... Neil

What a gold mine of future posts. Did you ask the question because dearth, nothing to be ashamed of, or just to open up the conversation. Or both, of course.

Dear Tyler:

What vocation for non-STEM people now and in the coming decades? Thank you.


Professor Cowen (and Honorable Commentators on MR),

What do you foresee the Supreme Court deciding on King v. Burwell? If they do rule that only states can establish exchanges, how will the states that skipped setting up their own exchanges and rejected expanding Medicaid cope, and what happens to the states that did set up exchanges and expand Medicaid? Lastly, how would you optimize and redesign the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) in consideration of Prof. Kenneth Arrow's research into health care economics?


Future of the franchise system. Relative wisdom of going that route for franchisees & franchisors.

I have been thinking about the following ideas:
(context canada)
(1) Citizen Dividends - we are Canadians. what would happen if instead of putting resource royalties (et al) into the governmental coffers we paid out as Citizen Dividends instead. Rates could increase over time. Does this change our expectation or definition of the role of crown corporations?

(2) Present Value of Future Costs /Revenues - if we were to do this analysis in a very granular way. Would it change how we wanted to invest to change these outcomes?
(context of welfare/support resources moving to Guaranteed Basic Income).

(3) Guaranteed Basic income as a macro tool to increase happiness, GDP and other important metrics. Is gteed basic income a good thing? can we prove?

(4) Can we use (2) to decentralize control? and create Guaranteed Basic Income driven ecosystems so we measure, iterate and innovate quicker while developing policy.

(5) the rise of of the blockchain DAOs to enable (4) with supportive governmental policies

>> Rates could increase over time
I mean a citizenship vesting schedule.

Perhaps I'm spending too much of my time reading in the wrong places but I don't seem to come across enough serious conversation about a global economy with widespread negative interest rates, especially if negative rates begin to reach further down into the economy & NGOs. What would auto loans to high credit individuals look like? "please don't pay us back on that loan; we don't want the cash! Take your time. Late payments don't apply; again we don't want that cash!"
We're living in a period where Citigroup has surveyed CDS dealers to ask what negative CDSs would look like ( & Slovenia is now offering 1.5% coupon on EUR1bn 20-year bond.
I'm trying not to be too simplistic with some of the questions here; curious and interested in perspective.

Besides the Beatles, what music of the last 50 years do you think stands the best chance of being remembered and studied in 150 years?

Two connected and puzzling economic issues arising from the inequality discussion:

(1) Economic rents: are high labor incomes, such as CEO compensation, economic rent? is the income share of capital or the size of the FIRE sector attributable to successful rent capture?

(2) Productivity: has labor income failed to keep up with productivity gains? how do you disentangle productivity of labor from that of capital? is capital's relative productivity (or its enablement of labor productivity) an explanation for higher capital share of income?

"...there is no way whatsoever to calculate the marginal products of different individuals in cooperative productive activities. Top pay rates are simply fixed by comparing them to other top pay rates in similar jobs."


Is this claim accurate? If so, what is the "therefore"; specifically is it a valid argument for redistribution? If so, why would a fair distribution be anything other than absolute equality?

I've seen a number of comments on TPP, but none that address the Intellectual Property aspects, of which I'm very skeptical. See

Basically, extending some of the bad IP decisions in the US to a number of other questions and also going beyond US decisions. The eff link is short.

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