Archives for



Are Socially Responsible Businesses Bad for Society?

Writing for Foreign Policy, Daniel Altman argues against socially responsible business initiatives such as the recently launched “B Team.”  For-profit companies, explains Altman, often think long-term:

As Jonathan Berman and I have written in the past, for-profit companies that take a long time horizon in their decision-making are likely to make more social and environmental investments. Things like training workers, bolstering communities, and protecting ecosystems can take a long time to pay off for private companies. When they do, the return — including a stronger labor pool, a wealthier consumer base, fewer working days lost to strikes and protests, and greater employee loyalty — can be comparable to other for-profit investments.

In fact, strictly for-profit companies can be among the best social investors because they apply the same discipline to these investments that they would to other parts of their core business. Energy and mining companies, for example, have some of the longest time horizons in the private sector, and they tend to be big social investors as well. Some European companies have actually stopped issuing quarterly reports to shift the attention of analysts to the long-term. And because they are still targeting a single bottom line, profit, there’s no loss of clarity about their mission or erosion of transparency for shareholders.

Read More »



Do You Really Want to Know Your Future? Full Transcript

This is a transcript of the Freakonomics Radio podcast “Do You Really Want to Know Your Future?” [MUSIC: Rob Bridgett, “ava”] Nancy WEXLER: I think for my mother and for our family, the whole family was very important. You know, she was very kind to us, and she was very loving, and very warm. I think […] Read More »



Egg Donors Fight the Oocyte Cartel

Alex Tabarrok explores the world of egg donation, which is heavily regulated by the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM).  The two organizations effectively limit egg donor compensation to $5,000-$10,000, acting as a “buyer’s cartel,” in Tabarrok’s words:

In 2011, Lindsay Kamakahi launched a class action suit against ASRM-SART challenging their horizontal price-fixing agreement as per se illegal under the Sherman Antitrust Act. ASRM-SART tried to have the case dismissed but a judge recently denied the dismissal in the process making it clear that the plaintiffs have a good case.

ASRM-SART argue that their maximum price is really about protecting women and that compensation “should not be so excessive as to constitute undue inducement.” Egg donation does involve extensive screening, time and some health risks. One would think, however, that the proper response for those interested in protecting women would be to ensure that the women are fully informed and that they are paid high wages not low wages.

Read More »



A Wake-Up App That Economists Would Love

Cartoonist Manu Cornet has a simple economic fix for oversleeping.

(HT: Hans van der Drift)



FREAK-est Links

1. A German cafe offers free coffee, but charges by the minute for seats. (HT: David Wigram)

2. Harvard and the Rockefeller Foundation to offer social impact bonds in several states.

3. In Spain, a new step in dog-waste management: unscooped poop is hand-delivered back to the owner. (HT: Peter Kauss)

4. The power of words and names. (HT: RealClearScience)

5. New study shows that lack of sleep decreases men’s ability to determine if women want sex or not. (HT: V Brenner) Read More »



Fewer Helmets, Higher Healthcare Costs

We’ve written before about an unintended consequences of state repeals of motorcycle helmet laws: more organs available for transplant.  Here’s one more consequence, from Michigan, which stopped requiring helmets last year:

State legislators changed the law last year so that only riders younger than 21 must wear helmets. The average insurance payment on a motorcycle injury claim was $5,410 in the two years before the law was changed, and $7,257 after it was changed – an increase of 34 percent, the study by the Highway Loss Data Institute found.

After adjusting for the age and type of motorcycle, rider age, gender, marital status, weather and other factors, the actual increase was about 22 percent relative to a group of four comparative states, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin, the study found.

“The cost per injury claim is significantly higher after the law changed than before, which is consistent with other research that shows riding without a helmet leads to more head injuries,” David Zuby, chief research officer for the data institute and an affiliated organization, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said.

(HT: Kevin Murphy)



Why Family and Business Don’t Mix: Full Transcript

This is a transcript of the Freakonomics Radio podcast “Why Family and Business Don’t Mix.” Kai RYSSDAL: Time now for a little bit of Freakonomics Radio, that moment every couple of weeks we talk to Stephen Dubner, the co-author of the books and the blog of the same name. It is — all together now — […] Read More »



How to Skip Military Service in Iran: Give a Kidney

Iran already has one of the most radical kidney policies in the world. Now Nobel laureate Al Roth reports on his blog that the country’s military is offering an incentive to boost supply:

Google translate renders the headline “Donate one of your kidneys to be exempted from military service.”

Read More »