Archives for



The Cost of Hunting Witches

We’ve blogged before about witches — mainly with respect to how economic conditions affect witch hunting. Writing for Worldcrunch, Rodrigue Mangwa investigates the practice and explains the economics of witch trials in the Congo:

It should be noted that the witchcraft trials are not free, and are an important source of revenue for the tribal chiefBefore the dispute can be brought to the court, each party has to pay a mandatory fee of $200 – the price of a cow – whether they can afford it or not.

The headmaster of a primary school situated in Rubanga, 10 kilometers from the village of Lemera, says the witchcraft trials are just a way to exploit the local poor farmers in order to generate revenue for the tribal chief. “It would be naïve to think this is a real test of witchcraft. The tribal judges, who are pawns of the Mwami, are bribed to hand out false verdicts,” he says.

(HT: Marginal Revolution)



Pay Your Weight to Fly

Our recent Freakonomics Radio podcast “100 Ways to Fight Obesity” looked at some of the social costs of America’s increasing rate of obesity. One airline in Samoa is experimenting with defraying some of those costs. It will soon start charging passengers by the kilogram. From The Sydney Morning Herald

Samoa Air has become the world’s first airline to implement “pay as you weigh” flights, meaning overweight passengers pay more for their seats.

“This is the fairest way of travelling,” chief executive of Samoa Air, Chris Langton, told ABC Radio. “There are no extra fees in terms of excess baggage or anything – it is just a kilo is a kilo is a kilo.”

Read More »



Mourning Thatcher in Estonia

An Estonian Public Broadcasting news article about the death of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher noted her efforts to help Estonia’s early independent government break with Soviet-era policies. It also included the following:

Of the three, it was Thatcher’s economic policies in particular that were often cited by Mart Laar, the country’s prime minister who came to power after the first post-independence parliamentary elections, as the blueprint for his free-market reforms.

In 2010, Laar told the Freakonomics Radio podcast: “The flat tax I got on my first meeting with Margaret Thatcher, who I admired very much and who was a great admirer of Milton Friedman. I met her first when I had been prime minister I think for some months and so on, and when I told her what I am planning to do, she looked at me with these big eyes and said ‘you are one brave young man.’ And then a little bit introduced me on the realities of the Western world on which I was not very well informed. But I didn’t stop.”

Freakonomics podcast listeners may recall that Laar appeared on one of our earliest podcasts “What Would the World Look Like if Economists Were in Charge?



How Much Does Your Name Matter? Full Transcript

This is a transcript of the Freakonomics Radio podcast “How Much Does Your Name Matter?“ [MUSIC: Glenn Crytzer and his Syncopators, “Witching Hour Blues” (from Harlem Mad)]   Stephen J. DUBNER: Dalton Conley is a sociologist at NYU. He has a book coming out soon, called Parentology. It’s about – well, here, let’s have him tell […] Read More »



Pay After You Go?

We’ve blogged extensively about pay-as-you wish pricing schemes. Springwise reports that a Spanish concert promoter is now experimenting with post-concert pay-as-you-wish pricing:

Spanish promoters Caravana de Emerxencia have recognized this problem and addressed it through their upcoming gig, where attendees can decide the price of the ticket when they leave.

The concert is taking place on April 4 at Sala Capitol in Santiago, northern Spain. Four bands will be playing on the night – SkarallaosChotokoeuSkarnivals and Swingdigentes. At the end of the evening attendees can pay whatever price they think the event deserves.

How do you like this plan? How do you think you would respond?



The Tax Man Nudgeth: Full Transcript

This is a transcript of the Freakonomics Radio podcast “The Tax Man Nudgeth.”   Sarah GARDNER: It’s Freakonomics time. Every couple weeks, we’re talking with Stephen Dubner, co-author of the books and blog about “the hidden side of everything.” Stephen, it’s good to talk to you.   Stephen J. DUBNER:  It’s great to talk to you, Sarah. […] Read More »



Coming Up: The Sapphire iPhone?

Kevin Bullis of the MIT Technology Review looks at manufactured sapphire, which is currently used for armor on military vehicles and may be coming soon to an iPhone screen near you:

Sapphire is harder than any other natural material except diamond; by some measures, it’s three times stronger than Gorilla Glass, and it is also about three times more scratch resistant. That’s why Apple uses it now to protect the camera on its iPhone 5. [Eric] Virey says that all major mobile-phone makers are considering using sapphire to replace glass. “I’m convinced that some will start testing the water and release some high-end smartphones using sapphire in 2013,” he says.

(HT: The Big Picture)



Could Accelerated Learning Mean Big Bucks?

Reuven Brenner of The American explores the economic benefits of shortening college to three years:

Assume that after graduation the average salary would be just $20,000 and remain there. With 4 million students finishing one year earlier, this would add $80 billion to the national income during that year. Or at an average annual income of $40,000, it would add $160 billion. Assume now that the additional $80 billion in national income would be compounding at 7 percent over the next 40 years. This would then amount to an additional $1.2 trillion of wealth – for just one generation of 4 million students joining the labor force a year earlier at a $20,000 salary. At $40,000, this would amount to $2.4 trillion by the fortieth year – again, for just one generation of 4 million people joining the labor force a year earlier. The added wealth depends on how rosy one makes the assumptions about salaries or compounding rates. Add 10, 20, or 30 generations, each starting to work a year earlier, and the numbers run into the tens of trillions of dollars.

The indirect impacts may be as significant. One or two years of additional, compounding earnings could do a lot to shore up entitlement programs, with a more positive impact than requiring people 65 and older to stay in the labor force much longer: the magic of resulting compounding would start earlier.

(HT: The Dish)