Archives for Canada



Don’t You Wish You Thought of This? Econ Professor Focuses on Beer

From the (Saskatoon) Star-Phoenix:

When Jason Childs and his colleagues went about devising a new course in economics at the University of Regina, they wanted to find a focus that didn’t involve the overused and fictitious widget.

What they arrived at was a product that was historic and central to people’s lives – and something most undergraduate students are familiar with: beer.

Childs, an associate professor of economics, said the Economics of Beer course had 80 seats, and they were filled in about two weeks. The course began in early May and finishes near the end of June.

“Basically, it’s an exploration of some economics concepts, in particular microeconomic concepts, and the brewing industry,” he said. “Beer is a really neat example because it allows you to talk about just about every fundamental concept in economics.”

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One Small Step for Geoengineering — or Is “Ecoengineering” Better?

A reader named R.E. Riker alerts us to the progress of an experimental ocean restoration project (more here); the ringleader is one Russ George, who has proven controversial. Before your knee jerks in one direction or another, take a look:

This summer the crew has been aboard ship engaging in what is surely the most substantial ocean restoration project in history. In a large ocean eddy west of Haida Gwaii the project has replenished vital ocean mineral micronutrients, with the expectation and hope it would restore ten thousand square kilometers of ocean pasture to health. Indeed this has occurred and the waters of the Haida eddy have turned from clear blue and sparse of life into a verdant emerald sea lush with the growth of a hundred million tonnes of plankton and the entire food chain it supports. The growth of those tonnes of plankton derives from vast amounts of CO2 now diverted from becoming deadly ocean acid and instead made that same CO2 become ocean life itself. For weeks the men and women, on this village team toiled in stormy overcast weather and fog without a hint of blue sky. In mid-August the skies cleared and revealed the wonder of the mission on which they have laboured. Satellites focused on ocean health that monitor and measure plankton blooms sent back stunning images. Far offshore in these Haida salmon pastures a vast plankton bloom is revealed matching the health and vibrancy of blooms seen in rich coastal waters. The return of such blooms is “the stuff dreams are made of” for all ocean life.



Canada Kills Its Penny; Can We Please Be Next?

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may know that I am devoutly anti-penny. This includes a rant on 60 Minutes in which I argue that the penny should be killed off, as inflation has rendered it worse than worthless. 

The U.S. government remains unpersuaded, but our good neighbors to the north are about to take the leap (following the lead, it should be said, of several other countries). Read More »



Diversity and Charity: An Inverse Relationship?

Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast, “What Makes Donors Donate?” looks at what works (and what doesn’t) to incentivize people to give. A new NBER working paper studies the relationship between religious and ethnic diversity and charitable donations by looking at Canadian census data and tax records. Authors James Andereoni, Abigail Payne, Justin D. Smith and David Karp argue that the two are inversely related, that is to say that the more diverse a neighborhood, the lower its charitable donations. From the abstract:

A 10 percentage point increase in ethnic diversity reduces donations by 14%, and a 10 percentage point increase in religious diversity reduces donations by 10%. The ethnic diversity effect is driven by a within-group disposition among non-minorities, and is most evident in high income, but low education areas. The religious diversity effect is driven by a within-group disposition among Catholics, and is concentrated in high income and high education areas.

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Will First-to-File Hurt Small Inventors?

The U.S. just passed the first major patent reform in nearly sixty years – which includes as a central provision a change to the patent priority rule. Instead of awarding a patent to the first person to invent, we will join other nations in awarding patents to the first person to file an invention.

David Abrams and Polk Wagner have a great paper looking at whether the proposed change in our patent system from a “first to invent” regime to a “first to file” regime is likely to disadvantage individual inventors. The concern is that corporate inventors will have an easier time than the individual in gearing up to draft and file a patent application.

The paper ingeniously looks to see what happened when Canada introduced a similar reform in 1989. The paper is also a great way to teach yourself about the difference-in-difference approach to estimation. The paper first estimates the pre-reform difference between the U.S. and Canada in the proportion of patents going to individual inventors. It then looks to see whether this difference changed – that is, whether there was a difference in the difference – after the Canadian first-to-file reform went into effect. Read More »



Freakonomics Poll: Will New Cigarette Warning Labels Reduce Smoking?

Soon, new warning labels on cigarette packs will have even scarier messages, and photos too. Canada has been doing this for years. Will it reduce smoking?

Here are three quick thoughts.

1) I strongly doubt it will increase the quantity of information about smoking. Folks know it is bad for you already.

2) This does not mean it won’t work. Maybe people try to forget the health risks in that moment of passion (folks know birth control helps prevent pregnancy, but similarly, when faced with impending temptations, magically forget such trivial details). Will these photos remind them at that moment of temptation? Maybe. Or maybe it will increase how often their kids or friends give them grief for it, thus creating some social pressure to stop. Naturally there is a counter-argument, that this may enhance teenage smoking, if “being bad” makes it cooler. Read More »



Are Canadians Really More Generous Than Americans?

From the SuperFreakonomics chapter on altruism: “Americans in particular are famously generous, donating about $300 billion a year to charity, more than 2 percent of the nation’s GDP.” That said, the conventional wisdom seems to hold that Americans are outclassed by our neighbors to the north. Read More »



Look Who Just Decriminalized Prostitution

A Superior Court justice gutted the federal prostitution law in Ontario on Tuesday. This means that prostitution might become decriminalized throughout Canada, although it might not. Read More »