Archives for Economics



The World’s Best Economics Department?

A new website, from the University of Chicago’s Initiative on Global Markets (IGM), will “pose one question a week, and post answers from 40 senior professors at elite U.S. universities” in an effort to create “the world’s best economics department.”

“We’re doing this because we think economists have a distorted role in policy debates,” said Brian Barry, the director of IGM. “When experts fight about minor points they get much more attention than when they broadly agree about important ones. And when they disagree about big issues, the reasons don’t often come through clearly. Sometimes, ideas that are shaky or on the fringe get passed off as mainstream.”

So far, economists have responded to questions about federal “buy American” mandates, education and taxes. Read More »



Beware: This Blog Apparently Causes Academic Fraud

Way to scapegoat, Chronicle of Higher Education!

An article about a Dutch psychologist accused of faking his research data wonders if academic fraudsters are responding to the wrong incentives:

Is a desire to get picked up by the Freakonomics blog, or the dozens of similar outlets for funky findings, really driving work in psychology labs? Alternatively—though not really mutually exclusively—are there broader statistical problems with the field that let snazzy but questionable findings slip through?

Read More »



Cornell Economist Robert Frank Answers Your Questions

We recently solicited your questions for Cornell economist Robert Frank, whose new book, The Darwin Economy: Liberty, Competition, and the Common Good, argues (among other things) that competition has made the U.S. economy less efficient. Frank now returns with answers to your questions. Thanks to everyone who participated. Read More »



Electric Cars Moving in the Wrong Direction?

A small (?) bad-news item about electric cars:

Electric cars face new scrutiny after a fire in a Chevrolet Volt prompted a federal investigation into lithium ion batteries, even after U.S. regulators said their own crash test likely led to the blaze.

And a big bad-news item about electric cars:

Accounting for more than half of the about 216,000 new cars sold sales in Israel by leasing to corporations, rental agencies are balking [at buying electric vehicles] because of uncertainty regarding the cars’ resale value. Mr. Bar said that he fears vehicles with switchable batteries might lose as much as 70% of their original value in four years instead of the typical 40% loss by gasoline-powered vehicles over the same period.

“It’s going to be a nice niche, a gimmick, for people who are environmentalists, and corporations who want to show they are saving the environment, but I don’t see a savings in costs,” Mr. Bar said.

Read More »



Harvard Shuts Down its Nobel Prize Pool

Last week we posted about Harvard’s Nobel Prize Pool, where people could place bets predicting this year’s winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics for $1 per entry. The Harvard economics faculty ran the site for a few years, dubbing it, “the world’s most accurate prediction market.” Apparently, Harvard wasn’t too keen on the idea, as the following notice now appears on the site:

Unfortunately, we have been advised by Harvard University to immediately shut down the Nobel pool due to legal reasons, and we have decided to comply with this request. We will fully reimburse the money of all participants, and we apologize for any inconvenience this creates for you. All participants will be contacted by email.

For anyone who watched the site closely over the last week, do you remember the odds for the actual winners, Thomas J. Sargent and Christopher A. Sims?



The Orwellian Efficiency of a “Being Fat” Tax

The Danish policymakers who implemented the world’s first “fat tax” last week are remarkable not for their directness in addressing the growing Western challenge of obesity, but for their indifference to the plight of the poor, their deference to political correctness at the cost of economic efficiency, and their willingness to punish certain segments of society.

The Danes may have been the first, but headlines throughout the western world assessed the likelihood of other countries to follow, including this one. A fat tax in the U.S. (or the U.K. for that matter) would add to the growing thicket of regulations across local and federal jurisdictions intended to address weight gain and the external costs that obesity imposes on society— both through higher private insurance premiums and ballooning government outlays for the uninsured.

Whether the tax will improve health outcomes is an empirical question that won’t be answered for several years or more. Read More »



Predicting the Nobel Prize

Next Monday, the Nobel Prize Committee will announce the recipient(s) of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. If you think you know who’s going to score this year’s prize, head on over to Harvard’s Nobel Pool, “the world’s most accurate prediction market.”

Each entry will cost you $1; all entries and bets must be received by 11:59 PM on Sunday, October 9th. If you’re looking for inspiration, past predictions can be found here. And if you haven’t already, listen to our Freakonomics Radio podcast, “The Folly of Predictions,” to find out where we stand on the whole notion of predictions.

So Freakonomics readers, who are you betting on?



New Blog Explores Economics of Digital World: Digitopoly

Our friend Joshua Gans, along with some colleagues, has launched a new blog devoted to the economics of digitization called digitopoly.org. Here, in a guest post, he explains the origins of the site, and what it’s all about.

 

Digonomics
By Joshua Gans

Some of the most popular blogs are tech blogs (Gizmodo, Engadget, TechCrunch) or blogs that place a tech perspective on social commentary (e.g., BoingBoing). And, as we know, economics blogs also tend to be popular. What was missing though was a blog devoted to the economics and competitive issues that arise in the digital age. What’s more, thanks to the NBER’s new Program on the Economics of Digitization (funded by the Sloan Foundation), there is a wealth of new research in this area. That’s how we came to setup a blog devoted to digital issues from an economics perspective. Read More »