A reader, who is also a lawyer, writes in with an interesting example of incentives in the courtroom. He tells us about a particular judge in New Hampshire, who developed a strategic approach to collecting fines: I thought you might be interested in this little experiment in economics. People cannot be sent to jail, under the […] Read More »
The Los Angeles City Council may require condoms in porn movies produced in the city limits. How will this affect the market? Whether companies stay in L.A. or leave, costs will rise (condom costs if they stay, the costs of relocation, loss of agglomeration economies, if they move outside the city limits). If costs do rise, will that matter to producers? I imagine product demand is fairly inelastic, and they can easily pass the cost increase onto consumers. But even if costs were unaffected, consumer demand might shift far leftward if producers remained in L.A., since customers may not wish to view protected sex. Industry members lobbied strongly against the bill — perhaps because they feared the direct drop in demand rather than the cost increase.
I recently had one of the strangest customer service episodes I’ve ever experienced. It took place at Café Bon Appetit in downtown Chicago. A group of twenty of us were eating lunch there. It is one of those places that has many food stations to choose from, then you pay for your food and find a table. There is no table service. It’s a huge restaurant. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the restaurant can seat 300 people. That is one of the reasons we go there in a big group — there are always plenty of seats.
One of the diners, who is on some sort of vegan, non-gluten health kick, had brought her own lunch. The rest of us had bought our lunch there. We found a table in the nearly completely empty back seating area. About halfway through lunch, the restaurant manager appeared. I assumed it was to thank us for coming and to ask how the food was. It turned out his mission was quite different. Read More »
A new study by Brian Knight, an economist at Brown, explores the flow of the illegal firearm market in America and compares the source of guns used in crimes to gun laws in and around that state.
How big is the market for illegal firearms? Pretty big. Knight writes: “ATF investigations into tracking between July 1996 and December 1998 identify over 84,000 firearms that were diverted into this secondary market (ATF, 2000).” Meanwhile, each state in America legislates its own gun laws, resulting in cross-state externalities. For example, Knight cites anecdotal evidence showing that a gun purchased legally in Virginia for $150 – $200 typically resells in New York City for $500 – $600. This is the sort of thing that keeps Michael Bloomberg up at night.
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 »
Oh, my neck! Oh, my back!
Every day, legal decisions are made based on the pain, suffering, and anxiety people say they’re feeling, even though we have no objective way to measure them. So what if we could see inside people’s minds — not just to know what they’re feeling now, but what they’ve felt in the past too?
Advancements in neuroscience are already improving our ability to do so. A new article published in the Emory Law Journal (full version here) entitled “The Experiential Future of the Law,” by Brooklyn Law School professor Adam Kolber, looks at how these advancements will continue over the next 30 years (to the point of near mind-reading), and how they’ll inevitably lead to changes in the law. Read More »
A group seeking to ban the circumcision of male children in San Francisco has succeeded in getting their controversial measure on the November ballot, meaning voters will be asked to weigh in on what until now has been a private family matter.
City elections officials confirmed Wednesday that the initiative had received enough signatures to appear on the ballot, getting more than 7,700 valid signatures from city residents. Initiatives must receive at least 7,168 signatures to qualify.
If the measure passes, circumcision would be prohibited among males under the age of 18. The practice would become a misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or up to one year in jail. There would be no religious exemptions.
A new study of capital sentences handed down in first degree murder cases finds evidence of racial bias against minority defendants who killed white victims. The study (abstract here; pdf here) was conducted by Harvard economist Alberto Alesina and Eliana La Ferrara of Universita’ Bocconi. It finds that for sentences handed down to minority defendants convicted of killing white victims were as much as 9 percent more likely to be reversed than in cases involving a minority defendant killing a minority victim. The study examined the race of the defendant and of the victim(s) for all capital appeals that be came final in the U.S. between 1973 and 1995. Read More »