Misadventures in Risk Management

| While A.I.G. continues to dominate the news, it’s worth reading this 2002 Economist article, which cast doubt on the insurance giant’s early forays into the derivatives market. Back then, A.I.G. argued that “derivatives play an important part in reducing the company’s overall risk.” By 2009, those same investments had left the company so badly […]

The Price of Disability Law

We wrote a column a while back about a variety of powerful unintended consequences.

One example was the Americans With Disabilities Act, and we told the story of a Los Angeles orthopedic surgeon named Andrew Brooks. When a deaf patient came to him for a consultation, he realized that the A.D.A. required him to hire a sign-language interpreter for each visit if that's what the patient wanted.

Ban Water Bottles to Reduce Pollution? Come On!

A friend at another university tells me that his school is banning the sale of bottled water on campus, as the university administration is bothered by the pollution produced by plastic water bottles.

Presumably, they figure that bottled-water consumers will switch to tap water, as tap water is bottled water's closest substitute. I wonder -- aren't bottled soft drinks a closer substitute? Don't people want the convenience of a container at their desk rather than an occasional drink at the water cooler (or a cup to be filled at the water cooler)?

Could a Public-Transit Boom Result in a Crime Boom?

A new light rail that links East St. Louis to the nearby suburbs is being blamed for bringing urban crime to the suburban shopping malls. From an article in the Riverfront Times: Ask virtually any store manager at the Saint Louis Galleria about shoplifting, and you’ll invariably get two responses: One, it’s out of control; […]

Do Good Grades Predict Success?

Photo: freeparking Paul Kimelman lives in Alamo, Calif., and is C.T.O. of the Texas-based microcontroller company Luminary Micro. He is the sort of blog reader we are very fortunate to have. He writes to us now and again with such interesting queries that they’re worth putting up on the blog in their entirety. Here’s his […]

You Can’t Handle the Truth

One thing that Republicans and Democrats have in common is a parallel disbelief over how the other side’s politicians get away with telling so many fibs, distortions, and outright lies. But one reason politicians tell tales is that their supporters will usually believe whatever they want to hear — even if what they hear turns […]

No Cash for Clunkers

Photo: Bogdan Suditu Princeton economist Alan Blinder recently proposed a new government program he christened “Cash for Clunkers” in an article in The Times‘s Business section. Under the program, the government would buy back old cars at above market prices and scrap them. According to Blinder, this would accomplish a policy trifecta: 1) help the […]

Man vs. Man and Nature at the Beijing Olympics, Round Two

Back in May I blogged about the Chinese government’s plans to keep it from raining during the Olympics, as well as their pollution reduction efforts. The latest phase of the pollution fight is now kicking in: banning half the cars from the roads each day based on whether the license plate number ends in an […]

Where the Neighborhood Has No Name

We’ve written before on whether a child’s first name has any effect on life outcomes, and whether street names have any effect on housing prices. What if a neighborhood changes its name? Ask the residents of South Central Los Angeles. Actually, you can’t, because technically the neighborhood no longer exists. The name “South Central” was […]

The Perils of Free Coffee

As prices go, “free” is an interesting one. Dan Ariely plays with the idea in his book Predictably Irrational, as does Seth Godin — and Chris Andersen has gone so far as to suggest that “$0.00 is the Future of Business.” There are, of course, a lot of different kinds of “free.” Giving away a […]