18 Sep 2015

Murphy vs. Landsburg on the Pope

Steve Landsburg 18 Comments

I’m not even Catholic anymore. (Check the comments.)

16 Sep 2015

“Oh My Gosh You Idiots Are Afraid of a CLOCK?!”

Big Brother 81 Comments

One of the reasons I like economics is that you get inside of everybody’s head and try to explain their behavior as the outcome of rational (though perhaps gravely mistaken) choice. I also like novelists who merely describe what the various characters–even the “bad guys”–did and why, from their individual perspectives, without banging me over the head with moral condemnation about it.

OK so in this context, it doesn’t really work to post selfies of you holding a kitchen wall clock and saying, “I took this to work. #IStandWithAhmed.”

No, if you really want to do an apples to apples comparison, try to walk through the lobby of your office past the security guards with this inside your bag, and have it beep just as you pass them so they ask you to take it out:


Is it really so inconceivable that at a school–where all the faculty and staff have no doubt been subjected to countless drills on how to handle an active shooter situation etc.–a teacher would report this and they’d call the police?

It should go without saying that I don’t think the kid should’ve been arrested, and I’m sure he was treated worse because of his ethnicity and name. But all of a sudden half my Facebook feed has turned into bomb squad veterans on this one.

15 Sep 2015

Excel Bask

All Posts 20 Comments

This is for a colleague who’s visiting us here at the Free Market Institute…

He as data in Excel with Year in Column A, and then items of interest in B through M (or whatever).

Now, at the very bottom, after the last year, he wants to have a row that returns the *year* of the MAX value in each column.

So for example, if row 100 is the last Year of 2014, then row 101 would say, “Max in Year:” and then in Column B, it might say “1984” while in Column C, it might say “1977.” That means that if you look at Column B, the max value occurred in Year 1984, etc.

So, what’s the easiest way for him to get Excel to populate that bottom row?

14 Sep 2015

Contra Krugman Trailer

Krugman, Shameless Self-Promotion 25 Comments

14 Sep 2015

The Wealth-Health Connection

Economics, Shameless Self-Promotion 4 Comments

Inefficient regulations can obviously make people poorer, but did you know they can kill? There is actually a whole literature on this. I summarize the key points in my latest IER post. An excerpt:

By analyzing consumer behavior, economists can come up with rough estimates of the implied “value of a statistical life” (VSL) that this behavior exhibits. To repeat, it’s not that someone flirts with certain death in exchange for $10 million.

Rather, it’s that a typical person might choose product X which costs $1 less than product Y, even though product X has a 4-in-ten-million chance of death compared to a 3-in-ten-million chance with product Y. In this hypothetical example, the person is willing to take on an extra 1-in-ten-million chance of dying, in order to save $1. This is the sense in which the person’s behavior implies a monetary value of a certain life (versus death) at $10 million.




13 Sep 2015

A Tip From Jesus’ Brother

Religious 2 Comments

I liked this verse so much I put it on a weekly repeat on my calendar.

James 4:7: “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”

10 Sep 2015

Google and Game Theory

Steve Landsburg 28 Comments

Steve Landsburg has a really neat series of posts with a game theoretic brain teaser that has an unintentional flaw. If you have the time, I encourage you to not “cheat” by reading ahead; instead try to solve them in order, just by reading Steve’s posts and not the comments: First, second, and third. Then, after you’ve read his posts and done however much thinking you’re going to on your end, go ahead and read the comments, at least in the third one.

09 Sep 2015

3 Stock Market Tips From an Economist

Economics, Efficient Markets Hypothesis, Shameless Self-Promotion 17 Comments

My latest at FEE. (They picked the title mostly for irony, I think.) You guys think you’ve placed me in a neat little anti-EMH box, don’t you? And then BAM I write something like this:

Suppose your brother-in-law says: “I’ve got a great stock tip! I found this company, Acme, that makes fireworks. Let’s wait until the end of June, and then load up on as many shares as we can. Once the company reports its sales for July, we’ll make a fortune because of the holiday numbers.”

Clearly, your brother-in-law would be speaking foolishness. Just about everybody knows that fireworks companies do a lot of business around July 4, and so the price of Acme stock in late June would already reflect that obvious information.

More generally, the different versions of the efficient market hypothesis (EMH) claim — with varying degrees of strength — that an investor can’t “beat the market” without access to private information. The reason is that any publicly available information is already incorporated into the current stock price.

My blog is arguably a random walk at this point. You have no idea what I’m going to post tomorrow.