Selling kidneys

August 17, 2014

The Times has an interesting piece today about selling kidneys, which is always good for an argument. Let’s set it up with a poll: Should kidney sales be legal? Circle one of the following:  Read the rest of this entry »

Ghana discovers oil, trouble ensues

August 3, 2014

One of the curious facts about country performance is the so-called resource curse: countries that have lots of natural resources grow more slowly, on average, than those that do not. How can that be?   Read the rest of this entry »


August 2, 2014

If you’ve taken Global Economy, you’ve run across FRED: Federal Reserve Economic Data. It may be the best thing the Federal Reserve has ever done. If you want to know the latest employment number, the Brazilian exchange rate, or GDP per capita in Ghana — go to FRED, where you’ll get not only the data, but a nice graph. Add a phone app and an Excel add-in and you have the tool of choice for resolving economic debates instantly.

What you may not know is that it’s run, and run very well, by six people at the St Louis Fed. Yes, six people. Here’s the story.

Old Soviet joke

August 1, 2014

From Tim Taylor:

One can’t help but be reminded of the old Soviet joke about the collective farm director and his chickens. The chickens are dying at an alarming rate, so much so that Moscow sends in its top expert. “I have an idea,” the expert says. “Switch out the rectangular troughs for triangular ones.” He promises to come back in two weeks to monitor the progress. “So?” he asks on his return. “It didn’t work,” the director replies. “The chickens kept dying.” “I have a better idea,” the expert says. “Paint the coops green.” Two weeks pass, and he’s back. “The chickens kept dying,” the director says. Again, a new idea. Again he returns to hear that the chickens keep dying. One day, the expert comes back, and the director announces, “All the chickens are dead.” “What a shame,” the expert says. “I had so many more great ideas.”

Lots of good stuff at the link about the Russian economy, too.

Mike Spence on Bloomberg

August 1, 2014

Here’s the link, chopped into convenient pieces. Start with this one on the skills we’ll need in the future.

Argentina defaults, again

July 31, 2014

Argentina has now defaulted, again. It’s an unusual case, but a good reminder of the kinds of political risk you face when you invest in a country. To paraphrase Walter Wriston’s famous comment, “countries don’t go bust, they simply decide not to pay their debts.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Rewarding performance — and luck

July 22, 2014

Eitan Zemel passes on this wonderful story about psychologists Kahneman and Tversky. Early in their careers, back in the 1960s, they reviewed a performance reward system used by the Israeli air force. The air force adopted a consistent policy of praising trainees who performed well on a series of maneuvers. They found, to their surprise, that performance deteriorated, on average, in this group. The other group was criticized for poor performance and typically improved.

What was going on? Did we need to rethink the laws of human behavior? Kahneman and Tversky report that graduate students suggested explanations based on overconfidence of high-performing pilots and perceptual biases of instructors. What would you say?  Read the rest of this entry »

Avoiding bad publicity, European edition

July 20, 2014

I know, it’s not fair to make fun of Europe — but it’s so much fun! I hope Europeans will do the same for us, if there’s anything left after Stewart, Colbert, and Oliver are done. (Oliver’s American now, right?)  Read the rest of this entry »

Trucks and chickens, continued

July 17, 2014

Stan Zin weighs in. You’ll recall: In the early 1960s, Europe placed tariffs on US chickens. The US retaliated by placing a 25% tariff on imported trucks, which is still in place. Stan, and the trusty Wikipedia, adds:   Read the rest of this entry »

Foreign trucks and frozen chickens

July 16, 2014

Larry White brought this up at lunch and no one believed him. Here’s the story, courtesy of the Washington Post (lightly edited):  Read the rest of this entry »


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