What We Pay

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

If Ikea sold cars

And this, of course

 

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Friday, April 1st, 2011

Lessons in price discovery

Monty Python on the art of haggling

Thanks to the folks at the Nudge blog for the pointer.

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Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

The price of New York’s marihuana arrests

$75 million in 2010. From 1997 through 2010 the New York Police Department made 536,000 arrests for marijuana possession. This has cost taxpayers $500 million to over $1 billion. What are we getting for this money? Not very much!

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Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Are drug prices really soaring?

Congress is up in arms about soaring drug prices. A study by the Government Accountability Office finds that the price of brand-name prescription drugs soared at an annual rate of 8.3% from 2006 through the first quarter of 2010. That’s more than double the rate of inflation, which averaged 3.8% over the period. It’s also faster than brand-name prescription drug inflation between 2000 and 2006, which averaged 6% a year.

“These soaring price increases seem to defy explanation,” said House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Henry Waxman, A California Democrat. “Congress needs to investigate and stop drug companies from overcharging seniors.” Are avid pharmaceutical companies going to bleed us dry? Probably not. Continue reading

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Monday, March 14th, 2011

The cost of inequality

Watch my illustrated interview with Steve Brodner about the surge of income inequality on PBS’s “Need to Know”

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Friday, March 11th, 2011

What’s the Internet worth?

The Great Stagnation, an intriguing new book by George Mason  economist Tyler Cowen, co-author of the Marginal Revolution blog, has sparked a fantastic debate about whether and how the Internet has contributed to our economic wellbeing. The book ponders why the Internet, revolutionary as it is, hasn’t produced much of a boost to economic growth, employment or family incomes –as earlier technological revolutions did. There is a great review in The Economist here.

Some have embraced the argument. But he is getting push-back from a lot of people. Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist, argues  here that Cowen is looking for the benefits of the Internet in the wrong places. Economic historian Brad Delong of Berkeley agrees: the Internet might not have boosted employment or national income, but it has increased people’s well being enormously, reducing the costs of all sorts of things –from researching a book to discovering new music to finding a good doctor. Arnold Kling takes Cowen on from a different political perspective.

Thoughts?

 

 

 

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Thursday, March 10th, 2011

The price of the War on Drugs

Americans pay a lot to keep illegal drugs off the streets. A recent review of the evidence suggests much of our investment in the Drug Wars is wasted, if not outright counterproductive. We have only 5 percent of the world’s population yet about a quarter of the world’s prisoners. Four fifths of the 1.8 million arrests made in 2007 were for drug possession.  In 1980, 40,000 people were jailed on drug charges. Today the figure is about half a million. Continue reading

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Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

The price of Clapton’s magic

A couple of days ago I mused about our desire for unique objects. I pointed to research suggesting that our motivations aren’t merely market driven. It’s not just about rationally assessing the object’s resale value.

A story in today’s New York Times underscores just how irrational our desire for certain unique goods is. Guitar aficionados are not only willing to pay $1 million for a guitar owned and played by Eric Clapton. They are willing to pay $20,000 to own a fake copy of that same guitar. What’s worth so much? Clapton’s magic:

“Cultural practices such as burning voodoo dolls to harm one’s enemies are consistent with a belief in the law of similarity,” Dr. Newman said. “An identical Clapton guitar replica with all of the dents and scratches may serve as such a close proxy to Clapton’s original guitar that it is in some way confused for the real thing. Of course, the replica is worth far less than the actual guitar that he played, but it still appears to be getting a significant amount of value for its similarity.”

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Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Has educastion lost its punch?

Paul Krugman suggests we can no longer count on education to increase workers’ prosperity.

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Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

The price of a car crash

At first blush it might seem to make sense for cash-strapped cities to charge drivers for car accidents, a quick and easy way to raise revenue for the fire department and the police. But there are costs involved too. Getting drivers or their insurance companies to pay can be expensive. And the bad blood generated by the new crash charge is also costly.

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