What We Pay

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

The Harvard Business Review liked it!

Tim Sullivan’s review in the  Harvard Business Review:  “If you want a book on our global connections that’s both entertaining and important, turn to Eduardo Porter’s The Price of Everything: Solving the Mystery of Why We Pay What We Do.”

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Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

What would you pay Travis Broyles?

For $1,000, he’s offered to build a full-size cardboard car and make “vroom-vroom” sounds while the owner drives it. For $100,000, he’ll yell your name every time he wakes up for the rest of his life. He will “tell your kids which one is actually your favorite and what the others could do to improve their standing” for $100. The full list is here.

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Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

What people will do for $5

Would you pay $5 for someone to  call your friend and sing any Disney song? How about $5 for a  vector Apple iPod style silhouette of yourself? A full list is here.

Thanks to Tim Harford for the pointer.

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Monday, February 14th, 2011

The price of a balanced diet

If Americans don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables, it’s not because they are too expensive. An adult American could meet the daily dose of fruits and vegetables recommended by the Department of Agriculture for less than $2.50 a day. That’s about $1.50 less than the price of a Big Mac.

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Monday, February 14th, 2011

The price of romance

According to the Wall Street Journal, it is stable.

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Friday, February 11th, 2011

The price of malaria

This stunning chart is in Bill Gates’ annual letter. It shows that people in countries with a heavier burden of infectious disease tend to have a lower I.Q.

Apparently this is due to several factors. Malaria directly damages the brain of those infected. Children with infectious diseases don’t get enough nutrition for their brain to develop properly. But it also has to due with the body’s allocation of resources: where the prevalence of disease s high people must spend energy that would otherwise be used on brain development on fighting it

Thanks to Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution for the pointer.

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Thursday, February 10th, 2011

The price of development

I was interviewed on Poptech about the price of education in India, fertilizer in Kenya and human life in Zimbabwe.

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Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

The price of snow

What has all this snow cost us? One reads about the impact of snow on New York City’s budget. But what about the rest of us? Those living in Connecticut may have to factor in the price of a new roof. And drivers in New York City should make allowance for an extra parking ticket.  The snow blower alone could cost you more than $1500 (and that’s not counting the price of re-attaching the severed finger.)

But we love the snow! Don’t we?

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Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Why is the price of food rising?

Paul Krugman has an excellent analysis here of the rising prices of grains. He argues it’s essentially due to bad weather and failed harvests in countries of the former Soviet Union. The problem is exacerbated by bad weather and failed harvests in China too.

As Krugman points out, a relatively modest decline in grain production can induce a large increase in prices because demand for grains is price-inelastic. People don’t stop eating grains when their price goes up. Instead, they cut back on other things. So it takes a huge increase in prices to bring demand down in line with supply.

In Argentina, a price elasticity of demand of breads and cereals of  -.199 means you need the price of cereals to rise more than 5 percent for demand to fall 1 percent. In the United States, where people spend a smaller share of their daily budget on food, you would need prices to rise 25 percent to get the same reduction in demand.

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Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

The Price of Super-lawyers.

In The Price of Everything I write about how pay is becoming increasingly lopsided around the world. The trend is evident from top entertainers to star chief executives at big multinational corporations:  superstars are reaping a growing share of the revenues in their fields, leaving less and less for everybody else.

An article in the Wall Street Journal points out that the same thing is happening with lawyers: superstar attorneys  are earning up to 10 times the amount given to other partners, about double the spread of a decade ago. Continue reading

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