Tag » economics

Michael Lewis on the economic crisis

Wall Street Bull

Michael Lewis is quickly establishing himself as one of my favorite journalists:

Incidentally, if you want to get the absolute best intro to the financial crisis, spend one hour listening to This American Life’s podcast on the subject. Then visit The Money Meltdown for further reading.

Economics of a POW Camp

Group of Canadian officers at a prisoner-of-wa...
Image via Wikipedia

An absolutely fascinating article on the economic organization of a Prisoner of War Camp. More recently, the WSJ covered mackerel economics in prison.

Disclaimer: As I get back into posting regularly, I’ll be putting up some interesting links that I collected during my months of intermittent blogging. If you’re a heavy blog reader, you may have seen some of these before.

Moviestars and movie revenues

The NYT on whether movie stars impact movie revenues. The answer seems to be no.

Going carbon neutral

Going carbon neutral

I’ve been meaning to do so for a while, but today I finally went ahead and offset my car’s carbon emissions. For those unfamiliar with the concept, this means that I purchased credits from a company that uses the funds to reduce carbon emissions somewhere else… effectively cancelling out my car’s emissions.


I spent a fair amount of time researching carbon offsets before choosing a company. A TreeHugger post led me to a fairly comprehensive survey of the different options. The David Suzuki Foundation’s site provided useful info on going carbon neutral and carbon offsets. Finally, Wikipedia provided some background on the economic idea behind carbon offsets, namely carbon emissions trading.

My choice: TerraPass

In the end, I ended up choosing a company called TerraPass. The main reason for this is that I was lucky enough to have breakfast with their CEO a few months back (he went to school with one of my friends). Tom Arnold is a very smart and friendly guy, and he definitely inspired confidence in what TerraPass is doing. Unlike most of the carbon offset options, TerraPass is a for-profit enterprise. While some might find this less compelling than a non-profit organization, the economist in me likes to think that the market incentives will encourage them to be more efficient, transparent and creative than other solutions. Case in point, their price is fairly good (roughly $10/ton, see survey above) and their site provides good information on how the money is put to use. For more information on TerraPass, see this Ted Blog post as well as TerraPass’s own blog.


As an intellectual sidenote, I’m intruigued by the similarity between carbon offsets and medieval indulgences. Indulgences were a way for rich people to pay the Church to redeem their sins and get a spot in heaven. Tremendously convenient way to get a clear conscience, and equally convenient way to finance your new cathedral. In the same way, offsetting my carbon consumption allows me to ease my guilt at my consumption-heavy lifestyle… thereby perhaps reducing my incentive to act in more serious ways to reduce my own consumption. Of course, just like indulgences in part helped fund the Church’s charitable activities, purchasing carbon offsets actually does have a positive effect on the environment, so it’s still a good thing to do. For more on this question, see this Slate article.

What’s next…

Now I still need to offset the rest of my life, e.g. electricity, heating, flights, etc. To do this, I will probably use some combination of CarbonFund and NativeEnergy. CarbonFund is the most cost-effective solution, and NativeEnergy is endorsed by Al Gore and his An Inconvenient Truth project (if you haven’t done so yet, go see the movie. It’s well worth it). The main reason for not going fully with TerraPass is that it’s hard for me to judge which company is the best option, and so splitting my offsets hedges me against having made a wrong choice. Of course, the most effective thing to do is to reduce my own emissions, so maybe I should just have bought one of these instead!

On speeding.

A moderately interesting article about speeding enforcement. The reason I bring it up here is that it has a rather telling omission. While it discusses a lot of the trade-offs in speeding enforcement, mainly in terms of the effect on accident rates versus the cost of enforcement, it completely fails to mention the opportunity cost. Let me make up some numbers: say reducing the average speed by 10mph resulted in a 5% decrease in accidents. Good thing right? Except that an untold number of people are now driving 10mph slower, and losing an as-of-yet unspecified number of minutes of their life. Without taking into account this side of the equation, the cost/benefit calculation doesn’t quite hold. Opportunity cost is a basic Econ 101 concept that everyone ought to learn, yet it is all too often missed in mainstream news articles.

Economist humor

Economist humor. This music video is hilarious. From the Freakonomics blog:

The person singing in the video is pretending to be Glenn Hubbard who was one of the leading candidates to be the Chair of the Federal Reserve, but the job was instead given to Ben Bernanke.

James Surowiecki on housing futures, or how to insure your house against changes in market value.

Name segmentation

The authors of Freakonomics tell us about market segmentation by first name. To explore trends in names through the years, check out the Baby Name Voyager.

Why do we fill out taxes, when the I.R.S. has the data anyway?

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2006-4-11-9:38 PM #

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