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Knowing and Making's Blog

A blog about cognitive and behavioural economics. Building mathematical models of how psychology influences economic systems.

Incentives, belief in incentives, the left, the right and moral hazard

August 20, 2011 Comments (0)

Several old political problems turn out to be based on the same underlying question. Here are some examples. Should we tax the rich more? The "yes" argument says rich people need the money less (that is, poor people's utility from wealth is higher), and wealth partly arises from luck and therefore is a legitimate target for taxation. The "no" argument says that if people expect to be taxed when they're rich (and receive handouts when they're poor) they have less incentive to earn wealth, and...

Thaler, annuities, freedom and self-knowledge

August 20, 2011 Comments (0)

Richard Thaler has an oddly limited writeup of the "annuity puzzle" in the New York Times this week. He presents a choice between two people retiring at 65. One gets a guaranteed $4,000/month for the rest of their life (a standard annuity). The other retains a standard investment portfolio and draws down $4,000/month until it runs out (at the age of 85, if he lives that long) - or $3,000/month till he's 100. Presenting only these three options, he argues that people should really opt for the...

The economics zeitgeist, 5 June 2011

August 20, 2011 Comments (0)

This week's word cloud from the economics blogs. I generate a new one every Sunday, so please subscribe using RSS or the email box on the right and you'll get a message every week with the new cloud. The words moving up and down the chart are listed here. I summarise around four hundred blogs through their RSS feeds. Thanks in particular to the Palgrave Econolog who have an excellent database of economics blogs; I have also added a number of blogs that are not on their list. Contact me if...

Loss aversion and fundraising for Bletchley Park

August 20, 2011 Comments (0)

I celebrate the good news that Bletchley Park has been saved by my new friend @Dr_Black among others. It's a good story and you should read it if you aren't familiar with the background. However, is it wise to announce and frame the news in this way? The post suggests an optimistic transition: I mentioned "Saving Bletchley Park" as part of this conversation and Simon said "...hold on, Bletchley Park is saved, there is no way we are going to shut now with all the support that we...

The economics zeitgeist, 29 May 2011

August 20, 2011 Comments (0)

This week's word cloud from the economics blogs. I generate a new one every Sunday, so please subscribe using RSS or the email box on the right and you'll get a message every week with the new cloud. The words moving up and down the chart are listed here. I summarise around four hundred blogs through their RSS feeds. Thanks in particular to the Palgrave Econolog who have an excellent database of economics blogs; I have also added a number of blogs that are not on their list. Contact me if...

The hot hand in airline pilots

August 20, 2011 Comments (0)

I read the following quote in an article about the near-crash of a 747 plane in San Francisco: "In the past months, we have had several operational incidents," airline jargon for close calls, W.J. Carter, chief of United's Honolulu-based pilots, wrote in a Feb. 23 internal memo to his flight crews. "Major accidents historically are preceded by a series of these seemingly unrelated incidents. This disturbing trend is cause for concern"I was immediately skeptical, because patterns like this...

The Great Stagnation and consumption-biased change

August 20, 2011 Comments (0)

A debate has been going on within economics (and in my head) about how the economy is changing. Tyler Cowen thinks there is a "Great Stagnation": all the low-hanging technological fruit (trains, planes, automobiles) has been harvested; we've grown for the last thirty years by getting some efficiencies out of existing processes, but that has limits; and there's no new major new invention on the horizon which will transform living standards further in the coming century. Umair Haque says...

The economics zeitgeist, 22 May 2011

August 20, 2011 Comments (0)

This week's word cloud from the economics blogs. I generate a new one every Sunday, so please subscribe using RSS or the email box on the right and you'll get a message every week with the new cloud. The words moving up and down the chart are listed here. I summarise around four hundred blogs through their RSS feeds. Thanks in particular to the Palgrave Econolog who have an excellent database of economics blogs; I have also added a number of blogs that are not on their list. Contact me if...

Behavioural economics is not economics (yet)

August 20, 2011 Comments (0)

Economics is useful not when it makes broad, one-sided assertions (markets are good; externalities are bad) but when it uses a model to give a firm, quantitative answer to a specific question. What difference will it make to the price in the milk market if one new supplier enters, producing 3 million litres a year? If I buy this piece of land and build a gas station, will I make a profit? What's the optimal price for me to sell my consulting services if I value my free time at...

Questions about economists' favourite economists

August 20, 2011 Comments (0)

Davis, Figgins, Hedengren and Klein have put together an interesting survey of American economics professors - asking about their favourite economists, alive and dead, and about the journals and blogs they read. I downloaded the data behind the paper in the vain hope that this blog might be among the long tail of responses not reported in the main paper (it wasn't). But the data does provide lots to think about. An intriguing point (from a survey design point of view, at least) is raised...