Well, there is a new policy think tank in Canada and they have just released a commentary on the minimum wage.
Well Canada Day is once again upon us – we now have 147 years of Confederation to celebrate– and what better way to celebrate than with a brief retrospective of economic performance as measured by per capita GDP. For your viewing pleasure, I present real per capita GDP in $2002 for each of the main census years since 1867 as well as a calculation of the average annual growth rate of real per capita GDP for each decade.
The Canadian Economics Association meetings take the same format every year: sessions start at 8:30 a.m. Friday morning and end at noon on Sunday. The Innis Lecture is Friday evening and the Purvis lunch is Saturday afternoon.
From time to time a bold and innovative President-elect will try a new experiment, like I think it was Curtis Eaton who introduced State of the Art Lectures. And my recollection is that Lars Osberg, who put the Canadian Women Economists Network (CWEN) lunch on the program.
At the time, there was no major event on Friday at lunch time - the slot was reserved for various Association committees. CWEN had been formed a few years earlier, but there was no time on the program for CWEN to meet. People got together over breakfast, but attendance was limited.
Lars's vision was of a major event with a high profile female speaker. I guess the idea was to inspire young women with a vision of what was and is possible, to showcase the work done by female economists, and provide a time for women to network with, and mentor, each other.
To a large event, that vision has succeeded. The annual lunch has given CWEN a semi-official status within the Canadian Economics Association. Serious scholars, like Nicole Fortin and Shelley Phipps, have been presidents of the network, and the CWEN lunch has featured some excellent speakers. But, for the most part, men don't go.
We all know that the word “economics” comes from the Greek “oikonomia” which refers to the thrifty management of household affairs. By extension, the origin of the term “economy” is closely related to the same term as it is from the Latin “oeconomia”, which is again from the same Greek “oikonomia”. From all this, it is not difficult to see an economy as simply the agglomeration of individual households when it comes to the European language tradition. In a sense this nicely encompasses both our micro and macro traditions, as macroeconomics simply becomes the study of the sum of many individual household behaviours. What about economics when to comes to other languages – especially non-European languages?
All-you-can-eat restaurants should not exist.
People with large appetites crowd into all-you-can-eat establishments. These greedy customers eat vast amounts, driving up the restaurants' costs. Restaurants have no choice but to increase prices, but this turns off people with small appetites. Eventually the only people who eat at the restaurant are hulking athletes, and the restaurant fails - a victim of "adverse selection".
All-you-can-eat restaurants also suffer from moral hazard. Patrons can fill their plates for free, so eat until the marginal benefit of piling on additional food is zero. It is trivial to show diagrammatically that all-you-can-eat pricing is inferior to marginal cost pricing:
In the wake of the abdication of King Juan Carlos of Spain, the New York Times ran a short piece on monarchies noting that 12 monarchies still survive in Europe with eight of them being liberal democracies – Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden. Incidentally, these Scandinavian monarchies in particular are among the most highly developed countries on the planet – peaceable kingdoms with high material and social standards of living.
Economics is really all about incentives and their effect on behaviour at the micro and macro level. My training in economics emphasized the role of prices in communicating information about scarcity and opportunity cost and providing the incentives that affect economic behaviour. Yet, all of our economic behaviour is also rooted on an institutional framework that includes not only the structure of markets and public institutions but also codes of human behaviour such as honesty and trust. None of this is new but it brings me to my point-how ingrained codes of social behaviour can be used. Simply being helpful or asking for help or looking needy can be used to generate an opportunity for further economic interaction, which is not always to your benefit. I suppose the old adage is that no good deed goes unpunished.
I was up late last night for the results of the EU elections. In the UK, the UK Independence Party came first with 27.5% of the vote (Labour second with 25.5% and Conservatives third with 24%). In France, the Front National came first with 25%.
Both UKIP and the FN want to withdraw from the EU and reduce immigration (they differ in other respects). Since the UK is not part of the Euro, and is not likely to adopt the Euro in the near future, it is unlikely that the ECB's monetary policy had any big effect on the UK results. Neither party is fully "respectable" in the eyes of the establishment, but UKIP is more respectable than the FN.
Most penalty kicks result in a goal; this is why soccer players go to such comical lengths to draw a penalty. The distance between the ball and the goal is so short that goaltenders don't have time to react; they have to commit to a strategy as the ball is being kicked. The usual strategy is to try and guess where the ball will be kicked and to jump in that direction. Surprisingly enough, the tactic of not jumping - that is, guessing that the ball will be kicked down the middle - is under-utilised.
An interesting study from a group of Israeli researchers (Bar-Eli et al, 2007) offers a plausible explanation: 'action bias'.
It would appear fiscal restraint has finally caught up with police services across the country. The recent release of Police Resources in Canada, 2013 by Statistics Canada documents a decline in police strength after nearly a decade of increases as well as a slowdown in per capita spending. The crime rate, however continues to fall.
Target’s retail invasion of Canada seems to have developed parallels to Napoleon’s invasion of Russia – it is fighting a losing battle in a cold winter. Target’s northern front lost 941 million dollars in 2013. A CBC news story reports that:
“That expansion has been hammered by supply issues, as there are frequent reports of empty shelves here. And Canadians haven't been as eager to flock to buy Target goods that are at least perceived to be more expensive in Canada than they are in the U.S.”
It's clickbait, New York Times style: "Does a More Equal Marriage Mean Less Sex?" Spurred by findings of a paper by Sabrino Kornrich, Julie Brines and Katarina Leupp published in the American Sociological Review, the article argues that, "too much similarity in egalitarian marriages leads to boredom and decreased sexual frequency". In general, "the less gender differentiation, the less sexual desire.” "On an emotional level, “kindred spirits” sounds lovely. But when it comes to sexual desire, biology seems to prefer difference."
But do these findings really stand up to serious scrutiny?
This year will mark the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I and my attention this week was drawn to a copy of J. Griffin and Company’s The Naval Annual 1913. It is a sweeping 520-page review of the state of the world’s navies with details on individual ships. The naval arms race of the early twentieth century saw investment in large battleships and Great Britain aimed to keep naval superiority by having a navy equal to the size of the next two largest navies – in this case it was Imperial Germany and the United States. These ships were not cheap to build and an interesting comparison is how did the size of these navies correspond to national output.
For years, I've been avoiding buying russet apples. They have such unattractive tawny brown skins. Not like the smooth, pink-cheeked Royal Galas and MacIntoshes.
Until this fall. "What kind of apples would you like?", I asked my out-of-town visitors. "Well, russets are the best, of course, but I doubt you'll be able to get them. It's almost the end of the season."
Given a challenge like that, I had to - and did - procure the last of the local russets.
It's true. They are the best apples - not too sweet, just the right texture, with an intense appley flavour.
Typepad puts almost all my comments in spam. Me! Don't they know who I am? I can fish them out of the spam filter when it's my own post, but it means I have given up commenting on other people's posts, both here and on other blogs, if they use Typepad. Because my comments go straight to spam, and don't get fished out, which presumably confirms to Typepad I really must be a spammer.
But my problems with Typepad are just a symptom of a wider problem.
In Ottawa, plastic and glass recyclables go into a "blue bin", and are picked up once every two weeks as part of the regular household garbage collection.
Styrofoam is not recyclable. It has never been recyclable. The instructions on the City of Ottawa website are clear: place these items in your regular garbage. It's not like a person has to go to the website to find this out, either. Every household in the city receives recycling information on a regular basis, with lists of what can and cannot be recycled.
So why is it that, every recycling day, I see blue bins containing styrofoam? Not to mention blue bins with plastic bags. Coat hangers. Scrap metal.
I have several theories, but no evidence (if you have evidence, please let me know):
It happens at universities across the country.
Professors do it. Administrative staff do it.
Some sneak onto campus on evenings or weekends, and quietly do it when no one is around. Others are bold enough to do it during regular office hours.
I'm talking about cleaning. Dusting. Vacuuming. Sweeping. And, for the truly bold: Painting. Unblocking drains. Retrieving and repairing discarded furniture.
For people who purport to be skeptical of normative analysis, economists are awfully fond of morality tales. One of our favourites is The Legend of the Auto Quota.
Once upon a time, the US imposed a quota on imports of Japanese automobiles. Japanese automakers responded by upgrading; packing every car they sold full of features. Thus the quotas, designed to protect the American auto industry, had an unintended consequence: they pushed Japanese auto makers into manufacturing high quality mid-range and luxury vehicles. The rest is history.
The story is a staple of economics textsbooks (for example, this one and this one and this one), because it illustrates economists' favourite moral: any attempt to interfere with markets will come back to haunt you.
But is it really true?