Should We Be Taxing Robots?

Here’s a question that no one even thought to consider until now- should we be taxing robots? *Before I go much further, I want to make it clear that although the topic of a robotic workforce is a hot topic, I won’t be arguing the morals of the idea but rather the logistics assuming the transition is inevitable. Bill Gates stirred up quite a frenzy when he stated in an interview that robots who take human jobs should pay taxes. If robots begin taking human jobs, the government will begin to lose the tax generated revenue needed to fund their Continue reading

Why Should Class Attendance be Optional?

In economics, a common topic of discussion is opportunity cost, or the value of your next best option given up when you choose something. It is often used to highlight how people make decisions when faced with limited resources, especially scarcity of time and money. One common example is a college education. When most people look at the cost of college, they look at the sticker price on the college’s website, which includes room and board, tuition, and a few other odds and ends. Let’s say that ends up being $30,000, with $20,000 for tuition, $9,000 for room and board, and $1,000 Continue reading

Expensive Juicers and Two-Part Pricing: A Cautionary Tale

Over the last decade or so, more and more goods and services seem to be adopting a two-part pricing strategy as a way to maximize their profits. Two-part pricing (also sometimes known as a two-part tariff) is a strategy used by firms with market power in which the price of a good or service is composed of a lump-sum fee, as well as a per unit cost. The benefit of this technique is that firms are able to capture more of the consumer surplus (the monetary gain that consumers get when they are able to purchase a product for less than Continue reading

USAFacts: An Injection of Facts

Have you ever wondered where the US tax revenue exactly comes from and where it goes? To most US citizens the thought of traversing a mountain of US government financial data could seem like a nightmare. But this nightmare is no more, thanks to our friendly neighborhood (former) Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer. With the help of economists, writers, researchers from the academic communities, Ballmer was able to compile government financial data into a user-friendly format. USAFacts is this “portrait” of the US tax system. USAFacts is described by Ballmer a “nonpartisan, data-driven” website that provides reports on the US population Continue reading

Tipping in an Uber? It Might Just Happen

Have you ever felt like you should be tipping your driver, but don’t have any cash? Well, your problem could be solved in the near future (at least in NYC). The Independent Drivers Guild (the group that represents Uber drivers) presented the petition to add a tipping option for Uber customers and received over 11,000 signatures on it. The general argument is that the drivers are losing thousands of dollars because there is not a tipping option that is accessible electronically, only cash. Many passengers do not pay with cash so most drivers don’t receive tips. In contrast, NYC taxi Continue reading

Costco: When Breaking The Rules Pays Off

When Costco (“Price Club” at the time) opened over 40 years ago, they were the first of their kind. They bought a warehouse with the idea of creating a store for businesses to shop at. A novel idea. Even further, they required their customers to pay just to shop in their store. At first, the business was a complete disaster. “The small businesses didn’t come. They didn’t spend money and we, after a relatively short time – maybe a few weeks – were basically going bankrupt.” –Founder Robert Price Once the store opened their doors to the public (not just Continue reading

Cyclical Debt: Agriculture and Interest Rates

I read this article/ blog post, which touched on the cyclical nature of most agriculture. Basically, most farmers and ranchers get all of their income in a fairly small window of time, then need to use it for the rest of the year. There aren’t a lot of jobs or industries where this is such a common occurrence. Coupled with the fact that many of farmer’s costs are incurred during planting, then again as harvest approaches, this results in cyclical debt for farmers. Add in the long-term loans for land and capital, and it all adds up to significant debt. Continue reading

Thesis Corner with Quitterie Collignon

The days are dwindling down for seniors here at Puget Sound. This year seemingly came and went quickly. That’s probably because seniors in the economics department, like other departments, were busy working on their theses. Quitterie Collignon, a graduating senior, took advantage of her accumulated economics foundation and interests and used it to construct a successful empirical thesis about policy effects on the organic farming sector. Inspiration  In the summer of 2016 Quitterie worked for a non-profit, noncertified organic farm in Puyallup WA. Although it was summer, Quitterie’s academic exploration of thought was still on. She says, “I became very Continue reading

For Free-to-Play Games, Balancing Digital Markets Can Prove Challenging

As so-called “free-to-play” video games continue to gain popularity, the business models funding them are undergoing significant scrutiny. Popular games like Dota 2 and League of Legends have somewhat similar business models, largely centered around the sale of digital cosmetics, sometimes known as “skins”. These items give in-game characters a different look of some sort, and for the most part can only be acquired with “real” money. For Dota 2, the cosmetic market is integral to the game’s existence, essentially keeping the free-to-play model a plausible way for publisher and developer Valve to make money. Artists and 3D modelers design Continue reading

The Ripple Effect of the US Sugar Quota

After taking a look at the development of a “soda” tax around the US, it seems relevant to place the magnifying glass over a different side of the market. According to Amy Brittain, investigative reporter for The Washington Post, there are some bitter feelings between sugar producers and candy companies. The US government has imposed a tariff-rate quota on imported sugar since the 1930s. The quota was first implemented to mitigate the effects of the Great Depression on the domestic sugar agriculture. But since then the quota has been in place and has had further effect on the sugar and Continue reading