The Why Axis: How to get People to Give More

In Chapter Nine of the The Why Axis, Uri Gneezy and John List examined some of the conventional wisdoms about the techniques used in charity fund raising to try to determine if they really work at all, as well as which work better than others. What are the motivations for people to give to charity? How might these motivations be exploited to get people to donate more? The authors noted that in their travels, that most charities rely on the assumptions and conventional wisdoms of the previous decision makers, “rather than verifiable data.” One of the conventional wisdoms John came Continue reading

The Why Axis: Innovation is Key

Chapter 10 of the Why Axis discusses the reason behind many people’s willingness to give to nonprofits and how this changes the way these nonprofits run their companies. The chapter starts off by telling of a child who was the star of a 2008 Academy Award winning documentary entitled “Smile Pinki.” This child from India, Pinki Sonkar was born with a cleft lip and faced many hardships early in her life because the way people treated her. But one day she was introduced to a doctor employed by a nonprofit who agreed to preform surgery to rid of this problem. Continue reading


There’s been a lot of interesting talk about “homo-economicus” on the blog this semester, so I figured it would be fun to close things out with a post on “robo-economicus.” That is, robots using strategies modeled on economics to cooperate. Let me explain… A few months ago, I was applying for REU positions in mathematics and computer science. One of the programs I considered was Oregon State University’s Robotics in the Real World. In doing my due diligence in preparing an application, I stumbled upon this paper, “Learning to trick cost-based planners into cooperative behaviour.” In the paper, the authors essentially Continue reading

Free Money: Part 2

Free Money trial 2 We made this nice banner because I think my poorly drawn signs and our addition of “no joke, no questions” was a bit deterring. But I’ve gleamed an interesting observation from this: even when the sign (albeit drawn in color pencil and sharpie) specified no questions, people asked questions. Perhaps the two of us (senior blogger Nicky and I) didn’t seem intimidating to back up the “no questions” rule, I don’t think that’s true though. What is clear is that participants just want to know what the heck we’re up to. “Come on guys, somethings up.” Continue reading

The Why Axis: Discrimination in the Workplace

  Chapters 5 and 6 of the Why Axis focus on economic discrimination. Luckily, overt discrimination and bigotry has been on the decline for a while. However, economic discrimination, discrimination on the basis on economic situation/incentives/opportunities. Economic discrimination includes rejecting a qualified candidate who expresses an interest in starting a family in the future, or charging men 18-24 more for car insurance because they are likelier to get in an accident. Both economic discrimination and certain kinds of animus, or a hostile feeling when engaging with people of different races, orientations or ability, are obstacles to social justice and socially optimal outcomes. Gneezy and List discuss various Continue reading

The Why Axis: Be Careful What You Choose, It May Be Used Against You!

For chapter 7 of The Why Axis, Gneezy and List address the “hidden motives behind discrimination.” This idea looks at discrimination, whether with economic intentions or simply bad ones. You may ask, what is economic discrimination like? In some cases, it could make sense economically for the firm to discriminate, but it Gneezy and List note that it could come off as pure hostility towards the group of people that are being targeted. An example that they use looks at how an airline might address the cost of seat(s) based on a consumers weight. Southwest Airlines, for example, will charge an obese person the cost of two tickets if they meet Continue reading

Argentina’s Tale of Debt Struggle

Argentina has been the center of global discussion for the past 14 years. No, it’s not because of its amazing soccer players or its spectacular waterfalls. The reason that Argentina has been the topic of debate is due to its decision to simply not pay back it’s debt of $100 billion. Argentina saw it could not provide the government services that their people needed, so they told the world they were going to sweep their debt under the rug. How do global entities and foreign lenders deal with a country that refuses to pay back their loans? Well, Argentina’s investors Continue reading

Economics of Sleep

  More sleep is usually positively correlated with beneficial variables such as increased cognitive ability, better weight management, and overall wellbeing. But can the amount we sleep explain important health and economic indicators? Lauren Hale, a sleep researcher at Stony Brook University uses sleep as a social justice issue: “Generally, people who have more opportunities, more control over their lives, are also better sleepers. … Is it true that either racial minorities, low-educated, low job-security individuals, people who live in high-risk neighborhoods, who experience fear at night, are these people who clearly have some sort of social disadvantage, are also Continue reading

“The world has not turned on us, we have turned on her.”

“You’re living through a time when virtually half of humanity’s intellectual, social and spiritual legacy is being allowed to slip away. This does not have to happen. These peoples are not failed attempts at being modern — quaint and colorful and destined to fade away as if by natural law.” –Wade Davis; TED Talk The World Wide Web of Belief and Ritual (2008) Eight years and almost two presidential elections since Wade Davis’ TED talk was uploaded onto the internet, we have still only yet begun to understand and articulate the magnitude of our growing environmental catastrophe. We’ve begun to Continue reading

Delaware: Worse Than the Cayman Islands

Can you guess which State is home to the most Fortune 500 companies? I bet Delaware was not obvious. That random State most people rack their brains to place on a map is taking the lead over the equally un-placeable Cayman Islands for best tax haven on Earth. Delaware has more corporate entities than people – 945,326 to 897,934. Last year alone over 133 thousand businesses set up there, and they’re paying very very little in taxes. About $9.5 billion in taxes is assumed to have been avoided just do to Delaware being a lousy teammate. “The Delaware loophole,” as Continue reading