Thesis Corner | Spenser McDonald

Thanks to everyone that came out to the Senior Thesis Poster Colloquium last night, it was a great success! Anyone that would like to recommend one of the theses from last night can do so by emailing me at This week on Thesis Corner we have an interview from Spenser McDonald. If you could give us a brief summary of your thesis..  I was writing on the California water market, trying to find if water was efficiently priced. If it was it would have been easy and since it wasn’t, why wasn’t it efficiently priced? What would you say is Continue reading Thesis Corner | Spenser McDonald

Solar Leasing

Solar energy has been growing in popularity in the United States, and alongside its growth has developed a new business model for it: solar leasing. NPR released a new article about the decision to opt for a lease versus ownership. In the article, they go over some of the differences, but I wanted to add some background to these options because it’s interesting and some important issues were left out of the article. The way leasing solar panels works is rather than owning the panels outright, you pay a flat fee that increases over time and in exchange all of Continue reading Solar Leasing

Not All Energy Efficiency is Created Equally

We are constantly bombarded with advertisements of goods that market their innovations in efficiency. Whether it is a car with a higher MPG, or a washing machine that uses less water per load, companies are quickly realizing that environmental efficiency is a huge appeal to a broad range of consumers. Although energy efficiency with everyday goods is a step in the right direction, not all energy efficiency should be treated equally. In fact, some cases of energy efficiency might end up being more harmful in the long run. Although this may seem counterintuitive, it can be explained with Jevons Paradox. Continue reading Not All Energy Efficiency is Created Equally

Some Arid Economic Humor

I’ve written a few posts over the past year about humor in economics. Humor in the field, it seems sometimes, is a desert. Not necessarily for its desolation, but for its dryness. However, this gem from APM’s Marketplace caught my eye for its extreme lack of moisture. A paper entitled “A Few Goodmen: Surname-Sharing Economist Coauthors” was presented at a recent American Economics Association in Boston. Its main finding:    We believe this paper is the first written by four economists who share a surname. From the conclusion section,   Future breakthroughs on this topic should be possible. We believe much could be Continue reading Some Arid Economic Humor

Thesis Corner | Taylor Smith

Those of you who read Sound Economics last year might remember that in the spring we had a special column dubbed “Thesis Corner”. This semester we are bringing it back and this time we are featuring theses written by the class of 2015. If there are any seniors that you would like to see on the Thesis Corner, or if you are an Economics senior that would like to be, get in touch with me at Our first thesis on the column is by Taylor Smith, who also happens to be the ASAPS Director of Business Services. You can come see him present his thesis, along Continue reading Thesis Corner | Taylor Smith

The Science of Decision-Making: Framing

In 1982, Nobel Prize winning psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman conducted a study of how framing affects decision-making. They created a scenario and asked two groups of participants to choose the program that was most optimal. This scenario was called the “Asian disease problem” and it yielded surprising results. Try it for yourself: “Imagine that the U.S. is preparing for the outbreak of an unusual Asian disease, which is expected to kill 600 people. Two alternative programs to combat the disease have been proposed. Assume the exact scientific estimate of the consequences of the programs are as follows”:   Continue reading The Science of Decision-Making: Framing

Bill Belichick Knows Game Theory

I thought Connor’s post yesterday was interesting in the way it took a game theoretic approach to the last play of Sunday’s Super Bowl. So, sorry if you were looking for something other than football, but you will have to give us a break just for this week. I wanted to look at the strategy choices of the team that won the game on the last play rather than the team who has been scrutinized so heavily this entire week. Every play in football is an instance of game theory. Teams are trying to keep their opponents off guard by changing and Continue reading Bill Belichick Knows Game Theory

Run the Ball!

I will admit, that being someone who was born and raised in Seattle, this weekend’s football game was a little upsetting. I lived through the disappointment that the Mariners of the early oughts brought with them when they lost, twice in a row, to the Yankees, forever cementing them (and possibly the entire state) as some kind of evil empire in my young mind. So it will likely come as no surprise that around 6:30 pm on Sunday I had all kinds of colorful language for Pete Carroll, Darrell Bevell and pretty much anything I saw when Russell Wilson, with Continue reading Run the Ball!

The Price Tag on Free Music

How many people can you name that legally own all of their music? I can name two– my parents. Websites such as pirate bay and many other P2P (peer to peer) networks make it simple and fast to illegally acquire almost any song or other form of downloadable media for no cost at all. Even with the demise of LimeWire, a popular media sharing application in 2012, an increasing number of file sharing websites are emerging at a rate that is seemingly unstoppable. The average teenager claims to have around 8,000 songs in their music library, yet at the 99 Continue reading The Price Tag on Free Music

Commitment Devices

Last week, I wrote on the perverse incentive structure of gyms that encourages them to discourage (actively or passively) attendance. This week, I’m writing on commitment devices. These are mechanisms that people use to engineer an incentive structure to set them up for success with a difficult task. A few years ago I heard a story from RadioLab told by a woman who was struggling to quit smoking. She decided to set up a small payment to a cause she found repulsive, the KKK I believe, that would go through if she lit up again. I suspect that it wasn’t Continue reading Commitment Devices