What’s all the Fuss Around the TPP?

For those who aren’t familiar, there’s been increasing talk coming from the Obama administration about utilizing a fast-track path to get a wide-reaching trade agreement between several countries around the Pacific Ocean. These countries are, tentatively, Taiwan, Phillipines, Laos, Columbia and Indonesia, with several other potential members, including India. Together, this coalition makes up an overwhelming portion of total world-GDP, and helps to set some kind of trading rules in place with the idea that no individual nation ends up losing out too badly. The general wisdom of economics states that free trade is always a good thing, as was Continue reading What’s all the Fuss Around the TPP?

Game Theory in International Climate Change Politics

Whether it’s in my personal or academic life, I always have this desire to figure out why people do the things that they do. Fortunately, there’s a branch of economics for that. This past fall, I took a microeconomics class where we touched upon a topic that I found especially fascinating called Game Theory. In case you don’t know what it is, Game Theory is a strategy of analyzing decision making wherein a model is made to figure out the optimal strategies for two or more parties in some sort of competitive situation. Game Theory is used not just in economics, but Continue reading Game Theory in International Climate Change Politics

Podcasting: An Emerging Industry? (Part 5)

The past few weeks, I’ve been looking at the genesis of “podcasting” through an economic lens. This week, I’m turning to look at the current state of the podcast market. At a first glance, the podcast industry seems to follow the “public good” paradigm. Economists define a public good as “A product that one individual can consume without reducing its availability to another individual and from which no one is excluded.”. Although there is some marginal cost associated with digitally distributing the sound files to a listener, this cost is very small. Except for the largest operations (Ira Glass claimed in 2011 that Continue reading Podcasting: An Emerging Industry? (Part 5)

A Risk Averse Student’s Dream

Arizona State University recently announced that they will be offering “pay- as –you- pass” online college courses. How this will work is that students can enroll in freshman courses online free of charge. The initial offerings include math, humanities, arts and design, social-behavioral sciences, and natural sciences. The catch is that the student only has to pay if they pass the class and intend to use the credit. This idea was put in place primarily with the hope that it would help certain students reduce the risk of going into huge debt on their path to attempting to obtain a college diploma. Continue reading A Risk Averse Student’s Dream

“Flexible Hours” are Benefiting Employers and Hurting Employees

As-needed scheduling and hours for workers is becoming more popular with many businesses. Employers may give workers tentative shifts, but then contact them right before telling them they are no longer needed for said shift – if needs are already met. This “just-in-time” scheduling is being picked up by restaurants and retailers to keep from paying for more employees than needed and minimize their other costs. It makes sense initially: through this system employers won’t have to pay unneeded employees to sit around. However, Robert Reich of Guernica argues that this flexible kind of scheduling is not allowing workers to live their lives. The Continue reading “Flexible Hours” are Benefiting Employers and Hurting Employees

Poaching Markets

This past week I heard some talk on the radio about the issue we are having with rhino poaching. These animals have a significant value on the black market, at least for some of their parts (such as their tusks). It is interesting to think of this issue in an economic sense, as it is illegal to hunt these animals. Even with the illegality of this market, the demand, and price of rhino tusks have been increasing as the number of rhinos decrease. It seems that people value the idea of owning such a scarce item. The growing market for these tusks Continue reading Poaching Markets

The Anti-Boomsday

Boomsday is a book authored by the famous satirist Christopher Buckley (most famous for ‘Thank you for Smoking) about a young blogger who gets fed up with the baby boomer generation’s excessive social security payments. In order to solve this mounting debt crisis, she proposes that the government provide incentives for people to ‘transition’ themselves when they reach the age of 70. This book was published only a few months before the beginning of the recession, and many people at the time were warily eyeing the exponentially increasing costs of social security as a problem down the road. While Social Continue reading The Anti-Boomsday

Drachma Drama

Lately, there have been unsettling talk in the international economy about a “Grexit”: Greece leaving the Eurozone if it refuses to pay its debts and has to default. Greece’s debt stands at approximately 323 billion euros (366 billion dollars). Although this doesn’t seem like a huge number, especially compared to the United State’s debt of 16.34 trillion dollars, the importance of the number is in the debt-to-GDP ratio. This is simply an equation with a country’s total debt in the numerator and the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the denominator. It is generally concerning for developed countries to have Continue reading Drachma Drama

Podcasting: An Emerging Industry? (Part 4)

Three weeks ago I outlined the history of the podcast. I noticed that previous attempts to launch podcast-like services as organized business ventures had failed. Podcasting only took on its modern form around 2005, when it launched as an open-source method of embedding audio files in RSS feeds. The first user-side podcast service was the personal project of an ex-MTV host. These observations raise the question: why did podcasting emerge outside of the corporate sphere? Two weeks ago, I addressed this question by considering podcasting as a “disruptive technology.” This week, I’ll look at the early days of podcasting in Continue reading Podcasting: An Emerging Industry? (Part 4)

Most Hated and Successful US Airline

How can it be that the fastest growing and most profitable U.S. airline is the one most complained about? The most common reason that people don’t travel is the airfare price, which combined with Spirit airline’s odd success proves that cheap ticket prices are what fliers care most about. You have to plan months in advance just to feel like you are still overpaying for your ticket. Then when you get to the airport and run into a slew of other fees, ranging from checking baggage to being forced into purchasing overpriced airport food. For some people, the fees don’t Continue reading Most Hated and Successful US Airline