The Cost of a Lockdown

Recent events in Brussels had me wondering: what is the impact of shutting down a city for a few days? In the wake of the Paris attacks, Brussels (the capital city of Belgium) was largely in the state of lockdown as authorities hunt down suspects and work to mitigate what they describe as an “imminent threat.” I was personally surprised that such a large city would be voluntarily shuttered for any significant amount of time, so I decided to poke around into the economic costs of making such a decision. The situation reminded me of the lockdown of Boston during the 2013 Continue reading The Cost of a Lockdown

Black Friday Approaches…

Two Black Friday tidbits as that wild celebration of American consumerism approaches… Black Friday is clearly an American tradition. However, it may surprise you that Black Friday seems to be adopting the hallmark of more traditional holidays: baubles that you pull out of the attic over and over. According to Chron, around 11 percent of all Black Thursday and Black Friday deals that you’ll be seeing this year were re-used from last year. How does that warm glow of nostalgia feel? Although Thanksgiving is a national holiday unique to the United States, Black Friday–even though it originally stems from being the day Continue reading Black Friday Approaches…

TPP: A Logger Perspective

Inspired by Planet Money’s recent episode on the Trans Pacific Partnership, I decided to look through the text of the deal… from a Logger perspective. So, I brought up the “US Tariff Elimination-Schedule” and did a quick ctrl-f search for “axe.” I have put the Logger-relevant section of the table in the post below, but first here are the definitions of a few acronyms and codes that appear there: customs duties on originating goods provided for in the items in staging category EIF shall be eliminated entirely, and such goods shall be duty-free on the date of entry into force Continue reading TPP: A Logger Perspective

APM Marketplace’s Final Note

This week, I have decided to forgo spotlighting an issue or an article on the blog. Instead, I’m going to share one of my all-time favorite sources of economic tidbits: APM Marketplace’s Final Note. This feed is updated approximately every week day. It is a written-out version of Kai Rysdall’s closing segment to their radio show, which is only half a minute or so of air time. Thus, the material is brief… but it still packs a pretty good punch. Here are a few of my favorite more recent tidbits from the Final Note feed: This final note on the way Continue reading APM Marketplace’s Final Note

The Military Pantry Complex

Ah, modern supermarkets. Where can you find such a vaster array of more brightly colored and oh-so conveniently packaged foodstuffs all jockeying for your attention, screaming “Buy me! Consume me!” With the supermarket as our temple and the singing commercial as our litany, are we likely to fire the world with an irresistible vision of America’s exalted purpose and inspiring way of life? – Adlai Stevenson I always thought of the American supermarket as the domain of pure capitalism. In Economics 170, the supermarket was a commonly used backdrop to theoretical analysis, for example the question “Are chicken and beef perfect Continue reading The Military Pantry Complex


Economists sure love their charts, as any student who survives Econ 170 has learned. Data visualization isn’t just the decorative frosting on lesson plans and published papers. It is an absolutely essential interface between people and data. Briefly consider this data on annual percent change in GDP in the United States from FRED: DATE VALUE 1955-01-01 7.125955765883840 1956-01-01 2.131213376900720 1957-01-01 2.102826706703490 1958-01-01 -0.731728665207882 1959-01-01 6.898619218085940 1960-01-01 2.566027153202800 1961-01-01 2.554101761976380 1962-01-01 6.114879435404820 1963-01-01 4.355504976980980 1964-01-01 5.767719183950940 1965-01-01 6.497636614399920 1966-01-01 6.595334041630260 1967-01-01 2.743014189834750 1968-01-01 4.909046030916900 1969-01-01 3.139619503066850 1970-01-01 0.202123088186139 1971-01-01 3.295743329097830 1972-01-01 5.262807206376060 1973-01-01 5.643390319077960 1974-01-01 -0.516677958914673 1975-01-01 -0.198293195948870 1976-01-01 5.386836510161830 1977-01-01 4.608445145318870 Continue reading Sonification!

Taxi vs. Uber Follow-Up

Last week, I had a mild case of deja vu reading Lorraine’s post providing an economic analysis of Uber’s entry into the New York transportation market. I couldn’t quite place where I had heard the story before. Then, almost the very next item on my RSS feed was an infographic from the Onion comparing Uber and traditional taxi services. A few days later, I remembered where I had heard about taxi medallions: NPR’s Planet Money. In particular, they ran a show this summer entitled “Taxi King.” The episode features an interview with Gene Freidman, New York taxi fleet magnate, on Continue reading Taxi vs. Uber Follow-Up

Groundhog Day in Greece (Part 3)

[This post follows up on Part Two from last week and Part One from the week before]. Over the last two weeks, I have been posting about the question: why have the parties negotiating over the future of Greece allowed a seemingly needless series of near catastrophes (followed by last-minute resolutions) to occur? Last week, I took a behavioral approach and considered procrastination as a potential contribution to the phenomenon. This week, we’ll consider a game theory point of view. The BBC featured an interesting (and brief!) article earlier this year describing the Greek situation from a game theory perspective. Continue reading Groundhog Day in Greece (Part 3)

Groundhog Day in Greece (Part Two)

[This post is follows up on Part One from last week]. Last week I brought up the question: why have the parties negotiating the future of Greece allowed a seemingly needless series of near catastrophes (followed by last-minute resolutions) to occur? One answer might be the reason why you (probably) write your essays the night before they’re due. Collin’s great article from last year delves into an economics-flavored analysis of procrastination. If you don’t have time to give it a read–which you should definitely do–the gist is this: “…given the choice between having a good thing ($100) now or later, we tend Continue reading Groundhog Day in Greece (Part Two)

Groundhog Day in Greece

I thought I would take this opportunity early on in the semester to take another look at one of the bigger stories of the summer: the brief time in June and July Greece stood on the brink of default and the Eurozone stood on the edge of crisis. Not only was the international media thoroughly aflutter over the situation, but emergency measures imposed on Greeks at best proved a severe inconvenience. Most visibly, capital controls curtailed the ability of Greeks to access their savings, leading to long lines for ATMs.   NPR’s Planet Money team interviewed a man who, disillusioned Continue reading Groundhog Day in Greece