Friday, December 30, 2011

Economics in Unusual Places

1 - Using game theory at a buffet with limited food options to figure out what foods you should choose first (HT: MR). Basically, instead of just grabbing your favorites first, you should think about what other people will grab first (and as importantly, last). If your favorite food is hated by your fellow diners, leave it alone - it will still be there later - and pick up something else that might disappear if you don't grab it now. The article also has insights about the kinds of social norms that make everyone better off, how to pile the most on your plate, and some Wansinkian insights how much women's food choices are influenced by their neighbors.

2 - Some more game theory on why Iran has told the US just how it captured the Sentinal drone: by ensuring that it will only have one to sell, it makes other countries much more willing to pay for that one than they would be if they thought 2-3 more might appear in the next few years. Iran is sending a signal or using a commitment device about its future behavior to impact the actions of its fellow players today.

3 - I reported earlier on how G.I. Joe action figures are not classified as "action figures", but are "dolls" so they can get a lower tariff. The X-Men apparently are marketed by Toy Biz as not being human at all so they can avoid being tariffed at the doll rate altogether and instead get classified as "toys." Little did the X-Men realize their own marketing agents were plotting against their basic humanity, and all in the name of economics!

4 - Are we on our way to a Kuznets Gender Curve? Very poor countries and households can't afford to select children based on gender. As income rises (to the level of India and China, say) there is more and more discrimination favoring boys - medicine can tell families whether the fetus is a boy or a girl and they can react as they wish. However, new evidence is showing that upper-middle class Indian families ($3200/yr and up) are reversing the trend. The Economist praises bourgeouise values for saving the girls.

5 - Cowen pushes back hard on the idea that wealth is power, whether in politics, charity, or the market:
Second, the wealthy in groups do not always coordinate very effectively, to say the least.  ...  Third, many of the very wealthy choose to consume ego rents rather than effectiveness.  Fourth, “democracy” and “the market” control large chunks of modern life, and it is hard for outsiders to commandeer those processes.... the ability of the rich at the margin to control policy through intentional acts, either individually or in groups is much overrated.
Wealth does protect you from the depredations of others, such as being treated very badly by the police or legal system.  In this defensive sense wealth can give you a good deal of power.

No comments:

Post a Comment