Barnes & Noble or Barnes & No More?

By Jessica Feese (Creighton University)

Anyone looking to buy a bookstore? Recent news has it Barnes & Noble is on the lookout to sell. Barnes & Noble enthusiasts may treat this as the end of the world, but just look at the facts: Barnes & Noble (B&N) is a company that sells elastic goods. In other words, there are a lot of substitutes to the company, books are a luxury, and time is money. And demand for books from Barnes & Noble has been slowly decreasing. As proven by, “the company’s market value is around $400 million, down about 80% from its 2006 all-time high about $2 billion”.   Continue reading “Barnes & Noble or Barnes & No More?”

Let Me Sweet Talk You Into Reading This

Working in restaurants, sweet talk paid my rent. Sweet talk ensured a good dining experience despite the $200 bottle of wine.  It was particularly lucrative when the sweet talk was so good they opted for a second bottle. Or, that five-star dessert adding another $50 to the check. Sweet talk wasn’t only directed at customers. I used sweet talk to persuade managers or fellow servers to put me in good sections or let me go home early. Continue reading “Let Me Sweet Talk You Into Reading This”

Every Breath You Take: Smith’s Creepy, Yet Impartial Spectator

Recently a friend and I were ranking creepiest love songs. The beautiful, but haunting “Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley was mentioned as a runner-up. I suggested that really anything by the ever-angsty Death Cab for Cutie qualified. But we ended up agreeing that  “Every Breath You Take” by the Police takes the cake. He may only be able to see her in his dreams, but there’s a good chance she should only see him in court to file a restraining order. Continue reading “Every Breath You Take: Smith’s Creepy, Yet Impartial Spectator”

Sh*t Economists Say Part 2

Do you sometimes talk to your economist friends and they say something that leaves you scratching your head? Maybe you feel like you’ll never understand the words coming out of those econ nerds’ mouths. Don’t worry, we have the solution! Below we have provided some helpful translations, so you too can throw around confusing jargon with ease: Continue reading “Sh*t Economists Say Part 2”

We Got It Wrong: Paul Romer and William Nordhaus share the 2018 Nobel Prize in Economics.

Alex: No! I was right! ….A year ahead of time. Clearly, I was just predicting the future. Paul Romer is a Nobel Laureate for “integrating technological innovations into long-run macroeconomic analysis.” Remember when I talked about the impact of innovations in South Korea in our 2017 predictions? How they were on the cutting edge with dancing robots and freaky horror movies? I totally knew Romer would be getting a Nobel soon…even if I got the year wrong. Want to bet my choice for this year – Kevin Murphy – receives the prize in 2019?

But my imperfect prophetic skills aren’t nearly as interesting as the fact that Romer and Nordhaus were granted this award together.  Why were these two economists grouped together for a prize? What brings a climate change economist that advocates for the carbon tax together with an economist who contributed to the Solow growth model?

It’s because of how their individual works together impacted government policy.

Romer argued that innovation has a huge impact on economic growth. But how do we foster innovation? Intellectual property rights can be used to incentivize more market investment in R and D projects. However, if property rights prevent potential entrepreneurs from entering the market they can actually strangle future innovations. For example, Romer looked at the impact of health insurance on medical innovations, trying to determine whether governments are underinvesting in the market for scientists and engineers, and what alternatives exist for fostering innovation.

Romer didn’t stick to just writing about fostering innovation though. In 2000, he created the company Aplia to improve students interactions in the online classroom through homework and courses. This was later sold to Cengage Learning.

Kenzi: So I was wrong as well, but after reading about William Nordhaus, I think the Committee chose well. Nordhaus won the Nobel Prize for his work on the economics of climate change. Who knew there was such a field? Let alone that it is revolutionary enough to win the prize. Really, this should not come as a surprise to us because #economicsiseverywhere. Nevertheless, his work made a great impact in cost-benefit analysis of the diminishing ozone layer, global warming, and all things #green.

Nordhaus created the Dynamic Integrated Climate-Economy model which “integrates in an end-to-end fashion the economics, carbon cycle, climate science, and impacts in a highly aggregated model that allows a weighing of the costs and benefits of taking steps to slow greenhouse warming.” His model is used by the Environmental Protection Agency to craft better policies for clean energy in the least costly way to producers and consumers.

Fascinating side note: Nordhaus was the first economist to study the economic significance of the light bulb.  He started with the prehistoric way of creating light, a wood fire.  He documents the cost of each method to study how prices change over time. He ended his experiment with the modern light bulb. Tim Harford summarizes his findings writing, “A thing that was once too precious to use is now too cheap to notice.” I love economics.

Kathryn: I mean…I said I was going to be wrong when I made my prediction, so no real surprise there. But I also think that the committee was right to recognize the timeliness of Romer’s and Nordhaus’s work. Both Romer and Nordhaus developed models that analyzed the interaction of the market within its broader context of government regulation, business incentives and even nature. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences press release stated these two economists were selected as they had both “designed methods addressing some of our time’s most basic and pressing questions about how we create long-term sustained and sustainable economic growth.” From patents to light bulbs, the research of Romer and Nordhaus aims to illuminate how economics and policy impact the world around us and how we can best achieve prosperity and human flourishing.

Which is exactly what we here at ReasonablEconomics try to do as well by bringing you blog posts aimed at revealing the hidden economics in your world! So where’s our Nobel prize, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences? (Perhaps they’re waiting for the mean author age of our site to increase just a little…don’t want to give out a lifetime achievement award too early!)

Still, maybe if Alex puts us on his list of future Nobel prize winners we’ll win…eventually.

I Charged Too Little to Mow the Lawn

After the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009, my friend and I decided to start a landscaping business. Neither of us had gone to landscaping school nor did we have a particular affinity for lawn-mowers. (At least, not yet.) But hey, we thought, we live in Florida, grass grows like crazy most of the year, and, like haircuts, lawn mowing is pretty recession-proof. More importantly, we would be “business owners” instead of restaurant waiters. Continue reading “I Charged Too Little to Mow the Lawn”

Collier’s Hope for the Syrians

He shifted uncomfortably on the hospital bed as we walked in. His eyes avoided ours. The doctor told us they were reconstructing his leg.  I tried not to stare at the hospital blanket, wondering what lay underneath. The rest of my travel group peppered his mother with questions. Since arriving in Israel had they heard any news about their hometown, their community? Was it safe to return? Were her other children and her husband alive? She didn’t have answers. The doctor explained to us that as Syrian refugees, while the boy and his mother are receiving care in the Israeli hospital, they are not allowed to leave their hospital room or receive news from outside for their own safety and security. Continue reading “Collier’s Hope for the Syrians”

The Body’s Feedback Loops

Don’t you love feedback? Admittedly, some of us, not so much. But, if we think about it. Feedback is a necessary part of life. We get feedback whenever we do anything. If you try to shoot a basketball into the hoop, and you miss, you’re given instant feedback to change your form or improve your aim. Continue reading “The Body’s Feedback Loops”

Ready To Risk It All Part II, Continuous Processes

The dog days of summer are fast approaching. Even from my air-conditioned office cubicle, I can feel the temperature outside rising – and my productivity levels decreasing with each additional degree. But I’m looking forward to the heat for more reasons than just excuses to borrow my friend’s pool. As the dog days of summer approach, I literally see more dogs out and about when I go outside. As a dog-deprived graduate student, this is the time of year that I live for. In addition to creeping on the dogs of D.C., I am constantly obsessing over my friend’s dogs. Whenever I see my friends’ puppies, I’m always amazed at the dramatic amount of change that has occurred since I saw them last. It’s a truly incredible phenomenon how quickly puppies seem to grow when you only see them in discrete time intervals! Living with a pup that you interact with on the daily, however, you barely notice the change. Continue reading “Ready To Risk It All Part II, Continuous Processes”