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2 months

Digitization of Media Industries: Quantity and Quality

Digitization has revolutionized media industries. The equipment needed to produce a movie, television show, or musical album has gotten remarkably cheaper. The cost of distributing video, sound, or text has dropped dramatically, too, in some cases to nearly zero. In addition, the power of the "gatekeepers" who used to determine what content would be broadly distributed--producers and publishers--has been substantially diminished.

2 months

How Food Banks Use Markets

"Imagine that someone gave you 300 million pounds of food and asked you to distribute it to the poor—through food banks—all across the United States. The nonprofit Feeding America faces this problem every year. The food in question is donated to Feeding America by manufacturers and distributors across the United States. As an example, a Walmart in Georgia could have 25,000 pounds of excess tinned fruit at one of its warehouses and give it to Feeding America to distribute to one of 210 regional food banks. How should this be accomplished?"

2 months

Do We Even Know If the Gig Economy Is Growing?

The concept of the "gig economy" clearly captures something real, but it can be hard to measure or define in the statistical sense that brings joy to my heart. For example, it clearly refers to those who drive for Uber and Lyft. But does it refer more broadly to all workers with "alternative work arrangements," who are hired for a short-term job with no serious expectation that it will become a longer-term employment connection? Does it cover people who obtain jobs through a temp agency and work for a series of employers, for example?

2 months

Venezuela: A Case of Socialist Organized Theft

Much has been written about the economic disaster perpetrated by the Maduro-Chavez regime in Venezuela. The magnitude of it is simply difficult to match. A sad global example of how to destroy a rich country.

2 months

Mexico Misallocated

Economic growth in Mexico presents a puzzle. Mexico has followed many of the standard recommendations that are said to support economic growth. For example, it has prevented a recurrence of the inflationary fevers that used to grip Mexico every few years. Rates of national investment are up. Investment in education and human capital is up. Mexican workers have a  high labor force participation rate. Mexico has signed international agreements to reduce trade barriers. It has done a reasonable amount of privatization and deregulation, and the result of all these changes has been slow growth.

2 months

A Plan to Fix Social Security

Some hard questions defy easy answers. What is the meaning of life? What happens right at the event horizon of a black hole? How can the US substantially reduce health care spending? But for other questions, the answers are fairly clear, and what is lacking is a willingness to choose. Fixing Social Security falls into this category. As I have argued from time to time in the past, the actuaries at Social Security regularly publish a list of possible tax increases and benefit cuts, and its not hard to put together a package that fixes Social Security. I sometimes say that if we locked a group of 100 randomly chosen people in a room, and said they couldn't leave until they had a two-thirds majority for a plan to fix Social Security, they could be out in time for lunch. 

2 months

Some Economics of Foot-Binding

When I have thought of foot-binding in the past, which wasn't all that often, I've tended to view it as just one of those grim social practices, built on a mixture of social positioning and sexism, which disfigured the bodies of women. That's not wrong, but it's an oversimplification. Why did such a practice arise at one time, but not another time? Why did it end? Why did it differ across regions of China? Why feet? Xinyu Fan and Lingwei Wu give a fuller sense of context in "The Economic Motives for Foot-binding," a version of which was given at the meetings of the Allied Social Science Associations in Atlanta in early January. 

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