The Lessons of Fidget Spinners

Toy fads come and go and it seems Christmas doesn’t get a look-in anymore. A toy which was destined as an aid for children with a learning disorder becomes a fad before you know it. The lesson is in how quickly this can happen without regulation and with the help of social media.

YOU can spin it on your nose, chin, finger or tongue. Some include LED lights, others resemble a ship’s wheel, or even a skull and crossbones. The fidget spinner has three paddle-shaped blades attached to a central, weighted disc containing....

In Defence of the Dismal Science

Economists have received a bad rap in recent years, but their devotion to data still offers the most practical, bias-free way to assess our most pressing problems


By Greg Ip

Aug. 25, 2017

Earlier this month, a Greek court convicted an economist for what amounted to doing his job. In 2010, Andreas Georgiou took over Greece’s statistical agency and revised upward the figures for the country’s debt, which had long been suspect, in order to meet European Union standards. Ever s....

The Gender Pay Gap – getting to the real problem, not the bumper sticker

The Economist 23 August 2017

Are women really paid much less than men for the same work, as is often claimed? Figures from 25 rich and middle-income countries gathered by Korn Ferry, a consultancy, show that women make 98 cents for each dollar earned by men employed at the same organisation, level and job function. Overall, women earn on average 79% of what men do, but this gap can be almost entirely explained by the fact that men are more likely to do highly paid jobs—not because they are paid more than women doing the same work. In Britain, France and Germany, for example, around 80-90% of executive jobs, and less than two-thirds of clerical ....

Missing Report–Building Trust for Life Beyond Work

Income after work: comment on the “Missing Report” paper Chamberlain and Littlewood July 2017. This paper raises significant analytical questions about a topic that is too often and dangerously treated as a short term political play thing to grab votes. Here are some comments:

Michael Chamberlain and Michael Littlewood’s report The Missing 2016 Review: building trust for life beyond work provides welcome if demanding scrutiny of what is loosely termed retirement policy in NZ. Welcome because they probe issues which are all too frequently dismissed summarily with a shrug of the political shoulder. Demanding because in this area the ....

Serendipity in science

A chance finding may lead to a treatment for multiple sclerosis

It has to do with sunscreen

EXPERIMENTS that go according to plan can be useful. But the biggest scientific advances often emerge from those that do not. Such is the case with a study just reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. When they began it, Hector DeLuca of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and his colleagues had been intending to examine the effects of ultraviolet (UV) light on mice sufferi....

Blockchain the Transformer

Do yourself a favour and read this to “get it” about blockchain and why it matters… or try to make time stand still.

This from Kevin Cooney – ASB’s National Manager Rural:

It’s vital that New Zealand’s agri industry pays close attention to blockchain development and ensures we are well positioned to capture our share of new value this technology could unlock.

Mention blockchain and agriculture in the same breath, and the image of a heavy duty chain towing one farm vehicle behind another pops into my mind.

Turns out, that’s a handy analogy. Like a physical chain, blockchain connects parties directly with one ....

Males and Females–the differences in the way our brains are wired

This post by Priceonomics shows just how differently males and females think – the differences in their internet searches and popular websites is staggering. Interesting too to see where millennials go for their information and entertainment.

Data source: Quantcast

The number one website with the most female traffic is Zulily, an ecommerce site selling clothing, toys, and home products at deep discounts. Women also made up the majority of traffic at ....

A Key White House Post which remains unfilled

FIRST PET – It may be time for Donald Trump to find a four-legged friend

DONALD TRUMP has broken the mould of the American presidency in almost every major category. He is the country’s oldest commander-in-chief, its richest and the only one in history without any governmental or military experience. He is one of just two presidents since 1888 to win an election without winning the popular vote. And last but not least, he is the first president without a pet in near....

The Business of Tax

ONE of the hottest debates in economic policy at the moment is how to ensure companies are paying the optimal amount of tax. On the right, politicians think that a lower corporate-tax rate will lead to more business investment and thus faster economic growth. Hence the initial stockmarket enthusiasm after President Donald Trump was elected on a platform that included cuts in business taxes. On the left, the belief is that business is not paying its “fair share” of tax and that it can be further squeezed to pay for spending commitments. Hence the promise of the Labour Party in Britain’s recent election campaign to push the corporate-tax rate up to 26% (from 19%).

How do these theorie....

A thought for today

This quote from Deirdre McCloskey makes very good sense:

“That businesspeople buy low and sell high in a particularly alert and advantageous way does not make them bad unless all trading is bad, unless when you yourself shop prudently you are bad, unless any tall poppy needs to be cut down, unless we wish to run our ethical lives on the sin of envy.”
Deirdre N. McCloskey

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Margarine sales: investors can’t believe they’re not better

Demand for natural fats is rising

THE debate over fats is larded with controversy. For years doctors argued that they should be expunged from diets entirely. Saturated fats, they reckoned, were especially harmful. As a result, consumers increasingly turned to margarine and demand for butter melted away. The vegetable-based spread remained dominant for decades. But two trends have since eaten away at its market share.

First, the crusade against fats is waning. Nowadays, doctors are much more sanguine about eating fat in general. Instead they have set their si....

Six Feet of Mortgage Regulations Explain Slower Housing Market in U.S.

Thanks to FutureofCapitalism for this post:

More than 14,000 pages of new rules and regulations governing home mortgages have slowed America’s economy by half a percent a year over the past five years, one of America’s most prominent bankers says.

The banker, James Dimon, has been CEO of JPMorgan Chase for more than a decade. He makes the complaint in his annual letter to shareholders.

Dimon acknowledges that the financial crisis “was caused in part by poor mortgage lending practices.” But he says the post-crisis changes have gone too far. That has made mortgages more expensive for consumers and made it nearly impossible for lots of people to qualify.

“It’s noteworthy....

The Paradox of Choice

The modern entertainment industry is a nirvana for consumers

For America’s bloated pay-TV providers, not so much

From The Economist Feb 11th 2017 edition

FOR couch potatoes and bookworms, filmgoers and music-lovers, this is a golden age. The internet provides an almost endlessly long menu of options to meet the almost infinitely quirky tastes of humanity. Smartphones have put all kinds of entertainment—from classic rock to pres....

The New Old Thing

Conformity, nostalgia and 5G at the Mobile World Congress

More black rectangles made their debut in Barcelona

“A SEA of sameness.” A veteran of the Mobile World Congress (MWC), Ben Wood of CCS Insight, a consultancy, was not expecting much from the mobile industry’s main trade show this week in Barcelona. As one product launch followed another, it was easy to lose track. Whether it was LG, Huawei or Wiko, they all showed off yet more black rectangles with slightly varying specifications.

Another reminder of the smartphone busi....

Reducing the alcohol purchase age

Reducing the alcohol purchase age from 20 to 18 did not increase the number of road accidents. If anything, risky driving dropped for a while.
Stefan Boes and Steve Stillman have updated their earlier work on New Zealand’s alcohol purchase age to bring in some more recent accident data to allow for longer term trends.
They make an important methodological point – one that applies to a lot of work on minimum legal drinking ages. It is really easy to set up a regression discontinuity design using the birthday as the point of the discontinuity. The 17 year old, before the birthday, is the same person a week later, except with access to alcohol. Sure. But the RDD me....