Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Saturday, December 18, 2004

"The Public Schools Tried to Pimp My Kids..."

That National Enquirer-esque headline, gleefully lifted out of context, is in a message Craig Newmark sent me. He was writing about my suggestion that our university seek sponsorship links for its websites, especially with and Chapters/Indigo, to raise funds. Here is the full quote:

Your idea that schools should be Amazon affiliates is even more appropriate for K-12. The public schools tried to pimp my kids into selling hideously overpriced gift wrap and chocolates. Affiliation with Amazon--and a few other high quality retailers--would make so much more sense. But I'd say it's no better than even money that U.S. public schools will do this in the next ten years. (Will private schools be smarter? Theory says they should...)
[quoted with permission]

When I suggested that we start putting click-throughs for Amazon and Chapters on websites here at UWO, they demurred, lamenting "the unfortunate trend of commercialization within the university."

Well, I am not going to fight this, but I embrace the trend of commercialization within the university; I do not see it as unfortunate at all! Furthermore, this approach will surely leave us less-well-funded than other places who are more innovative in their pursuit of funding. Oh well....sigh....

Many public schools (in our area, anyway) have had deals with Coca-Cola or Pepsi-Cola; maybe affiliation links on web pages aren't so far away. One difference, though, is that Coke and Pepsi work hard to sell their deals; with web-page affiliations, the schools would have to do the work.

Measuring the increase in corruption over two centuries

Ben Muse has an excellent piece on changes in the extent of government corruption over the past two centuries, summarizing the works by Stanley Engerman and Kenneth Sokoloff, and by Glaeser and Goldin.

Engerman and Sokoloff look at cost overruns for nearly two centuries and find that the ratio of actual to budgeted costs for government projects increased dramatically after WWII; they attribute a portion of the increase in cost overruns to corruption. Glaeser and Goldin examine key words in news articles and conclude that corruption has declined in the 20th century. It's hard to tell who is correct, but I lean toward Engerman and Sokoloff.

Read the entire posting for links to the original pieces.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Moral Outrage: Coase v. Inalienability

Nearly all law schools and economics departments teach something known as "The Coase Theorem", which states that so long as property rights are well-defined and enforced, and so long as transaction costs are low, then regardless of the initial assignment of property rights, scarce resources will move to their most highly valued use. The theorem is pretty much the same as Adam Smith's "invisible hand." However, by highlighting the importance of property rights and transaction costs, it has played an invaluable role in furthering the economic analysis of law.

And yet, as Alex Tabarrok points out at the Marginal Revolution, when it comes to getting into courses that are oversubscribed, students at NYU are not allowed to offer cash payments to someone already in the course (full story here). One student opposed the buying and selling of places in popular classes, saying that "... if the practice were approved by NYU, then poorer students would be at a disadvantage."

What a crock! What about the poorer students who would love to sell a spot in a class in order to get money to help pay the rent? They are clearly being disadvantaged by not allowing them to sell their place in the class.

The NYU vice dean has argued that spots in classes are not the students' property and therefore they don't have the right to sell them. This is pure sophistry.

As the famous article by Calabresi and Melamed taxonimizes, there are property rules (parties may buy and sell something), liability rules (you must pay compensation if you take something), and inalienability rules (no exchange is permitted, usually because of moral considerations). This vice-dean has single-handedly converted a property rule to an inalienability rule.

How long do you figure it will take for a black market to develop, as often happens in such cases?

And you have to love Alex's self-effacing tag line: "I have pioneered this approach even further. Students in my classes have been known to offer payment to get out. :)"

Cato and the D.C. non-stadium

Tom Palmer (no relation) posts on his blog that the Cato Institute's opposition to municipal funding for a new baseball stadium probably played an important role in the District council's opposition to the plan. The Cato piece was written by Coates and Humphreys, two really bright guys who have done some pretty convincing work to show that local multipliers for major league sports are negative!!
That result is consistent with what many folks in Winnipeg have told me about their loss of their NHL team - the team siphoned so much out of the city that it is better off, overall, without them.

Mr. Deeds Does Wall Street?

When is somebody going to make a film about some rich capitalist CEO who demonstrates that market capitalism helps the poor, while bleeding-heart interventionists make the poor worse off?
Don't wait for rich capitalist Adam Sandler to do it! Mr. Deeds is definitely on my "don't bother" list. Indeed.
[Thanks to Susan for the pointer]

The Economics of the Haj, Part II

[again, with thanks to JC]

The Islamic Development Bank [IDB] has raised the price of a sacrificial sheep coupon for the Haj from SR375 to SR450. Their monopoly in the sale of these coupons was created in 1998, in part, to address problems of the commons:

"Before the project, hundreds of thousands of carcasses were thrown away. Bulldozers buried them in huge pits," [Dr. Ali] said. "The government had to spend some SR20 million to get rid of carcasses littering the holy places. The project has put an end to all these problems," he added.

This year more than 18,000 butchers will be employed along with 700 veterinarians and 600 Shariah students. The animals will be examined at all stages until they are skinned and refrigerated.

By requiring coupons, the IDB creates identifiable and tradeable property rights, which should lead to a more efficient use of scarce resources (see Coase). There will be fewer negative externalities, the meat will be given to the poor, and the remaining parts will be rendered. For the entire story, click here. The story does not shed much light, though, on how the prices of these sheep coupons are determined by the authorities:

Dr. Ahmad Ali, president of the IDB, emphasized that the bank made every effort to keep the price down but that the increase reflected market conditions. As for camels, the market is open and pilgrims can negotiate a price including all services from slaughter to transport.
If sheep cause a tragedy of the commons type problem but camels don't, that says quite a bit about the relative values of the two types of animals.

So why do you suppose the IDB raised the price of the sacrificial sheep coupons?

Is Arbitrage Illegal in Canada?

A bunch of mutual funds were assessed penalties by Ontario's pseudo-judicial and unfortunately autonomous Ontario Securities Commission [OSC]. The mutual funds did nothing illegal. They did, however, allow fifteen large traders to move into and out of the funds they managed without charging these traders a premium (which their prospecti said they would charge) for short-term market timing. The CBC (which seems more-than-eagre to believe anyone dealing with large funds is evil) quotes the OSC:
"When certain investors engage in frequent trading market timing in foreign funds, and when those investors are not required to pay a proportionate fee to the fund, the economic interest of long-term unitholders of these foreign funds is adversely affected."

I am probably missing something, but I don't follow this. Weren't the market timers just moving prices a bit, in the very short term, toward where the prices were headed anyway? Or were they getting some advantages not available to "the little investor"? And even if they were receiving these advantages, why is this particular activity harmful to long-term unit-holders if all it does is move the price a bit overnight closer to the next morning's beginning equilibrium price?

Even if I am incorrect in questioning the OSC in this instance, they are well below reproach. Read what my colleague, Joel Fried, has to say about them.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Interviews with Great Writers
from the Paris Review

The Paris Review has posted its interviews with great writers to the internet. For over 50 years, the Review published interview with the likes of Faulkner, Hemingway, Albee, and Saul Bellow. Only those from the 50s have been posted so far, but there are many more to come in the new year.

In his interview (not yet posted), Tom Wolfe says, "All I need is a window not to write," which is why I gave up a corner office with lots of windows for an office on a quiet corridor, a small window, and absolutely no view.
That's my wimpy form of "precommitment strategy" - a far remove from burning bridges behind the troops to remove retreat from the list of viable options.

The University Bookstore Might Object

Some students come to see a prof perhaps a month or so before the term begins to find out what textbooks will be required for the course; then they order the books from Chapters/Indigo or from Sometimes they're able to get the books even cheaper from

So why don't we put click-throughs on our university, departmental, and course-based web-sites, with the proceeds going to the department? This suggestion is not original with me:

The university had just sold a lucrative "pouring rights" contract to Coca-Cola, so I asked, "What about selling advertising space on the department's Web page?" For a small consideration we could link bookstores or to our course lists. Students could get their books in one click, along with personalized recommendations: Students who bought The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction also bought Lacan for Dummies. "Another wise-guy suggestion" was the general reaction to my modest proposal. Six years later our department Web site is still not-for-profit -- we can barely pay someone to maintain it -- but I know that other departments are starting to cash in on their virtual space. [Link via Newmark's Door]

If the department were to open affiliates' accounts with these places, it would be easy to place the code on the websites. My prediction is that we will see more of this type of fund-raising over the next few years. I also predict that we will see university bookstores objecting to the increased competiton.
We should also consider using BlogAds and GoogleAds.

Get the Cockroach Drunk

A boy went to the hospital with a cockroach stuck in his ear [how did that happen???]. The doctor, who faces this situation on average up to twice a month, got the bug drunk in order to remove it. (link via Fark via Newmark's Door).
Question for economics of law folks: Who is the least-cost bearer of this risk?

Query: How do you get a cockroach drunk?
".... So, do you come here often? Would you like to come back to my place to see some of my photos?"

Pre-emption and Self Defence

The British are currently debating how much force can be used by someone to defend their home from invaders. Under a private member's bill, people would be allowed to use "reasonable force" but not "grossly disproportionate force." Of course the distinction is not always obvious, as was pointed out in this Times editorial:
H]ow much force is it reasonable to use against an intruder whom one has no reason to believe is armed or is a threat, but of whom nevertheless one is terribly afraid because he could be armed or violent? It isn't, in other words, self-defense because nobody is attacking you—but it certainly feels like it. [link provided in Slate]
This sounds just like the discussions on the Becker (here)-Posner (here) Blog about the economics of pre-emptive war.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Digital Cameras

If you've been following this blog much, you know that I've done some semi-serious photography over the past few years. Several of my photos have won prizes, and I've had a number of exhibitions.

A year and a half ago, I switched to digital, mostly to avoid the hassles of carrying film through airports. After reading the reviews, I bought a Minolta, and I've been very happy with the 13"x 19" prints I've made from some of these photos taken with that camera; however, if I were buying a digital camera today, I would almost surely buy the Nikon CoolPix 8800, which also gets good ratings from this man. It's both convenient and flexible, yet high quality.
I use an Epson 2200 to print my photos; it does an excellent job.
I still have a Pentax 35mm camera and lenses, and a Yashica medium format camera, but I haven't use either for nearly a year.

The Haj:
The Economics of Congestion & Allocation

News clips of Muslims making the pilgrimage (Haj) to Mecca show thousands and thousands of bodies jammed together, circling and praying. I have often wondered how Saudi officials solve the problem of congestion and allocation of space when I see these clips.

Recently, the organizers of tours from the United Arab Emirates to make the Haj have been allocated
fewer spots per tour organizer (thanks to JC for the information and link). The effect has been exactly what one would expect when the price elasticity of demand is low (every able-bodied Muslim is expected to make the Haj at least once in their lifetime) and the supply is reduced: prices for the tours have risen dramatically, despite jaw-boning from UAE public officials.

Not surprisingly, the tour customers wishing to make the Haj are displeased with the high prices; at the same time, the tour operators are citing high fixed costs spread over many fewer customers as the reason they need to raise their prices.

But if they are correct that the Haj industry is characterized by high fixed costs and lower marginal costs, we should soon see tour operators merging to capture these economies of scale. If there isn't any rationalization of this industry in the near future, we can probably infer that the licenses to take customers on the Haj are providing economic rents to those fortunate enough to have the licenses.

The NHL: Updating My Priors

After watching the NHL's response (free registration required) to the offer from the players last night, and after listening to the reply by the head of the NHLPA, it sure looks as if the NHL owners are eventually going to get what they want. Off Wing Opinion has an excellent collection of links to up-to-date developments. [Incidentally, the same blog has a fascinating series of postings on the D.C. baseball stadium. ]

Essentially the owners are saying, "We want a hard salary cap, and if we don't get one, what are your options?" The players are saying, "We don't want a salary cap, and we don't care about our lack of options."

Sure, some players can play for a lot less in Europe or in the AHL. And if there's no NHL season, might a different (new) league emerge in the future, made up of many current NHL players? Perhaps, but what are the odds the players could earn as much in a new league as they can in the NHL, even with a salary cap? And what are the odds the players will eventually realize that playing in the NHL with a salary cap is far more lucrative than any other option? And how long will that take?

In my earlier posts, (e.g. here and here), I figured the lockout would be resolved by the end of December. Now I'm very skeptical. Bettman's public stance looked very testosterone-laden, making it difficult for the NHLPA to back down. After all, these are hockey players....

Update: For more information on Bayesian priors, click here.
Another Update: See Tom Luongo's blog for some addition thoughts on the lockout.

Politicians: Mall Santas in Disguise

Cafe Hayek has a really fun posting comparing the Santa Claus in a mall to politicians: people/children ask for stuff and expect it to be provided at no cost to themselves even if providing it will require the use of real, scarce resources. What a great example of rent-seeking behaviour!
When we were young, my friends and I were candy-cane rent seekers -- we'd visit Santa for the candy canes, not because we thought we'd get the stuff we asked for.

Cell Phones Ringing in Class?

Several years ago, before I had ever heard a student's cell phone ring during class, I decided to implement the following policy: if your phone goes off in class, you must leave class right then. If it's a long class with a break, you may return after the break. So far, it happens very rarely (Let's hear it for announcement and deterrent effects!)

When my younger son, Adam Smith Palmer (aka "physics boy"), taught in Malaysia for a year, the policy at his school was that instructors would confiscate the phones for the rest of the day, and the students had to go to the instructor's office to retrieve the phone.

That policy led me to ponder a new potential policy: if your cell phone rings during my class, I get to use it to call my son (who now lives in Houston). I haven't implemented this policy, yet, but I'm tempted.

Recently, I came across a site that would let me upload a sound clip from my computer to their site and then download it to my phone as a ring tone. I was thinking I might use the finale from Dvorak's New World Symphony. Because some of these sites propagate viruses to cell phones, I'm glad I didn't try it. And what about those exploding cell phones? Click here to read about them.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Present Value Question for My Intro Students

I think the folks at our university's publication service need to study the concept of present values more:
[Oct. 15th] CIBC today announced a $1-million gift to create the CIBC Centre in Human Capital and Productivity at Western. The donation, pledged over 10 years at $100,000 a year.
Argh. Is this a losing battle? In what sense is that gift worth $1 million? What is the present value of a ten-year annuity of $100,000 at current interest rates?
To make matters worse, I have to write about it in an alumni newsletter for our department. Ugh.

Is This a Real Ad?

A sort-of Christmas ad for cell phones from Virgin Mobil for $20 less. (link via Cynthoughts)

My favourite ad on tv these days is the Fed Ex ad in which everyone hides from the ogre-boss. Very well done. In our home, everything stops and we all watch tv any time that ad is on. If you know of a link to it, please send it to me. Thanks.

Executing Scott Peterson:
So What's Wrong with a Little Retributive Justice?

Everyone who has been deterred from killing their spouses and children by the death sentence of Scott Peterson, raise your hands. That's what I thought. No matter what the arguments, I expect the (dis)incentive effect of capital punishment is small (after all, there are many fates worse than death: e.g., life in Folsom Prison might be worse; and if it is, then the death penalty would have little or no marginal deterrent effect).

Everyone who thinks people who kill their spouses and unborn children should be executed raise your hands. Uh huh. So what we have, here, is a lot of people who think retributive justice is a pretty good idea. I understand that reaction, but not everyone agrees. (link via you-know-who at you-know-where).

But because of the slim potential that a legal or other error might have been committed, I'd want to be damned certain the guy did it before sentencing a convicted criminal to death.

Plagiarism, at all levels

As I mentioned in a posting last week, I had another case of student plagiarism this year. Last year, I had two separate incidents. Usually it is by students who are desperate and who would be failing the course anyway, so just failing them in the course seems like an inappropriately ineffective deterrent.

Many years ago, I knew a man who received a Masters Degree from a university in the U. S. He told me that a week after he handed in his Master's Thesis, his advisor called him in and said, "Don't ever do this again!"

I was confused and asked, "Don't ever do what?"

"Copy an article," he replied.

I was somewhat aghast. I liked the man. "So what did you do?" I asked, somewhat shaken, but still naive...

"Copied a different article."
It turns out that plagiarism is serious among academics at all levels. I've seen my ideas, not words, show up uncited in other people's works; but I'm not sure they were stolen -- after all the ideas might have been developed at the same time, by coincidence. I'm skeptical.

And the Chronicle of Higher Education reports a survey of economists showing that 40% of them believe some of their work has been plagiarized at one time or another.

Wow! The entire article is worth reading. And what is an effective deterrent to plagiarism by professors?


Former colleague, John Chilton (who provided the above link) writes:
I once was told this story by a colleague at the University of Western Ontario. A professor was reading a paper by a graduate student that sounded remarkable familiar -- like one of Harry Johnson's papers. The student was Turkish and the English was rather fractured. Confronted, the student confessed that he had plagiarized, not Johnson, but a paper that had appeared in a Turkish journal in Turkish. It turned out that paper was a plagiarized translation of Johnson.

The mind boggles when you consider the possibility of plagiarism with translation.

Vouchers, Choice, and Schooling

Many economists since Milton Friedman have argued that if the gubmnt is to support education, it should do so via vouchers rather than direct grants to school boards. Vouchers would let parents choose the school for their children and would foster competition for customers on the part of the schools (click here for a good summary). Vouchers would also allow parents to top up the payments if they wanted something a little better than what the basic voucher would buy.

We have something roughly approaching the voucher system in Ontario. First, at the university level, students are free to choose whatever university will admit them, and admission is merit-based; there are no out-of-province extra fees (we do sock it to international students, however), so it's like a nation-wide voucher system for universities. In Ontario alone, students can choose to attend one of several major universities, numerous lesser institutions, or a multitude of community colleges. If one of them isn't serving the customers adequately, their enrolment will surely drop.

Even at the elementary and secondary levels, we have more choice for "free" education than in the U.S. In Ontario, both the public and the separate (i.e., Roman Catholic) schools are funded by the gubmnt, and if parents don't like the offerings of one school, they readily switch their children to the other system. Contrast this with what Bill Sjostrom found when he was a student in Chicago.

Recently the province instituted some tax breaks for parents who want to send their children to private schools that are not funded directly by the province, making these other schools more viable competitors. For a very extensive analysis, see this excellent piece by Bill Robson and Claudia Hepburn. The Ontario tax credit scheme isn't a voucher system, but it does help promote choice and competition in the provision of education. And this partial voucherization of Ontario's schools probably addresses many of the concerns that Tyler Cowen has about the use of vouchers for education.

UPDATE: In addition to his comments here, see more on what Tom has to say at his website -- some very interesting useful information.

Yiddish with Dick and Jane

Often when I'm talking with Ben, I have to ask what certain Yiddish phrases mean. And recently, in mystery dinner theatre shows, when playing a character who uses Yiddish phrases, I've had to learn some of the basics. I wish I'd had this book to help. Click here to see a really neat video promoting the book. [Link courtesy of Newmark's Door, another must-read blog].

Monday, December 13, 2004

"We Can't Afford to Sign Good Players"

That's the lament of many small market sports teams. It's also nonsense, or at best misleading. Suppose signing a good player means the team would win more games; and suppose that winning more games would, in turn, mean the team would earn more revenue this year and in the future from ticket sales, broadcast contracts, and stadium advertising and concessions. These suppositions are eminently reasonable.

The only question of relevance for the team, then, is whether the expected additional revenue generated by a player is enough to cover the expected additional costs of signing the player. In eco-speak, is the expected marginal revenue product greater than or equal to the marginal factor cost? If so, then the team should try to sign the player, even if it has to borrow the money (so long as the borrowing costs and all other opportunity costs are included in the calculations). Whether they can afford to pay the player from their current income is not relevant; whether the player will add to their profits is what is relevant. Or more precisely, to take account of the time dimension, what is important is whether signing the player will add to the net worth of the team.

The Arizona Diamondbacks appear to understand this concept (even if some analysts might question whether they are applying it wisely). They have explicitly decided to borrow in order to make some free-agent signings that they expect will pay off over time. See
here (thanks to Adam G for the link). Also, see here for Phil Miller's usual high quality analysis.

An Accidental Canadian

Isn't it fascinating how we end up where we are at the moment? It's enough to make a person believe in chaos theory! Margaret Wente captures many of my feelings in An Accidental Canadian:

She, like me, hails from the U.S. Midwest. She, unlike me, offers well-written insight into the lives of all Canadians, including us transplants.

The Economics of Marriage

Richard Posner, while explaining his position on pre-emptive war, wrote here:
It would be paralyzing to suggest that we should never act unless we can quantify the expected benefits and costs of our acts (there would be very few marriages under this approach).

Exactly. We cannot quantify perfectly any expected costs and benefits; all, or nearly all, of our decisions are made under uncertainty. Courtship is shopping -- a way of acquiring information to reduce the range of uncertainty about our expectations.

Excuses for Getting Out of an Exam

Many professors seem to think that students use "My grandmother died, and I have to go home to attend the funeral," as an excuse to avoid or delay writing exams. There was even a paper written back in 1990 about the topic, relating family death rates (FDRs) to students' grades and other variables. The author noted with tongue-in-cheek alarm that the FDR had been rising exponentially over time. He speculated that family members of students who were not doing well in university were especially likely to die just before the date for which the exam was scheduled and recommended as possible solutions:
  1. Stop giving exams.
  2. Allow only orphans to enrol in universities.
  3. Make students lie to their families - don't tell family members about upcoming exams, and maybe they'll stop worrying themselves to death.

The fact is that, to the best of my knowledge, in the approximately 50,000 student exam contacts I have had in my lengthy teaching career, I recall having had only one FDR request for a makeup exam. I think there might be a good explanation for this.

My regular exams are multiple choice (here and here are a few examples); my makeup exams require prose and/or graph answers (e.g. here and here). For reasons I cannot quite fathom, many students seem to think the latter would be harder, so they do their best to take the regular exams.

More evidence that people respond to incentives.

I'll leave the drawing of additional conclusions to the reader.
[thanks to Brian F (who received the link from Audrey) for the pointer]

Becker on Canadian Drugs

Gary Becker points out that if individuals and gubmnts in the U.S. keep trying to buy cheap drugs in Canada, the prices here will start rising:
State governments [sic] and other groups are exerting great pressure to allow imports from Canada and online pharmacies, where drugs are much cheaper. But Canadian drug prices are cheap in good part because they impose price controls. In essence, Canada (and most other countries) free ride on the profits collected from the higher prices in the American market. The U.S. could also impose price controls if it wanted to do so, but these would be counterproductive because they would discourage discovery of new drugs. Moreover, if many drugs begin to be reshipped from Canada, drug companies would cut the amounts supplied to Canada, and prices there would rise. That is why Canada is beginning to crack down on online pharmacies that resell to the American market.

For the record, not only do Canadians free ride on U.S. pharmaceutical research, we also free ride on U.S. defence.

When will the NHL lockout end? (part 2)

With the recent proposal by the NHLPA (National Hockey League Players' Association) to the team owners [24% pay cut, luxury tax, some revenue sharing], many people have begun to attach a higher probability to there being an abbreviated 2004-5 NHL season [vs. no season at all]. From the Trono Globe & Mail:

[Andrew] Zimbalist, a professor at Smith College in Massachusetts and author of several books on the economics of sports, called the union's offer to roll back salaries 24 per cent across the board "a tremendous concession. ...

"I've been saying all along that the owners should be working with what the players gave them over a year ago because [the latest offer] is the same proposal, just the numbers are different," Zimbalist said. "It has the very same elements in it."

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is to present the owners' response when the two sides meet on Tuesday. Although Bettman was publicly cool to the notion of a deal without a salary cap, Zimbalist believes the owners would be wise to strike an agreement based on what's been put before them.

There is an excellent summary of the issues, along with some interesting responses, at Off-Wing Opinion.

As I posted earlier, when I suggested to my students back in early November that the lockout would be settled by the end of December, they unanimously disagreed with me. I asked them again on December 12th, after the NHLPA offer had been made public; this time 60% of the students said they thought the lockout would be settled before the end of December.

Of course, if the lockout is settled, there will be at least one more posting here about my earlier prediction.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Is Leaving Money to Heirs an Inferior Good?

According to The Economist,

The 4.9% of families in America with net worth of $1 million or more accounted for 42% of all donations to charitable organizations ... As the size of the estates rises, the proportion going to heirs shrinks and the share left to charity increases ... The estates of $20 million and more left an average of 49% of their value to charity and 21% to heirs, the rest going in taxes.
Well, this isn't quite in the category of being an inferior good, but it does indicate that in general as wealth increases, people tend to look after their heirs first and then donate to charity. It also suggests that the wealth elasticity of demand for altruism is greater than 1, putting it in the luxury category.

There are other interesting factoids (see here for more, along with fascinating discussion):

In rural Peru, 24% of young women say they lost their virginity to a rapist. In rural Uttar Pradesh (in India), 83% of married women surveyed said that before they moved in with their husbands, they didn't know how women become pregnant.
I'm not really sure I believe that last one. But my skepticism may just reflect my own ethnocentrism.
[Thanks to Marginal Revolution (you all are reading their blog, aren't you?) for the link]

Delphi MyFi Satellite Radio

Last spring, when Tyler Cowen was visiting The University of Western Ontario, he was telling me how great satellite radio is. As I recall, he said that the only drawback was that there is so much choice he often spends time looking to see what else is available on the radio rather than listening to something all the way through.

Satellite radio is now available in a convertible kit for personal use, in-car use, or in your home. Before any of you who might be reading this decide to buy one as a gift for me, though, read this review. For a lot lower price, you can get this model, with an in-car converter kit; and a home adaptor kit for it is also avaible.

Alcohol and Arbitrage

When Lithuania joined the EU, it had to accept some of the protectionist barriers of the EU. Of course, if the resulting price differential is large enough, there is a strong incentive for smuggling, a form of arbitrage. That's exactly what happened in Lithuania (see here and here), where border guards unearthed a three-kilometre-long pipeline used to pipe vodka from Belarus (where its price is 4 Euros) to Lithuania (where its price is 16 Euros).
Makes one wonder what kind of policies the EU has that the price differental would be so large, doesn't it? It also makes one wonder why competition among Lithuanian producers doesn't keep the price down.
[thanks to John C for the links!]

New Hockey Record

There are too many records out there of the following ilk: The Clinton Bantams are the first hockey team of 10-year-olds to have won a hockey game in Clinton, Ontario, on Sunday, December 12th, 2004.

Not that I wish to denigrate the accomplishments of the London Knights, who have gone unbeaten in 30 games (28 wins, two ties) to set a new record in Canadian junior hockey (the primary feeder system for the NHL); that is indeed a very impressive string of performances, reflecting considerable talent on the team. It also has the fans doubly delighted now, when there is no NHL hockey to watch. The games are SRO and local sports networks vie to broadcast them.

It will be even more impressive, though, if the Knights pass the 1979-80 Flyers record of 35 straight unbeaten games.
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