Author posts

When the Perfect Really Is the Enemy of the Good

When luck is part of the equation, we have to change our approach. Striving to be the best is not always the best strategy, especially if our time is limited.

Will Our Kids Be Better Off Than We Are?

The next generation will have plenty of gadgets when it grows up, but will it be happier? We need to measure that more carefully. 

Mobility Hasn’t Changed, But It Means Less Than It Used To

Daniel Altman: The power of mobility has diminished enormously, because these days it’s much harder to close the gap with the highest earners. Thanks to rising inequality, the same level of mobility just can’t make as much difference anymore. 

The Manufacturing Myth

Why is a manufacturing job superior to a job in any other sector?

How Much Is a Life Worth?

It’s cheaper to save people’s lives in poor countries than it is in rich countries. So how much is a life worth?

How Are Jobs Connected to Economic Growth?

Growth comes first, then more jobs, and then, as higher incomes translate into consumption, more growth… and then more jobs… and then more growth… until the next recession.

The Sixteen Days of Shutdown Song

The government itself may have lost $300 million for every day that Congress dithered. These statistics certainly sound depressing, but their importance can be hard to grasp without some concrete points of reference.

When the Odds Are News

The bookies can change their odds whenever they want, completely at their own discretion. 

The Perils of Restaurant Week

If consumers thought about the economics of Restaurant Week, they might prefer to stay away.

Snowden’s Endgame

A little bit of game theory suggests how Edward Snowden's odyssey might end.

The Value of a Complaint

Feedback is important to every large organization, and complaints are one of the ways that big companies get feedback from their customers. 

The Failure Fetish

A fetish for failure has been sweeping the blogosphere, the Twitterverse, and the broader market for ideas for a couple of years now. It’s ridiculous, and here’s why.

Why Macroeconomics Is Going Nowhere

Unlike the hard sciences, macroeconomics has no airtight laws (with the possible exception of the law of supply and demand).

Does Medicaid Affect Health? Part II

The “intent to treat” format does not alleviate selection problems within the “intent to treat” group.


Tracking My Own Predictions

Daniel Altman offered predictions for what the global economy would look like 10, 20, 40 years down the road. How did he do with these predictions and what does it mean for economic opportunity around the world?

Medicaid Will Change, and Almost Certainly for the Better

Today’s Medicaid could affect a small number of poor people within two years. Truly finding out how Medicaid might change their lives would take much longer. Moreover, Medicaid would change with time, too – and almost certainly for the better.

How to See Past the Economic Smoke and Mirrors

If you want to find out what the real final word is from the best thinking in economics, you finally have a place to go.

Bitcoin’s Big Problem

Bitcoin is just the first virtual currency to make it big – and you can bet it won’t be the last.

Let's End this Nightmare: The Corporate Income Tax

Big Think chief Economist Daniel Altman has a suggestion to end this long national nightmare: get rid of the corporate income tax.  

Is the Best Yet to Come?

The United States still has problems to resolve, but it is on a stronger economic footing than before the crisis.

The Singularity: Beyond the Smoke and Mirrors

There really is a chance that some of the great scientific innovations that tech evangelists have been talking about will come true. But we can't count on them.

In Bernanke We Trust

If the Fed still has room to juice the economy without threatening price stability, why doesn’t it? 

Latest News: Economists Agree

The majority of academic economists actually agree on plenty of topics of huge importance to the public and private sectors.

China: From Drag to Dragon

"China has allowed the Yuan to appreciate in value against the dollar and Euro and other major currencies," Daniel Altman says, "and now there are very few analysts who would say that it's artificially depressed."

More Spending That Pays for Itself

While the Congress debates sequestration and other ways of trimming spending in specific departments and agencies, it should not miss the tremendous opportunity now presented by the financial markets.

Why We Won’t Stop Mass Killings: We Like Them Too Much

Perhaps when mass killings really start to hurt the majority of the population, then we’ll take stronger action against them. But for now, we like them too much.

2012: The Year in Economics

It’s been a difficult year for economists, who’ve had to endure a combination of criticism when they apparently had the wrong ideas and being ignored when perhaps they had the right ones. 

Substituting Prices for Principles in the Gun Debate

How much would you pay to prevent the death of a child, or anyone else, from gun violence?

Don't Fear the Debt...Just Yet.

As we think about how we're going to eventually close a big debt gap, Daniel Altman says we need to think beyond two-year election cycles.

Taxation in Theory and Reality

The debate over the fiscal cliff has spawned a multitude of suggestions for reforming the tax system, including my own.  One possible reason for the wide range of proposals, even from mainstream economists, is that the recommendations of standard economic theory may be very different from what the American economy actually needs today.  Here are two views of taxation, from the theoretical and realistic standpoints – can you find a happy medium between them?

A Stunning Vision of our Interoperable Future

Pervasive computing is all about interaction between the billions - soon to be trillions - of microprocessors that have infiltrated virtually every aspect of our lives.  A new book,"Trillions", argues that we have to design an entire living environment where those devices communicate with each other and with us. 

The Nuisance of Nudging

Plenty of people are happy for their leaders and bosses to make choices for them, as long as they probably would have made similar choices themselves.  Yet when leaders and bosses don't truly represent the interests of their constituents and employees, nudging can be toxic. 

Is Republican Economic Policy Devious, or Just Wrong?

Are the Republicans deliberately hurting the economy to hamper President Obama's chances of reelection, or are they just doing it because of misbegotten ideas?  

A New Measure of Development: Well-being

Even economists aren't satisfied with gross domestic product and incomes anymore.  Now we also want to know how happy people are and how much they feel they can realize their potential. 

State Capitalists Can't Have It Both Ways

The challenge for democracies is to become just as farsighted as the state capitalist systems that have drawn the world's envy. But while we try to bring about this small revolution in our thinking, the state capitalists may be dealing with a much bigger revolution of their own.

It's Time To End This Greek Tragedy

Sometimes it's better to do something - anything - rather than nothing at all.  That's the lesson of the old parable of Buridan's ass, where the poor animal is faced with two haystacks and, unable to decide which is bigger, dies of hunger. . .

E.T.'s Guide to the Global Economy

Alan Beattie's new book, "Who's in Charge Here?" takes a planet-wide look at what's been going wrong with the global economy. 

The One Economic Policy America Truly Needs

Americans are unhappy about just one thing: the erosion of our meritocracy.

Getting Too Tough on China?

It’s fashionable and easy to blame vast, mysterious, authoritarian China for our economic problems.  It’s also not quite fair. 

Wall Street Protests: Time to Press the Economic Reset Button?

Like Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring in Tunisia began as a nonviolent protest for a more meritocratic society. The United States needs a new settlement, too. The problem now is that Americans cannot agree on what it should be. 

Why the WTO Is Obsolete

This week the World Trade Organization meets to revive the Doha Development Round of talks. Economist Daniel Altman explains why little will be gained—and why that isn't such bad news.