Author: Frank McIntyre

Markets and Consumer Activism

With fair regularity, one hears someone talking of efforts to buy less of some commercial product, either out of a desire for global conservation or because he doesn’t like how it is produced or whatever. Invariably, he comments that his own effect on the market is small, but he wishes to “send a message” or help along some broader movement. Within a plausible model of markets. there are easily understood conditions under which this small effect is actually zero, and remains zero even if he is joined by many like-minded individuals. At which point one wonders if the “message” being sent is “I don’t understand how markets work”.

Memorial Quiz

Kristine’s pop quiz prompts me to ask a similar quiz I’ve had on my mind. Think of this as Memorial Day come early. Feel free to cheat if you have to: Name your great grandparents. Name 5 of your great-great grandparents. Name 3 of your great-great-great grandparents.

Amazon’s take on the Book of Mormon

Amazon.com has an algorithm for noting the “Statistically Improbably Phrases” in any given book. The idea is to look for word combinations that are uncommon generally but common in the book in the hope that this provides potential buyers some insight into what the book is about. Here are the ones for the Doubleday edition of the Book of Mormon:

Quadrupling Fast Offerings

About a year or so ago our stake made a move to improve fast offering receipts. The bishop supported this and urged everyone to donate to fast offerings and, in addition to the general admonition, he reinstituted Aaronic priesthood collection of fast offerings after church.

Fixing the Minimum Wage

It seems pretty clear that we are heading for a hike in the minimum wage. For the many of us who care about poverty reduction, which would be basically all of us, this could be a big deal. The problems with the minimum wage are that it:

The Opportunity Cost of Publishing

In this excellent post, Rosalynde talks about the gender differences in subject material among Deseret Book writers. This renews the discussion brought up by Taryn Nelson-Seawright on the same difference existing in other Mormon outlets. Explanations abound for this phenomena, ranging from differing preferences to piggy discrimination, but most of them are sort of boring. Here’s one that is at least slightly more interesting:

Why Europeans look lazy

It is a well established fact that Europeans perform vastly less formal market work than Americans. A less known fact is that this is a recent development— in the late 50s, Europeans worked about 10% more hours, but this has been in steady decline for 40 years, until now they work about 30% fewer hours than Americans.

Camels, Needles, Heaven

Rich people who pay tithing are, by all accounts, still losers compared to the poor. Or, anyway, though their ten percent is a lot more money, it is money that had little effect on their life and so is not a very impressive sacrifice. Thus their salvation is put in jeapardy by diminishing marginal returns! How does the Kingdom deal with this?

Peak oil and taxes

On the Urban thread, Jonathan Green pointed out that the major issue with oil scarcity may not be how much oil we have in the ground, but how much we can pump in a given year. If we are maxed out on supply for a year, any oil disaster creates a huge crunch.

True Neighbors

Suppose that you splurged for the $6 version of the Church’s scriptures on CDROM. It has various ancient language toys that I am in no position to evaluate but am happy to play with. It also has a fun little tool such that when you do a search, you can click on a tab “Sort by Neighbors”. Ever wonder what that did?

Correlation Gone Mad!

BCC is hosting an all-star panel of academics on questions relating to correlation. Talking about correlation reminds me of a time from our history when doctrinal correlation efforts were incredibly restrictive.

The Mormon Bankrupt

Utah has a very high rate of bankruptcy. In 2000 it hovered at around 7 filings per thousand people– twice the national average. This lonely fact has launched a thousand explanations for why Mormons have such a problem with defaulting on their creditors. Clearly, the thinking seems to be, this shows some of the rot in the Kingdom. Just as clearly, this view has very little support in the data.

It is a truth universally acknowledged…

The setting: An experiment using speed-dates to determine what people want in a first date. These are brief, four minute interactions, after which you write down whether or not you’d be willing to go on a date with that person. The subjects: Columbia University grad students The results:

Give to the Beautiful

We had a seminar recently from an experimental economist out of the University of Chicago. He has done a variety of cool things using field experiments. Let me mention the one he presented. The experiment involved sending people door to door to do fund raising for a (real) charity. The fundraisers (who were college students) were paid $10/hour. Men averaged about $9/hour in donations. There was little correlation between their productivity and their appearance. Pretty women got about $17/hour in donations.

Choose Your Own Adventure

Let’s play a game. You can choose between two jobs. One pays $50,000 and the other pays $100,000. You know, or can guess, that if you take the first you will give about $5,000/yr in fast offerings and other gifts to the poor. If you make $100,000 you will give about $15,000. You will also pay several thousand more dollars in taxes, but we’ll set that aside. So in one case, you consume about $45,000 and in the other, you consume about $85,000. Which do you take?

Someone’s got it in for me, they’re planting stories in the press

I see that Slate now puts the odds of Harriet Miers confirmation at 70%. Silly Slate, don’t they know that niche is taken? As I’ve mentioned before, the best bet, literally, is to follow the gamblers. And as of press time, they are betting that Miers has a 3 in 10 chance of making it to the Big Bench. Want a second opinion? It’s pretty much the same as the first.

Anne comes home

I read and enjoyed Orson Scott Card’s book Sarah. In fact, that book sparked an interest in me to find out more about what exactly we knew of ancient times, both New and Old World.

Did Nephites ride horses?

In our recent tirades about the obvious evils of deer, it was noted , once again, that some scholars think that the horses mentioned in the Book of Mormon may not have been horses, but another hoofed animal. The common one that lives in the right place is similar to a deer. Unfortunately, such comments often are made in the context of how funny it is to think of riding deer into battle.

Military Fatalities in Iraq

Take a look at this state ranking. It ranks states by Iraqi-war casualties per 100,000 residents. The chart was made as part of a rather silly debate about red states and blue states that doesn’t interest me. What interests me is Utah.