Author: Frank McIntyre

Frank McIntyre is an assistant professor of economics in the Business School at Rutgers University. I was raised in Wichita, Kansas, leaving for BYU in 1993. I majored in Economics with some philosophy thrown in both because I enjoyed the philosophy classes and to avoid the English Department (I took a great class from one Jim F., with Nate Oman in attendance; it was a blast.). After a mission to Lisbon North, Portugal, I returned to BYU, where I met my wife, Carrie. We got married a week after graduating and then headed off to Stanford for me to do a PhD in economics. I have researched wage inequality, minimum wages, and illegal work in Brazil, and the EITC and the minimum wage in the U.S.

Fat Makes a Comeback

The CDC is airing its dirty laundry this week, as a new report comes out claiming that last year’s CDC report on obesity is basically hogwash. In the old numbers, obesity was this bomb descending on America that was going to wipe us out. It claimed that obesity caused 400,000 deaths/year, making it the number two cause of death. Thus, obesity wipes out the equivalent of Utah Valley every year.

6.6 Billion

According to the IRS, the federal tax code uses up 6.6 billion hours of time for people and businesses to fill out their tax forms. Now, to tell the truth, I sort of like doing my taxes. The numbers are easy to deal with, I often get money back, and it convinces my wife that I am still a net benefit to the household.

Patience with Joseph

At the time the Church was organized, Joseph was called as its prophet and the Saints were told : “Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.”

Samuel goes to Charter(?) School

Next fall my firstborn will start kindergarten. As such he has the choice between the local elementary (4 blocks from home) and the charter school (Freedom Academy). He has other choices but he isn’t going to exercise them, so we’ll ignore those.

How much is it worth?

Suppose you think the world would be a better place if there were no Walmarts in your town. Then the next question is, suppose you could live in the world where Walmart was not allowed, but you had less money.

Benefiting from the Keys

Way back in the dawn of time, we had a rather lengthy discussion about the appropriate role of criticising Church leaders. Apparently this topic is still interesting enough to prompt comments, so I thought I’d put my two cents in. Actually, I thought I’d try to put in Elder Eyring’s two cents.

New Report on Abortion Deaths

A new report finds that 70,000 women per year die in unsafe abortions. It looks to me like that is a data point that should be easy for both sides to spin. For pro-life advocates, it is further proof of the harm caused by abortion. And for pro-choice advocates, it is further proof that women need better access to safe abortion services.

And Thanks For All The Fish

I enjoyed blogging here. Thanks for reading and the excellent comments. Also, many thanks to those who ignored the drool coming out of the corner of my mouth as I wandered slowly about the blog muttering incoherently. Today ends my stint and I leave shortly to go frolic up at the infamous Bear Lake. I have high hopes that it is raspberry season.

A Few Facts on Religion in America

I have been reading papers that I may use in a Fall class, and one is a survey of the economics of religion. As best I can tell, this field largely consists of sociologists applying rational choice modeling to questions of religion. As subject matter it is very interesting but the modeling is not terribly well-developed or convincing. In any case, I though I would share the facts of religion, as culled from this paper. Note that this is all from a 1996 paper by Laurence Iannaccone. I should almost put quote marks around it, but it isn’t verbatim so I won’t. 1. American Church membership has risen throughout our history, from 17% in the beginning to 60% today. 2. We have, in the U.S., about 1.2 clergy per thousand people. This number has been about the same for 150 years.

The Iowa Electronic Markets

As we move through election season, the polls start coming fast and furious; the pundits punditorate, the politicians spin, the news media pretend not to spin, bloggers blog, and everybody offers the inside scoop as to the outcome of the election. How is one to aggregate all this information into the best possible guess as to who will win the presidential election? One excellent way to do it is to pay people to be right. This is exactly what is done at the Iowa Electronic Markets. If you are sure that John Kerry is going to be the next U.S. President, you can got to the IEM website and buy Kerry stock. Currently, for 46 cents one can buy an option to get $1 if Kerry wins. Bush costs about 54 cents. If you are sure Kerry is the man, this is an easy way to make money, $46 now will get you $100 in just a few months.

Illegal Work and the Minimum Wage

Last Saturday my advisor informed me that he never wanted to read my dissertation again, which was his way of saying he was ready to sign off. So I thought I would amuse everyone (well, me anyway) with a very brief recap of my findings. Let me assure you that there is no Mormon angle to this work, so if you are offended by the secular, feel free to move on.

This Post Is Mostly True, +/- 3%

There is a maxim that the man with two watches never knows what time it is. The funny thing about this is that the man with one watch certainly doesn’t know any better than the man with two, he just thinks he knows what he does not. The man with two watches can maintain no such illusion of certainty because he has two watches with two (possibly ever so slightly) different times. He has been forced to recognize the existence of error. Socrates would be proud.

Who We Are and What We Are Judged For

In a recent post, there was a bit of a debate about what we are or aren’t allowed to be judged for. For example, suppose I honestly don’t believe the Church to be true. I even pray about it. To what extent can I be punished for my lack of faith? In one sense, this is moot as a judgment tool for us because we never observe others’ sincerity and it is not for us to judge other’s eventual salvation or lack thereof. But we do need to know where we stand, so the the question may be worth thinking about. I would claim that we cannot rightly be blamed for anything that is done to us, only for what we do. Further, that we can only be blamed for something to the extent that it is of our own accord. To the extent that we are behaving as we have been conditioned by others, then that can’t be our…

First Presidency on Disseminating Comments

Here is the recent Church statement about repeating General and Area Authority statements given locally (Thanks to Dan for the link): From time to time statements are circulated among members which are inaccurately attributed to leaders of the church. Many such statements distort current church teachings and are often based on rumors and innuendos. They are never transmitted officially, but by word of mouth, e-mail, or rather informal means. We encourage members of the church to never teach or pass on such statements without verifying that they are from approved church sources such as official statements, communications, and publications. Any notes made when General Authorities, Area Authority Seventies, or other general Church officers speak at regional and stake conferences or other meetings should not be distributed without the consent of the speaker. Personal notes are for individual use only. True spiritual growth is based on studying the scriptures, the teachings of the Brethren and Church publications. I take this as…

There Has to Be Error

In a recent post on blessings, Heather notes that sometimes blessings promised don’t happen and that there can be several reasons why this doesn’t occur. I’d like to extend off that idea to note that, if we are to work by faith and not knowledge, things have to not work right sometimes. Thus I am highly skeptical of any evidence that shows too incontrovertibly the Book of Mormon is a historical record. I assume that someone will raise plausible objections to any such evidence given a little time. This is because I don’t believe that most of us now on the earth are ready or best-served by factual certainty of many elements of the Gospel. If that were the case, then God would have left the plates here or sent them back to show around. If paying tithing always made you rich; if blessings that promised complete recovery always worked; if everyone who obeyed the Word of Wisdom was healthy…

A Model of Information and Prophetic Counsel

Suppose Heavenly Father wishes to convey some important information to us that will be useful to our salvation. Now we know that He can communicate with us but that He limits that communication to be based on faith (ours or those around us). Thus, getting answers from God involves a cost in terms of faith and effort (see D&C Section 9). Starting from this point, one can write down a simple model of prophetic guidance that lets us understand what we observe: Assume everyone wishes to know some value T (if it helps, pretend it is the exact percentage of tithing we are to pay). We can receive an estimate of this value but our estimate is “noisy” in that it is error-laden. Thus we get information Y with Y = T + e, and e is the error. If e is big (negative or positive), then our estimate Y is not very close to T. If e is 0…

What Does a Priesthood Blessing Give That a Similar Prayer Does Not?

I have the Melchezidek Priesthood. It gives me authority to officiate in certain ordinances and the responsibility to obey all the commandments and serve those around me. This I understand. Here is the question. If I bless someone as a Priesthood holder, is that blessing more likely to occur than if I were to have simply stood there and offered a prayer for their recovery? Perhaps this question is not sensible. Perhaps the effect of the Priesthood is to change what or when I pray. I am open to that. I think the question is sensible and the answer is (maybe) yes. I think that the Priesthood gives me the right to speak on behalf of God in a way that a prayer does not. A prayer is a petition. A blessing can be an answer wherein the holder acts as God’s authorized servant. A blessing may also be us literally saying what God would say. But I believe that…

Twelve Differences Between Taxation and Robbery

This is a short primer on the differences between taxation and robbery. At times these two phenomena are sufficiently difficult to differentiate that perhaps such a discussion will be helpful. Feel free to append your own differences to the dozen provided: 1. Taxation is done by a group of people that claim to represent you. Robbers do not claim to represent you.


Occasionally there is some odd comment here or there on this site alluding to “rational choice” models. Now almost nobody in economics uses this phrase, because you don’t need a word to describe what everyone is doing. Yet rationality seems to get some non-economists excited. Why?