So here we are, a day early (or, um, six days late, if that’s the way you want to look at it). Since we’re here, let’s take a look at Nibley’s next approach toward Zion:
Charity Free Riding
As we all know, the gospel is overrun with economic doctrine. On that note, I noticed a quote about free riding from President Monson (which I just saw at Mormon Times): “I am confident it is the intention of each member of the church to serve and to help those in need,” he said. “At baptism we covenanted to ‘bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light.’ How many times has your heart been touched as you have witnessed the need of another? How often have you intended to be the one to help? And yet how often has day-to-day living interfered and you’ve left it for others to help, feeling that ‘Oh, surely someone will take care of that need.’” Under reasonable assumptions it is not hard to show that if people only give out of an altruistic desire to see others better off, and they have no personal gain (emotional or otherwise) from being the giver, than most people will free ride and leave the giving to the very rich (who have nothing better to do with their money). Since this doesn’t happen as much as that theory suggests, a likely cause is that givers are those who perceive some individual gain from giving — either because it makes them feel good or, as King Benjamin pointed out, it was essential to their salvation. Thus “pure altruists”, as defined by those who have no personal gain from…
Explaining the Puzzle of Cross-State Differences in Bankruptcy Rates
Bankruptcy rates vary alot across states. With a fairly simple statistical model, Lars Lefgren and I explain about 70% of these differences in a paper just published in the Journal of Law and Economics. For cross sectional work using survey data, where you are looking across states at a point in time, explaining 70% is pretty darn impressive.
The Economics of Service and Welfare
A friend of mine suggested a few months ago that ward Elder’s Quorums should stop helping members move. Why, he asks, should we be competing with businesses in our area?
A Short Lesson on Multipliers
This is just a post about Keynesian mulitpliers with no particular religious content. You have been warned and forewarned.
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”.
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.
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.
Market Dominant Minorities in the Book of Mormon
Market Dominant Minorities
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.
Is Poverty Satanic?
One of the most important scriptural texts for the theological consideration of poverty is to be found in Alma 32. This chapter discusses Alma’s mission to the Zoramites. During a sermon on the hill Onidah, Alma is approached by a group of impoverished individuals who were “poor in heart, because of their poverty as to the things of the world” (v. 4). In effect, because of poverty and social exclusion, these people had become an ideal audience for Alma’s missionary efforts. So the question arises: Is poverty therefore a virtuous force, bringing people to Christ who would otherwise reject the gospel message?
On being a bookkeeper in Zion
As a young missionary, the Lord saw fit to inflict on me one the greatest trials that can afflict a Latter-day Saint: He forced me to become educated about Church financial controls and auditing procedures.
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?
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Clearly, were there to be a famine, a one year food supply in the basement would look really good. What may be slightly less obvious is that the presence of food storage, even if nobody ever uses any of it for an emergency, can stop a famine from ever actually happening.
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.
I Shall Be Free
I got my bill today and it turns out that there really is something cheaper than a Germanist these days.
Mormons and Markets, II.A: Information and the Failure of the United Order, an Addendum
Consider this an addendum to Nate’s post on the catastrophically large amounts of information needed to plan an economy.