What if we told you that the decadent and debaucherous nature of New Orleans made it easier – not harder, for the Big Easy to come back strong after Hurricane Katrina? Follow our Off the Clock Economist, Dan D’Amico, as he explores the underlying social capital of jazz music, parades, and much more. You will also get to learn what Faubourg Marigny is, hear some history on the Rebirth Brass Band, and discover a bar that warns, “Be Nice or Go Home.” This is New Orleans like you’ve never seen it.
Off the Clock Economist Dan D’Amico is at it again exploring Louisiana and the culture of Mardi Gras. This time he will explain the social capital behind eating the babies that are placed in each “King Cake” made in New Orleans. Join him as he gets to the bottom of it at the Swiss Confectionary Bakery on St. Charles Avenue. Thought you couldn’t learn about social theory from a tattooed man wandering around the Big Easy? Think again.
Think you’re too small to save the world—even one species at a time? Sometimes big change starts with thinking big and perhaps a little outside the box. Take it from enviropreneur Hank Fischer.
Hank Fischer was concerned about the gray wolf. It was on the endangered species list and extinct in the American West. Efforts to reintroduce it in the region had been unsuccessful, largely because the local population didn’t want hungry wolves killing their livestock. Rather than fight the ranchers in the region, Hank established a fund to compensate them for losses and give them incentives to support the growth of the wolf population. And it worked! Today, the gray wolf isn’t even considered endangered. Hank’s story is just one of many stories of enviropreneurs around the world. Laura Huggins of the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) explains how thinking outside the box and innovating can work for the environment as it does for business. Enviropreneurs like Hank have been able to save species. Think about the difference you could make!
Presumably you’ve already made plans for surviving a zombie apocalypse. You have detailed escape routes, stockpiled weapons made for killing zombies, stores of food . . . or at least plans for these things. But have you thought through the important economic factors that might make the difference between surviving and losing your brain to one of the walking dead? If uncertainty about how market prices and currency changes might affect your odds in a zombie-dominated society has been keeping you up at night, fear not. In this video, Prof. Antony Davies provides a crash course in how a zombie apocalypse is likely to affect the economy. Hint: sell your designer shoes now while you can. And buy bullets.
We hear a lot about school choice. And while that would probably improve the U.S. education system, what we really need is choice in education. When most people think about education, they think of traditional schools. But Professor Stephen Davies says we are seeing a revolution in the delivery of education, both in the United States and abroad.
Private institutions, which are prevalent in many parts of the world, have more flexibility than traditional schools and do not necessarily conform to the traditional ideas of what a school is. Similarly, the homeschooling movement in the United States has become a major social movement for which all kinds of educational forms are developing. Parents’ cooperatives, learning centers, and all kinds of learning providers are now delivering education to homeschooled students in a more flexible, home-centered but not totally home-based, way than ever before.
What has caused these revolutionary changes in education? Professor Davies says the Internet and other technologies are one main source of the changes. The main reason, however, is social transformation. New forms of education reflect the goals and desires of parents and pupils rather than those of governments, large firms, or political movements of any kind. These changes indicate that we’re heading for a radical transformation in the way education is delivered. Professor Davies says, “This can only be an enormous change for the better.”
Price gouging is usually defined as raising prices on certain kinds of goods to an unfair or excessively high level during an emergency. Although price gouging is illegal in 34 states, economics professor Matt Zwolinski asks whether price gouging should be illegal. He uses an example to examine the moral status of price gouging.
The following points suggest that price gouging may not be immoral after all:
Consumers do not have to buy products for the higher price. If they decide to pay, it is likely because they are getting more from the product then they’re paying.
If the prices for important goods do not go up, it is likely that scarce resources will not be available for those who need them most.
For buyers, high prices reduce demand and encourage conservation. People who may need something more are likely to pay more. For sellers, being able to charge higher prices creates a profit incentive to encourage more sellers to bring products to the market.
The profit motive will increase competition and eventually drive down the price.
What alternative institutions would do better? When price gouging is prohibited goods go to whoever shows up first. Even if we assume that price gouging is immoral, it almost certainly should not be illegal. The only reason price gouging occurs is because demand is high and supply is low. Professor Zwolinski argues that even if you think that price gouging is morally wrong, making it illegal doesn’t make sense. It hurts the very people who need our help most.
Before considering government regulation of monopolies, Prof. Lynne Kiesling encourages us to think about the regulation that markets naturally provide. In any market, in the absence of government interference, each business is constrained by the following:
The availability of substitutes
The entry, or threat of entry, of new firms
Historically, despite these competitive pressures, people have identified what they feel are monopolies in markets. In order to fix the problem, they often advocate government regulation in the form of breaking up large firms or regulating profits. Although these regulations may have merits, they reduce the profit motive that lures the innovators to come in and compete against the monopoly. Additionally, government regulations often create legal barriers to entry, which crushes smaller competitors.
The good news is that markets, on top of naturally regulating monopolies, generate wealth and technologies that systemically reduce the cost of starting new ventures over time. This, in turn, increases the competitive pressures on larger firms and reduces the likelihood of monopoly.
Law professor Donna Matias defines an entrepreneur as someone able to identify and provide for an unmet need. In short, entrepreneurs are both problem solvers and wealth creators. Extremely successful entrepreneurs, therefore, are not evil. Rather, they are modern day heroes who have managed to effectively fulfill the needs of their consumers.
In her masterpiece of fiction, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand emphasizes three key classical liberal themes: individualism, suspicion of centralized power, and the importance of free markets. In this video, Prof. Jennifer Burns shows how Rand’s plot and characters demonstrate these themes, principally through innovative entrepreneurs who are stifled by laws and regulations instituted by their competitors. In the world of Atlas Shrugged, free markets and individual liberty have been traded away for equality and security enforced by the government. Burns ends by reviving Rand’s critical question: do you want to live in this kind of world?
Law professor Donna Matias knows how difficult it can be to start a new business. In her work as director of a legal clinic at the University of San Diego School of Law, she helps low- and moderate-income entrepreneurs navigate the legal hurdles they encounter. She tells the story of one client who wanted to operate a transportation service, and faced a mountain of challenges as a result.